In 1959, what appeared to be the bones of a mastodon were found in a western New York pasture. When researchers began to investigate further in the early 1980s, the site proved to hold far more. Known as the Hiscock Site, it contained an astonishingly rich trove of fossils and artefacts dating from the late Ice Age through the onset of European settlement. For nearly three decades, work at the site – the "Byron Dig" – unearthed new evidence of changing fauna, flora, cultures, and environments over the past 13,000 years.
In Two Acres of Time, Richard S. Laub – the principal investigator of the project – tells the story of the Byron Dig. Recounting twenty-nine years of intensive excavation involving more than a thousand participants, he provides a comprehensive account of a working paleontological and archaeological field project and its contributions to our knowledge of the past. Laub explores how understanding of the site evolved through the years, the surprises that came to light along the way, and how contributions from numerous researchers helped achieve a fuller picture of the significance of the findings. Two Acres of Time also shows how people from all walks of life – not only scientists but also volunteers and local small-town residents – worked together to unearth and interpret the site's contents and to preserve them for future generations. This extensively illustrated book connects life at a scientific excavation project to the grand sweep of long-ago epochs and is a compelling read and resource for researchers and general readers alike.
Part I: Getting There
Interlude 1: The American Mastodon
2. First Steps
Part II: The Heroic Age (1983–1990)
4. First Try, 1983
5. Emerging Patterns
6. Friday’s Footprint
Interlude 2: The Clovis People
7. Steady Going, and First Symposium
8. The Dig Matures (I)
9. The Dig Matures (II)
10. Calling Cards of Stone
Part III: New Terrain (1991–2001)
11. A Lucky Drought
13. More Discoveries (I)
14. More Discoveries (II)
15. Of Death and Life
16. Second Symposium
Part IV: Exploding Pits (2002–2005)
17. Bonanza (I)
18. Bonanza (II)
19. Money Worries
Part V: Winding Down (2006–2011)
20. Into the Shallows I—Disappointment
21. Into the Shallows II—A Stirring of Hope
22. A Bolt from the Blue
23. To Where All Things Must Come
24. Some Parting Thoughts
Appendix A. Human Teeth and a Rib from the Hiscock Site, by Douglas W. Owsley
Appendix B. Hiscock Radiocarbon Dates, Corrected for Isotopic Fractionation
Appendix C. Uncorrected Radiocarbon Dates for Hiscock Samples Cited in Appendix B
Appendix D. Bibliography of Scientific Publications About the Hiscock Site
Specimen Number Index
Richard S. Laub served as curator of geology at the Buffalo Museum of Science from 1973 to 2011, during which time he did occasional teaching at the University of Buffalo. He initiated and directed the Hiscock Site project from 1983 to 2011.
"It's not shovels and screens that make the dig, it's the people. Two Acres of Time provides critical knowledge of an important site in New York State and offers an honest perspective of what a dig is like, highlighting the people involved."
– Robert Feranec, director of research and collections, New York State Museum
"The world in general, and Western New York State in particular, are better places because of Richard Laub. For twenty-nine summers, he tirelessly led the excavations at the Hiscock Site, one of North America's most important archaeological and paleontological localities. Laub was doing productive and highly educational 'citizen science' at the Byron Dig well before citizen science became a mainstream activity. He also worked open-mindedly alongside scientists of all sorts. As he describes in this alluring book, we now know an awful lot more about the plants, animals, and people that once lived in Western New York. And a fine time was had along the way."
– David W. Steadman, emeritus curator, Florida Museum of Natural History
"Laub very effectively conveys to a general audience how scientists investigate paleontological sites, including the development of research questions, field methodologies (such as in-field stabilization of fossil specimens), and laboratory methods for specimen conservation and analysis. In an age where scientists and scientific findings are often questioned, Two Acres of Time is especially timely because it demonstrates to the public how scholars conduct natural history research, particularly how they develop and sometimes revise conclusions through long-term investigations."
– Jonathan Lothrop, curator of archaeology, New York State Museum
"Two Acres of Time is an outstanding account of the excavation and analysis of Ice Age fossils from the extraordinary Hiscock Site. Laub clearly documents how the scientific process works and offers insights into the human dimensions of research. Reading the book is like being at the site and experiencing the thrill of discovery!"
– Russell Graham, adjunct research associate, Colorado School of Mines, and adjunct curator, University of Colorado, Boulder