Fall 2019 Newsletter

From the Desk of the IUMAA Director

Click here to read a message from the Executive Director of the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Ed Herrman.

From the Desk of the Director

Click here to read a message from the GBL Director, April Sievert.

From the Desk of the Curator

Click here to read a message from GBL Curator, Melody Pope.

Group of people around artifacts on table in type collection room.
Plains Anthropological Conference tours at GBL (October 2019)

This Semester at the GBL!

Plains Anthropological Conference

The 77th Plains Anthropological Conference was held in Bloomington, Indiana on October 16-19, 2019. The Conference was organized by Dr. Laura L. Scheiber and Amanda Burtt of the Indiana University Anthropology Department. This was the first year the conference was held in Bloomington!

The Plains Anthropological Society promotes the study of North American
Great Plains cultures, and encourages the exchange of ideas and information at its annual Plains Anthropological Conference. The society encouraged papers, posters, and organized sessions on topics related to Anthropology and Ethnohistory on the Great Plains and adjacent regions.

Amanda stands next to her poster "Ripe for Research"
Amanda Burtt at the Plains Anthropological Conference poster session (October 2019)

Poster Session

Amanda Burtt organized a poster session with members of the Saving America’s Treasures Angel Mounds Rehousing Project for the Plains Anthropological Conference. The poster session was titled: Rediscovering Angel Mounds.

Abstract:

Research presented in this poster session highlight the ongoing efforts of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology in rehousing collections from Angel Mounds. Excavations at the Angel Mounds site (12Vg1) conducted during the WPA era recovered more than two million artifacts. With a Federal Save America’s Treasures grant, these collections are being removed from their original paper bags and boxes and upgraded with archival grade bags, tags, and boxes. A team of graduate and undergraduate students have been instrumental in this process, learning about curation practices while rediscovering the material remains of Angel Mounds residents. Posters represent various aspects of curating this legacy collection and the interests of those that have been on the front lines of this exciting project including research on curation practices and community involvement in archaeology, as well as archaeological investigation into food-ways, tool use, and fauna remains from Angel Mounds.

Molly stands next to her poster "Keeping Up with the collections: Issues with Documentation of Artifacts from Angel Mounds"
Molly Mesner Bleyhl at the PAC poster session (October 2019)

New Collections to the Library & Archives

This summer and fall, the archives have received several marvelous donations! Cheryl Munson brought boxes of records related to her work on GE Mounds; Kevin Crouch donated a few boxes of books and reports to be added to our collections; and Jonathan Reyman, former curator of the Illinois State Museum and member of the GBL Advisory Board, donated the papers of the Feather Distribution Project.

Image from back of lecture hall towards Jonathan Reyman pointing at screen.
Dr. Jonathan Reyman’s lecture on the Feather Distribution Project (September 2019)

The Feather Distribution Project, organized and coordinated by Dr. Reyman, collected over 14 million naturally molted feathers over a 34 year period from around the country to donate for use in the Pueblo nations. This archive of documents will be organized and a finding aid created in the near future!

In the digital-realm, Patrick Sovereign has been digitizing the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Reports of Investigations abstracts and submitting them to Indiana University’s ScholarWorks database. To date he’s uploaded 117 of the more recent report abstracts.

Exhibits

Trowel & Brush Society

In August, a lobby exhibit called Trowel & Brush opened to highlight images and archival materials of past field schools run by Glenn Black. The name comes from The Trowel and Brush Society, which began in 1948 when Glenn Black thought to start an organization made up of those students who had worked at Angel Mounds under his tutelage. This exhibit showcases many images from past field schools at Angel Mounds and remembers the students who were part of this institution’s story.

Animal-Spirit-Human

We said goodbye to our latest Headdy Gallery exhibit this semester. Items were rehoused in November in preparation for the upcoming spring collections move.

You Are There 1939: Exploring Angel Mounds

You can still visit the Indiana Historical Society exhibit and interaction about Angel Mounds at the History Center in Indianapolis! Guests are transported back to the Depression era as workers with the Works Projects Administration study Angel Mounds, the once-thriving Mississipian town located in southern Indiana. Learn how archaeologists and workers survey the land, excavated artifacts, and process their findings.

Campus Archaeology Symposium

Organized by Elizabeth Watts Malouchos

On September 6th, 2019, archaeologists from IU campuses across the state and the wider Midwest convened at the Wylie House Museum (WHM) for IU’s first Campus Archaeology Symposium. The Campus Archaeology Symposium was inspired by the recent collaboration between the GBL and WHM to explore early campus landscapes and document and preserve campus cultural heritage at the 1835 home of IU’s first president Andrew Wylie. Funded through IU’s Office of the Bicentennial, the Campus Archaeology Symposium was organized to explore the buried archaeological record of the historic campus and to discuss how to balance university growth with preservation of campus cultural resources.

