#AngelArchaeo80

A social media event about 1939 Angel Mounds

by Kelsey Grimm

This summer, from May to August 2019, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology will be hosting a social media event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! We’re calling it #AngelArchaeo80 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of WPA excavations at Angel Mounds.

The Indiana Historical Society recently opened an exhibit, You Are There 1939: Exploring Angel Mounds, in which they used many of our collections. The IHS exhibit team used our archives to research 1939 Angel Mounds, our images and artifacts to bring the exhibit to life, and our staff to help interpret the exhibit and train their actors! It was a really exciting project for me, in particular, because the archives are LITERALLY being brought to life. If you didn’t know, the You Are There series at the Indiana Historical Society takes an image, a moment in time, and brings it to life with actors and props. Visitors to the exhibit can ask the characters questions about their life in that time period.

Anywho… I had the pleasure of teaching the actors about people and life at Angel Mounds in 1939. (Being the librarian for the GBL, but not an archaeologist, this was the subject that I most identified with.) I went through several of our manuscript collections (Glenn Black and Eli Lilly’s archives), the historical image collections, and associated excavation documentation to tease out this information. I know it was useful to the actors and now I have all of this random information about 1939 Angel Mounds bouncing around.

Now enters… social media! I’m using this random information to track events that occurred at Angel Mounds 80 years ago – kind of an #otd / #onthisday social media event. All sorts of information are being related about the people, the archaeology, the weather, and technology!

Check us out on:

Don’t forget to send us any questions you have about Angel Mounds!

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Planning an Exhibit

November 27, 2018

Planning an exhibit takes a lot of time and energy on the part of all involved. During the process of putting up our new exhibit, “Animal~Spirit~Human,” we created a to-do list to make sure we checked all the boxes and put up an exhibit we were proud of.

Here’s a condensed version of that list:

1. Generate Theme

Our exhibit followed this semester’s Themester theme of animal-human relationships. “Animal~Spirit~Human” follows that theme by investigating the role of animals in sustaining and inspiring past and present Native people of the Eastern Woodlands. Once we had our theme in mind, we were able to create a uniform aesthetic to make sure all of the cases matched. This entailed picking fonts and a color scheme, and determining what size each of the different labels should be, to make sure all exhibit goers could easily read them.

2. Select Artifacts/Prepare Condition Reports

With that theme in mind, we were able to get an idea of what artifacts to include. Each case plays a different role in telling the story of animal-human relationships. The cases on the north wall of the gallery hall serve as an introduction to the exhibit. The east wall examines a worldview in terms of different spheres, such as air and water. The south wall compares pre- and post-European contact animal populations. And the west wall is dedicated to examining animal-human relations at Angel Mounds.

An example of an artifact photo, this one of an owl effigy pot (18-170-0).

This means each wall’s theme determines the contents of its cases, allowing us to get an idea of what artifacts would best explain and exemplify the theme. Once we selected the artifacts, we photographed them and wrote condition reports. These detail the current condition of the artifacts by noting breakage, cracks, and repairs. They allow us to keep track of where the artifact is and why it was removed from the collections. When we take the exhibit down, we’ll do another round of condition reports to see if anything changed.

3. Prepare Exhibit Cases

Repainting the exhibit cases took GBL staff several days of after-hours work.

Putting in a new exhibit required us to take out the old, Containing Knowledge: Ceramics at the GBL.” After doing the follow-up photos and condition reports, we returned the artifacts to our collections. Once we removed the old display blocks and the cases were empty, we spent several days cleaning and repainting them. This brightened the exhibit space and made the gallery look more inviting. Many artifacts are unable to stand on their own, so it was necessary to create mounts for them. We carved mounts out of foam and other materials on which to display them. The foam mounts were covered with a layer of fabric in between the material and the artifact, for both the safety of the artifact and to provide a contrasting background.

4. Research Collections and Write Text

Now it was time to write the text and select relevant images. Each case has four categories of labels: the Title (A), the Subheader (B), the Body Text (C), and the Artifact ID Labels (D). Defining the terminology of labels early on can prevent confusion later in the process, and make it easier to visualize the layout of the case before anything actually goes up. To write descriptions of the artifacts and their relevance to the theme, we utilize the collections and the resources in our library and archives.

5. Print Text/Images and Cut to Size

It took several hours to print each label, in addition to the time dedicated to trim and place them.

The next step was to print the text and images. This is a very time-consuming process, due to the size and amount of the various labels. We used the large printer over at our neighbor, the Mathers Museum, to print on Print-N-Stick paper, which has an adhesive backing that allows us to adjust the placement of the labels if necessary without damaging the paint in the cases.

6. Install Artifacts

During this step, timing is important since we can’t leave artifacts in unlocked cases. In most cases, the text was the first to go in. Then blocks or risers which elevated or raised the artifacts to needed heights were selected based on the artifact selection and case design. Artifacts and mounts, as well as barriers between artifacts and painted surfaces, were then added. Once the artifacts were in place, the case stays locked; so if text needed adjusting it was much easier to do that while the case was open and easily accessible.

