Kristof Verelst – Belgian Scientist on his time at the Mammoth Site
The Mammoth Site was honored to host Kristof Verelst a visiting scientist from Belgium for 16 days in July. A special thank you goes out to the Antioch Foundation of La Crosse, WI who helped us with Kristof’s travel expenses. Below is a letter Kristof wrote about his time at the Mammoth Site. He wanted me to edit it as English is his second language…however, after reading his kind words I felt that they were perfect. Kristof is a member of the Mammoth Site family, and his words express what a lot of us feel as well. I hope you enjoy his kind and inspiring words. Thank you Kristof and we look forward to hosting you again!
September 1st 2014
Lic. Kristof F. M. Verelst
Master of (Roman) Archaeology
To all it may concern,
July 2014, with sweaty hands, and with the necessary dose of healthy stress I departed from Antwerp, Belgium, towards The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. My trip would lead to Amsterdam, Minneapolis, and finally Rapid City.
Several thoughts wandered through my mind during the more than 18 hour journey: how would it be to work as an unknown Belgian archaeologist in the United States? How would it be to be allowed to work for the first time in my life on a major paleontological site? How would be the coöperation within the team? And … would they still recognize me after my private visit in April 2013?! Plenty enough thoughts …
Regardless of the several questions, the first contact at the Mammoth Site went wonderfully well. It was nice to see some “known” faces again, but also to meet other new faces. However, the terms of Belgian culture and tradition was directly spread out in Hot Springs: three kisses for every (young) lady, and a firm handshake for the men … However, I did not expect, at first sight, that this strange tradition was a contradiction at the States… An unknown kissing at the first meeting is not done, also not that you immediately give three on each cheek!
The days passed, and unbelievably, the mystery surrounding the Belgian scientific visitor just got bigger but … a Belgian in big America seems to be a nice, sweet, but unknown exotic product, so how to deal with the somewhat different view of the world, as I have. Although Europe is like the US a western culture, the inhabitants of both continents are still very different in terms of thinking. Especially for the temporary group interns, this was the beginning for long discussion evenings. The differences between the two continents were so powerful, that I could integrate into a group of temporary workers, and catch their attention. In Europe, it would be unthinkable to infiltrate in a group so easily, certainly when knowing that the others are working together for already 2 months.
The scientific work at the Mammoth Site, I can describe in these words: incredibly accurate, spectacular and especially challenging. The work was certainly not boring: who can tell that he ever excavated a Thoraccic Vertebra of a mammoth from 26.000 BC? Who can tell, he had done this on a world famous site? I saw many jealous visitors, but also wondering visitors. The combination of scientific work at the Mammoth Site, together with discussing to all those visitors is unique. Amazingly even …
Unique was also the trust that was given by the entire team. Blind faith in a Belgian, without any pressure, so that I could show my entire professionality during digging out a Thoraccic Vertebra … A Belgian that performed all the required steps of excavation in conjunction with the team, or could perform independently. This is also non-existent in Europe: trust is only given after months of work, or even after years of service. Hot Springs proved the contrary: so it can be different, thanks to the Mammoth Site!!
The gratitude I have for such an experience is huge. Uniquely this experience is, even though I am already 10 years professional archaeologist. Tears comes in the eyes when I think back meeting Dr. Larry Agenbroad; Larry who saw potention in the visit of a Belgian scientist and went through fire to have that person there in July 2014. Respect!
Also respect for all those who continued to have faith in a good outcome of my visit. Thanks for all the people who made it financially possible for me to be allowed to experience, and to be allowed to go through. It was fantastic, it even hurts when I think back to my visit. But I laugh when I see the many memories in my mind, I laugh when I close my eyes and see appear all the staff of the Mammoth Site … The blue work polo I received out of the hands of manager Joe Muller is the living proof of it. ‘Welcome to the Mammoth Site-family’, he told me. A family that I always will follow with all my heart, and my whole support.
So, for me, this is only the beginning of a bigger story… Only the first pages of my Mammoth Site experience are written. You can describe it as ‘Chapter One’.
Believe it or not, but a site like the Mammoth Site, needs European scientific visitors to be involved in the project. I even can see it more in terms of education and evolution. More seriously in terms of international appeal that can count, and also the many visitors will be even more amazed then …
Therefore I say to the Mammoth Site not goodbye, but see you soon in July 2015!!
-Kristof F. M. Verelst