The symposium has held in the WHM’s Morton C. Bradley Jr. Educational Center, a restored 19th century barn, the perfect setting steeped in local history and charm to host our speakers and guests. The symposium started out with a delicious bagel breakfast spread and a welcome from GBL Research Scientist Liz Watts Malouchos. Next, the WHM Director Carey Champion and WHM Outdoor Interpreter Sherry Wise introduced the history of the Wylie House and a missed opportunity for archaeology (the foundation of the original Wylie carriage house was disturbed during a construction project) that inspired the partnership between WHM and the GBL. Then, GBL Director, April Sievert introduced our recent collaborative research project that culminated in a 2018 field school investigating two subterranean greenhouses at Wylie House that were used to overwinter flowers starting in the 1860’s. IUB Anthropology graduate student Molly Mesner Bleyhl presented next and spoke about the unique experiences of learning to do archaeology in a local and familiar landscape. Liz Watts Malouchos followed and provided a summary of the many recent campus archaeology projects at Wylie House and other locations on campus like the Griffy Research and Teaching Preserve and Campus Farm and Hinkle-Garton Farmstead. IU Historian James Capshew presented on the history of place-making at IU and how early students participated in sculpting the IUB natural and cultural landscapes that we know today. To round out the morning, John Summerlot Coordinator for Military and Veteran Services and IU history buff and Spencer Bowman IU undergraduate student and Bicentennial intern discussed their research on IU’s illusive centennial timecapsule buried at the original Seminary Square Campus. Undergraduate students and GBL/WHM interns Lauren Schumacher and Maclaren Guthrie also presented posters on their original research on campus archaeology and material culture at Wylie House.

After a delightful lunch was enjoyed on the lawn next to the WHM garden, the symposium moved to archaeological projects and programs farther afield from our Bloomington campus. Jay VanderVeen from IU South Bend presented on his recent campus excavations and research linking participation in archaeological field schools to increased civic engagement. Paul Mullins from IUPUI followed and shared his research on the displacement of black communities to make way for the downtown Indianapolis campus. Then, Mark Schurr from Notre Dame University described how he combines traditional collegiate field schools with high school field schools to explore UND’s Old College. GBL Curator Melody Pope spoke about campus archaeology projects during her tenure at the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist on the University of Iowa’s campus. Finally, we had the great pleasure of hosting two keynote speakers: Lynne Goldstein, founder of the Michigan State University (MSU) Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) and Stacey Camp, CAP’s current director. MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program is the premier campus cultural resource program and serves as a model for sustainable, successful campus archaeology that we at IUB strive to replicate. Dr. Camp spoke about current CAP initiatives and the benefits of student learning and professionalization through exploring campus archaeology and history. Dr. Goldstein relayed the journey of her work in educating MSU’s administration in the importance of campus cultural heritage and leveraging the foundation of CAP. We here at the GBL were inspired by the interesting research and results of recent IU campus archaeology projects and how our colleagues across the state and at other academic institutions have built and sustained successful campus archaeology programs, preserving university past into the future.

Outreach

D&D and Archaeology

Kelsey Grimm, GBL librarian, hosted a successful event at the Monroe County Public Library in September discussing the connections between Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and archaeology. Archaeogaming is an emerging field of study dedicated to the archaeology both of and within games. Open world games, like Dungeons & Dragons, have culture, civilizations, and a history. Players that have an understanding of basic archaeology concepts can find their gaming experience enriched.

First Thursday

Collaborating with the Wylie House Museum, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology showed off some of the artifacts found during 2018 summer excavations at the Wylie House!

Volunteer and Student Appreciation!

Thank you to all who gave their time this semester!

Collections: Jorge Luis Rios Allier, Ariel Creal, Preet Gill, Maclaren A. Guthrie, Anne Hittson, Victoria Kvitek, Amanda Pavot, Ryan PEterson, Brenna Roller, Noah Sandweiss, Lauren Schumacher, Matthew Staats, Cally Steussy, Cameron Ricci Strause

Library: Patrick Sovereign

Programming: Josie Myers

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From the Desk of the IUMAA Director

Image of Mathers Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology exterior signs.
Image of Mathers Museum (left) and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (right) signs.

Thank you for being a part of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology community.