7. Finishing Touches

Now it was time for last-minute touch-ups to labels and placement of any other artifacts. These included repairs to the overhead lights in the cases, and the erection of the folding wall in the middle of the hall, which displays shields from four tribes and descriptions of their histories, provided by the tribes themselves.

8. Sharing the Exhibit

Marketing the exhibit was an ongoing process throughout development and installation, but the main push came upon our opening in early October.

9. Events

An image from Cheryl Claassen’s talk.

Finally, to celebrate the opening of our exhibit, we threw events: on Thursday, Nov. 1, we had a talk by Dr. Cheryl Claassen, “On Deer, Shell Beads, and the Milky Way.” The following day, Friday, Nov. 2, we had a Themester panel, featuring Amanda Burtt, Dr. Claassen, Justin Downs, and Gary Morseau.

We learned a lot in the process of putting up this exhibit, and look forward to applying these new insights in the future. In the meantime, we hope you’ll come down to see the exhibit and celebrate Themester by attending some of the other great events on campus this semester!

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Women at Work

The acknowledgements of women working in archaeology has notably flourished in recent memory, but who were the pioneering American women of our profession? For over a century, women have taken on many roles in archaeology with varying levels of professional education and have been successful in contributing to the field. Whether toiling over lab work or excavating great features, these archaeologists have not always been given proper recognition for their work. This session highlights the contributions of several female archaeologists from across the Midwest and brings to light the often undervalued contributions of those who helped make archaeology what it is today. By telling these stories we hope to starts a conversation about the politics of recognition, and inspire others to provide a more complete understanding of women’s influence in shaping archaeology and the Midwest.

Abstract for “Women at Work: Acknowledging Women’s Legacy in Archaeology”

My inquiry into Midwestern female archaeologists began last year when the Indiana Historical Bureau sent a call for papers for their spring conference Hoosier Women at Work in the Sciences. Those of us working at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (GBL) got pretty excited. We wanted to find a way to participate because we knew that the records we use daily were often written by women. Women made a huge impact on the work accomplished here at the GBL. Thus began our journey…

After submitting my proposal for the conference and getting accepted, I began researching three particular women with strong ties to the collections of the GBL: Ida Black, wife of our namesake Glenn Black; Frances Martin, an aprofessional archaeologist who worked alongside Glenn at archaeology sites for years; and Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin, the maestra who orchestrated the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Project. Each woman had differing levels of education, influence, and immersion in their disciplines, but all contributed to growing archaeological and ethnohistorical work in the Midwest.

Ida can be seen in our image collections alongside Glenn at Nowlin Mound in the early 1930s; she was his constant companion throughout their years at Angel Mounds, too. Frances Martin received a college education, but viewed archaeology more as a hobby to enjoy every weekend. Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin held several college degrees and essentially founded the discipline of ethnohistory. Her work and foresight in the 1950s at Indiana University led to the creation of the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory collection; a documentary assemblage made up of hundreds of primary and secondary documents pertaining to Native American occupancy of the region over three centuries. (It’s what I consider one of the laboratory’s greatest treasures.)

Image of archival boxes for the Great Lakes Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection
Boxes from the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection. (Image by Bailey Foust)

I presented a short talk on these women at the Hoosier Women at Work in Science, Technology, and Medicine in April 2017.

In conjunction to the historical research I was conducting on these women, several coworkers and I utilized the GBL’s image collections to create a photography exhibition showcasing some of the women documented working at past field schools. The online photo exhibit was set up in March 2017.

Black and white image of Frances Martin crouched at Yankeetown site.
Frances Martin at Yankeetown, 1950. (ICO N3383)

We couldn’t just stop there, though.

While researching Ida, Frances, and Erminie, I noticed the lack of readily available information on Midwestern female archaeologists. I found published books about old world, classical female archaeologists (think Greek/Roman/Egyptian), some concerning Southeastern and Southwestern American female archaeologists, but very little concerning the Midwest… (See below for a short bibliography detailing these works.)

That, I thought, was a problem.

Luckily, others I work with thought it was a problem too. Leslie Drane, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at IU, and I coordinated a poster symposium for the 2017 Midwest Archaeological Conference held this past October in Indianapolis. We invited participants from the region to highlight notable women from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa. If we couldn’t find published materials about Midwestern female archaeologists, we were going to write them ourselves!

Nine participants created beautiful, thoughtful posters that can now be viewed on an online poster gallery hosted on the MAC website.

This isn’t the end of our inquiry. Several of us would like to submit our biographies to journals or history magazines in order to broaden our audience. Perhaps some other bigs things are in the works too?! Our work is only just beginning…


