Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

September 20, 2013

Kristoff studies in Tanzania

Diane Raver The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Michael Kristoff, Oldenburg, recently spent five weeks, July 3-Aug. 7, at an archaeology field school at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.

The son of Steve Kristoff and Annette Gillman, a fifth-year senior at Purdue University who is studying social studies education and anthropology, says, “I have been interested in stone tool technology since I began studying anthropology about two years ago. Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important and famous archaeological sites in the world, so I could not pass up the opportunity to study there.

“The field school was part of the Olduvai Archaeology and Geochronology Project. It was run by Dr. Ignacio de la Torre, an archaeology professor from University College London, and Dr. Michael Pante, a zooarchaeologist from Colorado State University.

“There are two different types of stone tools found at Olduvai Gorge. Human ancestors from 1.84 to 1.65 million years ago used Oldowan stone tools, which were flakes chipped off of larger stones. Acheulean technology was being used from 1.66 million years ago up to around 100,000 years ago, and it is mostly known for the handaxes,” the Oldenburg Academy graduate points out.

“The field school gave me the opportunity to excavate at both Oldowan and Acheulean sites, survey the Olduvai Gorge landscape for possible new excavation sites and do lab work with the artifacts we were finding. The first two days were spent in Arusha getting research permits and supplies for our time at Olduvai, as well as learning more about the research” there.

“From Arusha, it was about a five-hour drive into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the Leakey Camp at Olduvai Gorge, where we spent the rest of our time. Along with graduate students from University College London, students from the University of Dar-es-Salaam and local members of the Maasai tribe were also working” on the project.

The 22-year-old says, “the biggest challenge was being away from family and friends. There were also times where communicating with the local people was difficult due to the language differences.”

However, “I also made friendships that will last a lifetime.

“I learned the processes that are involved in running an archaeological site and how to do research while in the field. After reading articles for the last two years on the results of research done at sites, it was a great experience to be able to do some of the hands-on work that needs to happen to get those results.

“The experience I gained from the field school will help me with furthering my education. It should be useful for hopefully getting into a graduate program, and the experience working at a site I can use for doing my own field research someday.”

Kristoff also had a chance to visit other parts of the African nation. “We spent a few days in the city of Arusha. It is mostly a tourist area for people travelling to the Serengeti or Mount Kilimanjaro. We also were able to go on safari in Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Both of these trips offered opportunities to see many of the animals that make Africa famous, such as elephants, giraffe, cheetah, lions, cape buffalo, hippos and wildebeests.

“We took a day trip to visit some natural sources of quartzite and phonolite, which are two types of rocks that were used to make the stone tools found at Olduvai. On that same trip, we also visited Shifting Sands, two dunes of magnetic sand that are being blown across a stretch desert. There are markers in the area to track the dunes as they move along their path.”

The young man offers advice based on his experience in Tanzania: “Take any opportunity to completely immerse yourself in another culture. You can learn so much about how other people live, but it is also surprising to learn how much you have in common with people on the other side of the world.”

Diane Raver can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.