I am thrilled to begin my tenure as Executive Director of the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology with a note about our plans for this new museum. As you may have heard, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (GBL) is merging with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC) to form the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (IUMAA) on the Bloomington campus. Much of my archaeological training occurred during my five years at the GBL, where I spent most of my time working with collections and conducting fieldwork. I am excited to return to work with those as well as the Mathers collections. Perhaps more importantly, I am happy to work with Director April Sievert and the passionate and dedicated museum staff and faculty professionals—who average more than 20 years of experience per person in areas such as museum administration, outreach and education, curation, exhibit planning and design, material culture analysis, and ethnographic and anthropological research.

As a university museum and laboratory at a research one institution, the IUMAA will focus on the creation, dissemination, and curation of cultural knowledge. Continuing in the tradition of the MMWC and the GBL, the museum will foster education at all levels through collections-based teaching, exhibits, and research focused on our extensive and rich ethnographic and archaeological collections from around the world – including from the unique Angel Mounds Site, our largest collection. We intend our collaborative efforts to include work with many IU departments, professors, students, teachers, K-12 students, and the general public. Traditional Arts Indiana will help us engage with people enmeshed in the creative processes currently being documented in Indiana today.
The IUMAA will also work with indigenous communities and engage with tradition bearers to bring their perspectives to Indiana audiences. We hope to collaborate with Native American tribes that were once present in Indiana to help bring their viewpoints to our audiences. My own research and teaching has involved collaborations with indigenous communities including the Maasai and Chagga tribes in Tanzania, Africa as well as projects with the Crow, Salish, and Kootenai in Wyoming and Montana, and I have always found these collaborations to be some of the most rewarding and important aspects of my work.

The two centers, which are currently housed in separate but adjoining buildings, are slated for necessary renovations starting next summer. Indiana University President Michael McRobbie has secured over $10 million for renovations, and additional funds from generous donors have helped support expanded and updated exhibits. Renovations will be extensive, incorporating replacement and modernization of mechanical and other infrastructure through the installation of new HVAC systems, electrical upgrades, and other improvements that will make our facility better for visitors, students, researchers, and employees. The GBL and MMWC will close in May 2020, renovations will be completed in the fall of 2021, and the new museum will open in the spring of 2022. We look forward to new teaching spaces, lab spaces, artifact study areas, compact shelving in curation areas, expanded exhibit space, and extensive technological additions that will facilitate our teaching and learning missions.

I am grateful to those who have warmly supported my arrival and the staff, faculty, and students who have welcomed me.

Ed Herrmann, IUMAA Director

From the Desk of the Director

If you read new Executive Director Ed Herrmann’s piece on the merger and upcoming renovations, you might imagine the magnitude of the change is in store for the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology and our sister organization, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. The GBL opened in 1971, and now nears 50 years in age, so renovations are long overdue. If you’ve ever been in the Angel Repository, you know just how little room we actually have to work in, so I welcome the opportunity to update mechanicals, rethink spaces, and gain areas in which to work through more efficient storage and collaborative space development. From my perspective, this change provides an opportunity to think and build toward a future that serves and engages the campus, the region, and the world in new ways. As we work together I stand in awe of the staff of the Mathers Museum, without whose collegiality, imagination, and professionalism keeps me optimistic in light of mountains of work to do. When we re-open, I imagine a Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology, which will continue as a lab within the new complex, enhanced with new space for working, accessible and re-thought storage for comparative collections, capacity for distance education and collaboration, and new technologies.

We started off the semester with the Campus Archaeology Symposium, held in conjunction with the Wylie House Museum, and co-directed by Carey Champion and Liz Watts Malouchos. The symposium was supported by a grant from the IU Bicentennial, and allowed us to gather speakers from around Indiana in discussions of archaeology done on college campuses. IU has a rich history hidden beneath the surface, and our Wylie house project engaged students and recovered historic information related to IU’s early faculty.

In October the GBL helped support the Plains Anthropological Conference which came to Bloomington for the first time. I got to help lead a group of conferees to Angel Mounds, along with Melody and Amanda Burtt. If there is one thing that I’ve learned about archaeologists, it’s that if you take them to a site, forget the tour—they will scatter like autumn leaves.

In addition, we hosted talk by Dr. Jonathan Reyman, formerly of the Illinois State Museum, who told us about his long-term project to distribute legally-acquired molted feathers to members of tribes in the Southwest, including many Pueblo communities for use. We hosted multiple classes who used the gallery exhibits, and received tours or targeted talks. In all, it’s been a very exciting and busy semester, and the pace is not likely to change any time soon!

April K. Sievert's signature

April K. Sievert, GBL Director

From the Desk of the Curator

Three images in banner: students working on rehousing artifacts, Curating Angel banner and event, rehoused boxes.

