Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.
An all-woman team of spelunking scientists has retrieved hundreds of fossils from a 100-foot-deep (30-meter-deep) cave in South Africa — including the cranium from what appears to be a prehistoric humanlike creature.
Yes. Yes. Of course that is what today needed; an entirely female team of cavers to fling themselves into the steaming, black corners of the earth and retrieve the bones of our ancestors, clawing them back into the light of the sun. Could it possibly get any better than that? (Yes.)
But the scientists tapped to go into the cave and bring up the fossils were required to have an almost superhuman combination of talents.
They had to have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in paleontology, archaeology or an associated field. They had to be experienced cavers. And they had to be able to fit through a 7-inch-wide (18-centimeter-wide) choke point in the passage leading to the chamber. Fifty-seven qualified researchers applied for the job. Six were chosen: Lindsay Eaves, Marina Elliott, Elen Feuerriegel, Alia Gurtov, Hannah Morris and Becca Peixotto.
“It ended up that the most qualified human beings on this planet to do this very dangerous, very remarkable job were young women,” Berger said in a video profile of the “underground astronauts.”
UNDERGROUND ASTRONAUTS. Who just so HAPPEN to be young women with amazing names. Can you imagine the first time they met? Like an Ocean’s 11 of female scientists, everyone striding around in tight but practical breeches, with archaeology belts and a little swipe of dirt on their cheekbones and introducing themselves with hearty, friendly, frank handshakes. “Elen. Elen Feuerriegel.” A nod of recognition. “Alia Gurtov.”
They bring the fossils up in a human chain, did you know that? Woman passing history on to woman. Leslie Knope would be shitting herself, if she were there and cared as much about archaeology as she does about small-town governance and also if she were real. Under those conditions, she would decidedly shit herself. “Lots of celebration out here. Rising moon, beautiful evening, and twenty celebrating people,” Hawks wrote. WOMEN HEAVING SECRET BONES OUT OF THEIR GRAVES UNDER THE LIGHT OF A BLESSED MOON ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.
After coming up to the surface, the bones are taken into a “SCIENCE” tent where they’re compared with replicas of previously found hominin skulls and other bones.
“HEAVE, women! HEAVE, astronauts of the soil! Ahhh…well done. Another set of bones successfully retrieved.”
“Where should we put them?”
“Why, we shall put them in the Science tent, the Science tent, the Science tent, hey nonny nonny hey!”
[Pause for an all-women dance about the Maypole, I pass out and die of happiness]
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.