The Curating Angel Rehousing Project, funded through the FY2018 Save America’s Treasures grant program monitored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Park Service, began in earnest during the summer and continued into the fall with a team of between 10 and 15 students and staff. At this writing the curating Angel Team, led by Assistant Curator and anthropology graduate student Amanda Burtt, have rehoused 440 boxes of Angel faunal material. The rehousing project will preserve the collection and make it more accessible to researchers, and it is generating new research directions as we “re-excavate” the site through the rehousing process. Nearly every day we learn something new about the history, preservation and research potential of the legacy Angel collections. We have also started to compile zooarchaeology and bone tool comparative collections as part of the rehousing process. Over the summer and fall we got the word out about the rehousing project. In August, April Sievert, and Amanda Burtt took the Curating Angel project on the road to Angel Mounds as part of the sites birthday celebration. Sievert and Pope presented a paper on Curating Angel at the 63rd Annual Midwest Archaeological Conference, and Amanda Burtt organized a poster symposium, “Rediscovering Angel Mounds” for the 77th Annual Plains Anthropological Conference held in Bloomington, which included posters by 11 crew and staff involved with the project. This fall also marked a huge milestone for IU GBL collections. We have deposited 324 rehoused boxes of Angel Mounds collection materials into the new ALF3 repository! Before the end of the year that number will grow substantially!

Over the summer and fall, the archaeology collections received donations to our education collection from Cheryl Munson. We also received a transfer from the DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology of the Wea Village Collection derived from three IUPUI field schools (1986-1988) directed by Rick Jones (former state archaeologist) and Neal Turbowitz. In addition to housing archaeological collections for the state of Indiana. The GBL is also a repository for federal archaeological collections. Over the summer and fall, two USDA Hoosier National Forest collections were transferred to the lab for curation. The curation staff also assisted 24 researchers with access to the collections and provided content for two exhibits, the IU Mobile Museum and the 800 Seasons: Change and Continuity in Bloomington, 1818-2018 exhibit, curated by Eric Sandweiss at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

On the research front, Pope presented findings from a microwear study she conducted on stone tools from several Central Plains sites at the 77th Annual Plains Anthropological Conference, and will follow this with a submission for publication to the journal Plains Anthropologist. Pope also conducted an assessment and pilot microwear study on a sample of end scrapers from the Mulvey Collection, site 12T4. This collection has great potential to inform on the protohistoric and early historic Wea/Miami trade in hides centered on the Middle Wabash valley. Research on the Black-era excavations at Angel Mounds is ongoing, oriented toward developing a collections-based research project focused on Mississippian house trajectories. Plans are also underway to begin research on the Angel type collections. Finally, Pope launched a project this fall to address the organizational structure of the GBL archaeological collections. One outcome of the collections structure project will be a collections-based publication, Indiana Archaeology through the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Collections, which will aid future research and research-based exhibits that will enhance and support the newly envisioned IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Melody Pope's signature

Melody Pope, Curator of Collections

Mapping the Past at Angel Mounds with Geographic Information Systems

By David Massey

Image of a man standing in front of artifact boxes, smiling at camera
Image of David Massey (August 2019)

Hello! I’m David Massey, and I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography at Indiana University. This summer I was working in the Glenn Black Lab rehousing faunal materials from Angel Mounds as part of the “Saving America’s Treasures” (SAT) project. It was fascinating to see the range of faunal material coming from the site, from the tiniest rodent teeth to drumfish jaws and deer antlers.

My research focus is on the use of remote sensing technologies to investigate archaeological sites. Remote sensing is a broad term that refers to the non-invasive acquisition of information about a physical landscape. While most remotely sensed data comes from satellites or aircrafts, drones fly much closer to the Earth’s surface and are able to collect finer resolution data. Archaeologists are increasingly using drones to survey landscapes for this reason. I’m currently working on a project at Angel Mounds using Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) topographic models derived from an aircraft and a drone. This will help us understand the labor involved in constructing the mounds and what this tells us about the degree of social complexity among the inhabitants.

We’re very fortunate that Glenn Black had the foresight to systematically excavate Angel Mounds. After excavating at Nowlin Mound in 1934-1935, Black (1936) wrote that “if the results of any excavation are to provide an unimpeachable historical record of a prehistoric work, too much stress cannot be placed upon methodical technique and exactness of detail, no matter how trivial the feature may be.” This attention to what some at the time deemed trivial details enables archaeologists to discover and examine spatial patterns in the archaeological record through a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database today. GIS is an essential tool for archaeologists because it allows for the analysis and visualization of large amounts of spatial data.

10 by 10 grid with numbers along each side, represents subdivison X11C
Example diagram of Angel Mounds subdivision X11C (Massey 2019)

Glenn Black divided the entire site into Subdivisions, Blocks, and Depths. Each Subdivision is a 100 x 100-foot square.  Within each Subdivision is one hundred 10 x 10-foot Blocks. Each Block is labeled from 0 – 9 along the y-axis and into Left and Right from 1 – 5 on the x-axis. Each Block is additionally separated into 6 categories of depth in feet: 0.0 – 0.4, 0.4 – 0.8, 0.8 – 1.2, 1.2 – 1.6, 1.6 – 2.0, and 2.0 – 2.4.  All this information can be displayed in GIS as a shapefile. A shapefile stores information about specific geographic features such as their location, shape, and attributes.

Satellite image of Angel Mounds with red boxes drawn over the top, locating relevant subdivisions for rehousing in 2019.
Locations of subdivisions on satellite image of Angel Mounds (Massey 2019)

This past summer we rehoused faunal material from 17 different Subdivisions. These records get updated in a Filemaker database and form the basis for the GIS database. The naming conventions of fields within the GIS and Filemaker database become very important at this point, because at least one must match for the data to be imported and joined correctly.

Below is an example of one Subdivision our team worked on this summer.

Aerial image of Angel Mounds subdivision X11C, with blocks of varying levels of black to represent concentrations of faunal materials rehoused in 2019.
Visual representation of faunal items rehoused from X11C (Massey 2019)

Subdivision X-11-C contains 1,936 faunal records and 88 of 100 Blocks currently have data associated with them. The total weight of all bone within X-11-C is 573.6178 kilograms, while the average weight of bone across all X-11-C Blocks is 5.86082 kg. It’s possible to see concentrations of bone across this Subdivision. In Figure 6, darker shading indicates a higher standard deviation across this Block compared to the mean (5.86082 kg), while lighter squares indicate lower standards of deviation. Depth information, which has not been added yet, would provide more chronological insight.  Moving forward, we hope to have all excavation data in a GIS database to conduct more sophisticated spatial analyses of faunal, lithic, and ceramic material to help us better understand the landscape around Angel Mounds. 


References:

Black, Glenn A. (1936). Excavation of the Nowlin Mound: Dearborn County Site 7, 1934–1935. Indiana History Bulletin, 13(7), 197 – 342.


MORE ABOUT IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Curating Angel Update: Freshwater Drum Fish

by Samantha Schlegel

Image of Samantha on the left of the statue which stands several heads taller than her.
Samantha next to statue of Hatshepsut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (July 2019)

Hello Everyone! My name is Samantha Schlegel! I am a new member of the SAT/IMLS funded Curating Angel. I am working as a Curator’s Assistant. I have had a great time wearing a mask and sorting faunal bones for the end part of my summer. I am currently an undergraduate at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis. I am studying Art History and Museum Studies.

This project has given me so much learning experience in what goes on behind the scenes in museums and archaeology labs which I can take into the field once I earn my Bachelors. I am hoping to be back for next summer and cannot wait to continue on the next few parts of this project which includes ceramics and lithics. Personally, I cannot wait to look at the ceramics and see what they used to decorate them, as well as what type of designs may be on the ceramics. There is always something new to find and something new to learn, which is why I am so interested in the rehousing project. Not only do I learn something new about an artifact each day, I get to explore part of history as well.

Sketch of a freshwater drum fish in color
Freshwater drum fish (image via Wikipedia)

As a member of this team, I have gotten to sort through many types of faunal bones and was not quite sure what I would find. We have found tons of different bones and it is always fun to ask Amanda Burtt (Associate Curator for the rehousing project) what bones belong to each animal. But recently, I have found an interesting bone that I had never really seen before. It belongs to the Freshwater Drum fish. These bones are called pharyngeal bones. They include lots of different molar like teeth that help the Freshwater Drum eat its meals. The question that came with this was why do we have so many of these bones among our faunal bones? Also, what did the Mississippians use Drum fish for? So today, you guys get to explore that with me!

Let’s start with some of the fast facts about the Freshwater Drum fish. The earliest written data for the Freshwater Drum fish was created in the late 1800s. Their native range is from the Midwest region straight down through some of the southern region of the United States. They are primarily found in clear water, large rivers and small, shallow lakes. They are “bottom feeders” meaning their diets include mollusks, insects, crayfish, minnows, amphipods, and the younger drum eat zooplankton. Their best known food to eat now is the zebra mollusk which is an invasive species here in the United States. Its predators include bigger fish and humans. The Freshwater Drum fish can range up to 10 to 14 inches in length. They can live around 6 to 13 years. They spawn during May and June laying up to 600,000 eggs. I did find out in some later research that in today’s world, Freshwater Drum fish are not very appetizing. They are not really used for table food due to their meaty consistency and taste. This fact created more questions as expected from such a weird fact.

Moving onto my questions: why do we have so many of the Pharyngeal bones in our faunal bones? What did the Mississippians use Drum fish for? What if the Mississippians didn’t eat the meat, then who did they give it to? Beginning with the first question, we find tons of the Pharyngeal bones among the bone artifacts for the rehousing project. They range in multiple sizes, probably from baby drum to adult drum sizes. From what I have read in other archaeological research, there were two possible hypotheses for the use of Freshwater Drum fish. One of the hypotheses was the usage of their vertebrae; there was a calcium deposit that was used for jewelry. I personally do not feel this hypothesis makes sense, due to the amount of fish vertebrae we find but also the lack of evidence that supported it. The second hypothesis talked about the Freshwater Drum fish otoliths. Otoliths are a unique ear bone. Today people find these otoliths and call them “lucky stones”. They are used for jewelry today, and the hypothesis also suggests that they may be used for jewelry. The issue I am facing is that we have not seen a single otolith among our bone artifacts.

The information I have found has led me to create hypotheses for some of the questions I started with in the beginning. One hypothesis I have thought of is that because Freshwater Drum fish are not known for eating, they may have fed that meat to their domesticated animals (dogs). My second hypothesis is that we may find the otoliths among the stone artifacts. We sadly won’t know this until we get into those artifacts, which may be next summer, but it will be on our radar! Hopefully we will have more updates on the Freshwater Drum as we continue the rehousing project and definitely will find more interesting bones as we go!


MORE ABOUT IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Rehousing Angel Update

Curating Angel Mounds project update from a student worker

by Amanda Pavot

Hi! This is Amanda Pavot!

Woman standing in front of shelved boxes
Amanda Pavot (2019)

…back to blogging after a summer hiatus, with a rehousing update! How was your summer? This project has been going steady this whole time!

Poster title is "Curating Angel" with an unprocessed artifact box picture next to the words "Not This" and a processed box described as "This"
Curating Angel poster (2019)

In previous posts, I described the launch of the rehousing project as well as the actual rehousing process. I was one of the guinea pigs trying different rehousing strategies to help get an effective system down. After the summer semester started, many details changed, so I figure that I should make a record of what changed here for future reference.

We also managed to rehouse all the moldy boxes before August! Now we’re going back through the bone bulk collection in the “non-moldy” boxes of bone. With the high humidity and drastic weather changes typical to Indiana summers, some mold has been found on bones even in these boxes, but the amount of mold is much lower.

First big change! We no longer count every bone in every bag unless the database says that there should be 25 or less. We counted all the bones in the bags at first because there were large discrepancies between the number the database said we should have had vs. the number we actually found. But after we started rehousing more and more bags of 100, 200, or 300 bones that actually had 100, 200, or 300 bones we had to count out every time, we realized that it was both unnecessary and inefficient to have to count them. For absurdly large numbers it’s more efficient to keep track of them by weight rather than having to count them out every time anyway. The count is more important for smaller numbers, so we still need to count those.

We also no longer vacuum every moldy bone. We put more of an emphasis on treatment even if the mold seems minor; instead of just vacuuming the moldy bones off, we set them aside for conservation treatment. Bones with mold on them are bagged separately at first, and are put back with the rest of the bones they were originally with after treatment. When rehousing, the bags that need treatment are put in a box designated for bones going for conservation. Information about the treatment can be found in last week’s blog post by Dr. April Sievert. 

Situations where we might vacuum the bones include basically any time the bones are very dirty. Sometimes there’s insect activity, and mud dauber nests have made a mess of the bag and bones. Sometimes there’s mouse activity, and mouse poop/nesting/etc. means you need to vacuum the bones to make sure anything undesirable isn’t transferred to the new bags. Sometimes it’s the presence of what we know as “the brown mold” (one of two new molds we’ve discovered on the bones this summer, but that’s for another blog post); it is easily transferable, so non-moldy bones may need to be vacuumed to ensure it’s really gone. And sometimes a lot of dirt just ended up in a bag for some reason. In any of these situations, one might decide to vacuum the bones to keep them and their future housing as clean as possible.

We also no longer write the weights or numbers on the bags themselves, only on the yellow artifact labels included in the bags. This is because the numbers might change after being combed through for human remains, so there’s no point in writing out the information on the bag with a permanent pen if it’s just going to be scratched out and changed later. Even after rehousing the non-moldy boxes that were already checked for human remains, the count and weight aren’t written on the bag in case of any other changes.

Throughout the summer, we had three teams of two people each working on rehousing four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Who those people were rotated a lot; some people left for vacations or research trips, others came back from vacations and research trips, and someone new even joined us. So even while people have been coming and going, we’ve had about six people working on the project the entire time. Friday was a non-rehousing day for catching up on other tasks that needed to be done for rehousing.

While other jobs related to the rehousing are done on Friday, they are also often done concurrently. For example, while we have a couple teams rehousing, one might be working on conservation. There will be more blog posts other people wrote about these jobs with more details about them. I’ve been doing a lot of subcataloging and box inventories, while others have been reintegrating mixed materials.

This has been another rehousing update from ground zero here at the GBL! We’re going to continue to post more updates, methods, interesting tidbits, research, and anything else we can think of! Stay tuned!

More About IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Fighting Fungus – Know Your Enemy

by April K. Sievert, GBL Director

Hot and rainy summers are certainly hard on the climate within our repository! In order to preserve the artifacts collected 80 years ago by Glenn A. Black at the Angel Mounds site, we need to contend with environmentally-related dangers to both staff and stuff. One of these is mold, tiny fungal bodies and spores that feed off organic materials. Molds love to grow where its dark and moist, and the inside of a box of archaeological bone may be ideal places under rising heat and humidity. Normally, as GBL Director, I don’t get the chance to get down and dirty, so I was happy to be able to arm myself with protective gear and start to figure out what we are dealing with .

April Sievert starting some mold research

We discovered serious mold problems at around the same time that we received news that we were awarded funding for Curating Angel Mounds, through the Save America’s Treasures program of the National Park Service, administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The first task was to have an air quality test done. Results of this test, which is facilitated by IU’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, shows higher levels of a common mold family—Aspergillus/Penicillium— in the air in our Angel Mounds Repository. The report indicates mold likely originating from within the room itself. This mold was likely being generated by moldy materials, most likely the acidic brown paper bags used for artifacts, some of which show both water damage and signs of mold (molds love acidic materials).

Test results on mold identified in the air the Angel Curation room

Mold produces spores from tiny branching filaments called hyphae. The mold can be inactive (dried spores that look like dust and can remain dormant for years) or active, meaning that the hyphae are happily making new spores. The hyphae are like tiny straws that suck water out of the substrate (whatever the mold is growing on) so that they can grow and make more spores. Active mold presents as smeary, fluffy, or hairy patches on surfaces. Molds grow well at temperatures between 60-90° F and RH above 65%. We deployed a large noisy air scrubber to remove the spores from the air, and extra dehumidifiers to bring the humidity down.

There are two quite different kinds of mold on the bags and artifacts from Angel Mounds that are visible with the naked eye. One presents as a white deposit adhering to a scratch on the bone surface.

White deposits in crevice on faunal bone

The network of hyphae and spores become visible under high-power magnification using the polarizing filter on our metallurgical microscope. White deposits on at 500x magnification show a blurry mass of filaments the represent actively growing mold.

White mold hyphae

The white mold is consistent with the Aspergillus/Penicillium group and appears to like cuts or crevices in the bone cortex. Softer spongier bone provides easily accessible nutrients for the fungus. A very different brown mold that flourishes on a small proportion of bags shows up as fuzzy dots.

Bag fragment from 1939 showing brown active mold

Bones within these bags sport dense patches of hyphae with dark brown spores. After initial cleaning, the location still had a tenacious colony of brown spores.

Brown mold with well-developed fruiting bodies and spores (500x magnification)
Mold colony after one cleaning with alcohol (500x magnification)

The clearly-seen spores are about 10 microns long and 6 microns wide, appear iridescent under polarized light, and are quite lovely. We’ll be sending samples of these beauties to a lab for more precise identification. So, stay tuned for more on mold, and the conservation treatment we are using!

Importance of the Petrous Temporal Bone

by Anne Hittson

Hello! My name is Anne and I have been a collections assistant on the rehousing of Angel Mounds since June 2019.

Anne in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska in July 2019

I graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design in June 2018. My studio practice and academic study explores the interrelations of objects—ancient and contemporary, and language—written, spoken, and visual. I believe the study of visual communication of and through art and artifacts offer an incredible understanding of human development and culture. I have always asked: “What can these objects tell us?” for the making of objects communicate so differently than spoken or written language.

I am studying to be a Speech Pathologist. I wish to further explore and understand the different layers of how spoken and written language operates in our brain, the developmental stages we go through in exercising it, and what happens in our brain when we do not exercise it. I am excited to learn about the plasticity of our brain, because it is, figuratively and literally, one of the most flexible and softest organs in the body.

While working on the rehousing of Angel Mounds project, I have grown accustomed to handling and learning about faunal bones, and have been most interested in one of the densest bones in the body, which is so near to the soft brain that it is almost poetic: the petrous temporal bone of the white-tailed deer.

Petrous part of temporal bone fragment of white-tailed deer

The petrous temporal bone is wedge-shaped and roughly has a diameter of a quarter. It is technically a part of the temporal bone which is situated on either side of the skull that houses the structure that forms the middle and inner ear.

As a visual artist, I was drawn to its organically odd shape and my ignorance of understanding its anatomy. There are shallow depressions that spiral into deep cavities, small pockets of air that appear delicately thin, but the bone is indeed incredibly hard. Each one I come across is slightly different in length, width and texture of surface – some are ribbed, while others appear smooth and polished. I deeply appreciated learning of the delicate labyrinth that this small bone held within it.

Within the petrous part, sound waves are transmitted from air to the fluid-filled cochlea or inner ear. Quite generally, they do so as vibrations through canals, cavities and along auditory nerves in the brain that all work harmoniously to activate our registry of sound.

Petrous bone still attached to temporal bone of white-tailed deer

Furthermore, it is the density of the petrous bone that makes itself unique to scientists and researchers in DNA studies. Compared to other bones, DNA of the petrous bone is not easily degradable through soil and wear and because of the prolonged decay of bone induced by its density, it is one of the most widely used sites to study DNA.

I regularly come across petrous bones while working on the rehousing of Angel Mounds. It is oddly satisfying to spot them with their peculiar shapes and textures and with so many found at the site of excavation, it is exciting to think of the possibility of using them for DNA research. If conducted, this research could tell us more than what we can see with our eyes and would be an enormous and exciting investigation of faunal life at Angel Mounds.

Integrating the Mixed Materials of the Angel Mounds Collection

by Ryan Edward Peterson

Ryan with some of the rehoused Angel collection

Hello everyone! My name is Ryan Peterson. I am a member of the crew that has been working hard all summer on the Angel Mounds rehousing project here at the Glenn Black Lab. As a member of the “Saving America’s Treasures” (SAT) team I have spent my summer decked out in gloves and a mask rehousing, conserving, and reintegrating the Angel Mounds collection.

I am a second year PhD student at Indiana University. My focus is on Great Lakes archaeology, specializing in the production, procurement, and exchange of native copper on islands and coastlines in the Upper Great Lakes. The isolation of these raw resources spurs me to study the question of how copper from the Upper Great Lakes has been found dispersed in a variety of places, including Angel Mounds. As a Great Lakes archaeologist, the movement of people, especially over large bodies of water, is another important facet of this area of study. This movement links directly with the use and exchange of Native copper throughout the region.

Currently, the rehousing team is working our way through the faunal bones from Angel Mounds. These materials are purposefully being rehoused first, due to the degree of mold that has grown on the materials (in comparison to the rest of the collection). We have a saying at the GBL, “the worst goes first!” We prioritize our rehousing and conservation based on the artifacts that have the greatest need.

As the team goes through bag after bag, and box after box of bone, we continuously find more than just bone in these bags. In these bags, along with the bone, we find a mix of many other materials, such as pottery, lithics (stone), wood, and other materials that were mistaken for bone when the original WPA workers roughly sorted the artifacts. As the original WPA workers learned how to identify one artifact from another, they slowly became more efficient at distinguishing artifacts. This was a trend noticed as the rehousing team at first found a large amount of mixed materials in the early boxes of bone, but the amount of mixed materials slowly tapered down as the experience of the WPA workers went up.

Identifying these mixed materials can be quite a challenge to the untrained observer. When attempting to distinguish these materials from one another, two of the biggest clues are the texture and weight of the artifacts. Wooden artifacts are light in weight and contain a grain-like structure. Lithics, in contrast, are heavier than the average bone, but their smooth surface can be deceiving when compared to long bone fragments. Ceramics at Angel Mounds are tempered with shell (temper is added into the clay and helps strengthen the pottery during firing). This shell tempering is very distinctive and can help identify an artifact as ceramic even if its shape is deceiving. It is common to find ceramics formed into not only vessels, but also effigy figures. Many of these figures, especially when broken, can bear a shocking resemblance in shape to bone.

After these artifacts are pulled from their incorrect bags, the mixed materials are removed, labeled, and placed aside. The rehousing team then goes through the Angel Mounds catalog system to determine where other materials from the section that the original bone was in are located in the Angel Collection. These artifacts are then organized by their new location and placed in what should have been their correct location. As these artifacts are placed into their temporary new location, we often rediscover new things in the multitude of boxes that are being opened. This process is referred to as reintegration. The reintegration of these materials into the larger Angel Collection as a whole allows for a more accurate curation and management of materials, along with creating the potential for more accurate collections-based research.