A bibliography  of female archaeologists and resources
  • Adams, Amanda. (2010). Ladies of the field: early women archaeologists and their search for adventure. Vancouver: Greystone Books.
  • Allsebrook, M. Nesbit, & Allsebrook, A. (1992). Born to rebel : the life of Harriet Boyd Hawes. Oxford [England]: Oxbow Books .
  • Browman, David L. (2013). Cultural Negotiations: the role of women in the founding of American Archaeology. University of Nebraska Press.
  • Classen, Cheryl. (1994). Women in Archaeology. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Cohen, G. M., & Joukowsky, M. (2006). Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. University of Michigan Press.
  • Gacs, Ute, et al. (1989). Women Anthropologists: selected biographies. University of Illinois Press.
  • Kehoe, Alice B. & Emmerichs, Mary Beth. (1999). Assembling the past: studies in the professionalization of archaeology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Nelson, M. Cecile, Nelson, S. M., & Wylie, A. (1994). Equity issues for women in archaeology. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.
  • Wallach, Janet. (1996). Desert queen: the extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell: adventurer, advisor to kings, ally to Lawrence of Arabia. New York: Doubleday.
  • White, N. Marie, Sullivan, L. P, & Marrinan, R. A. (1999). Grit tempered : early women archaeologists in the southeastern United States. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • Zeder, Melinda A. (1997). The American archaeologist: a profile. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira Press.
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Negotiating Homelands and Sovereignty in Indiana Territory

October 9, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

The DeVault Gallery of the Mathers Museum was packed full as students and community members gathered to hear a panel discussion on sovereignty and identity as part of Themester 2017.

“Negotiating Homelands and Sovereignty in Indiana Territory,” hosted by the Glenn Black Lab, featured a discussion moderated by Heather Williams, Program Assistant for the FNECC, and commentary by the panelists: George Ironstrack, Assistant Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University; Stephen Warren, Professor of History at the University of Iowa; and Holly Cusack-McVeigh, Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at IUPUI.

Each panelist addressed a central question: How have Native Americans continued to be outsiders in their own land?

Cusack-McVeigh spoke first, using her experience with a water quality project in Alaska to examine how different backgrounds can affect our perspectives.  She focused on the theme of place: the western view of place is that of inanimate land, whereas the Yup’ik Eskimos, with whom she had worked, viewed the land as a “revered ancestor.”  She explained that issues facing indigenous peoples are more than just tangible losses, but of cultural and spiritual losses.

Ironstrack spoke next, drawing on his time with the Myaamia Center, a department hosted by the Miami of Oklahoma at Miami University of Ohio.  He focused on the theme of otherness; following the forced relocation of Myaamia from their homes in Indiana to Kansas and, after the Civil War, to Oklahoma, a division was created within the tribe.  Those who had stayed behind in Indiana were isolated and, still to this day, cannot on their own qualify as a federally recognized tribe.  He concluded that it’s more than just a spatial problem; the Myaamia in Indiana lack the basis for legal and political sovereignty, and with it the rights and connection to others with whom they identify as out-of-state kin.

The final speaker was Warren, who used his experience as a non-Native to address issues that face indigenous peoples today.  He spoke on the theme of appropriation, brought about especially in the Midwest by repeated attempts at ethnic cleansing of those native to the territory.  Appropriation is the adoption of American Indian culture by non-natives.  One of the most destructive trends in Ohio is the repeated desecration of graves by amateur archaeologists, taking advantage of laws allowing the excavation of cemeteries, and by private land owners who choose to destroy burial mounds on their land for fear of reduced property value.  He warned that this destruction and the trend of appropriation will continue until it is recognized as the serious threat that it is.

After a brief Q&A session, the crowd went to the GBL for the opening of the new exhibit, “Mapping Indiana Territory: Exploring Indigenous and Western Representations,” a display of maps from the Indiana territory through the years.  The exhibit is also accessible online.

Thanks to our panelists for a great discussion, and to the Mathers Museum for having us!

Did you miss the talk?  Watch it on our Facebook.

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Women in Archaeology — Press Release

March 29, 2017

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Glenn A. Black Lab of Archaeology created an exhibit to pay tribute to the archaeological efforts of the women of our past.  The exhibit is split into two parts: the first, a physical wall of photos in the GBL lobby.  The second, a larger, digital collection of photos, with longer captions detailing the subject matter.  The photos were available as part of an ongoing digitization effort by our media team.

The online exhibit can be found here.

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Saying Goodbye to the ‘Work in Progress’ Exhibit

March 28, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

The “Work in Progress” exhibit was created in the run-up to the Glenn A. Black Lab’s 50th Birthday last year.  It was an attempt to shine a realistic light on the often-romanticized field of archaeology, by providing faces to accompany the names and discoveries of sites associated with the GBL.

“The real work of archaeology takes place in muddy fields, tidy labs, and in contentious journals and conferences,” the explanation of the exhibit read. “The photographs show the sometimes hilarious, sometimes miserable, but always interesting work that went into building our understanding of Indiana’s past.”

A timeline of Indiana history accompanied the photographs, providing artifacts and details of certain eras of life pre-European contact in the Hoosier State.

To make the exhibit more interactive for the public, sheets of paper were attached to each photo for visitors to write their thoughts and reflections on the photos.

Here are some of the interesting comments we received:

“The only person wearing pants is a woman. Things have changed.”

And a reply: “Sample is too small and there are women in shorts in the pic[ture] also.  Have times really changed?”

“Cuff game strong”

“Heads up!”

“That is hard work.”

“I miss the old archaeologist/explorer hats everyone used to wear, like the one the guy from ‘Tarzan’ has.”

Thank you to everyone who left comments!

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The Beauty of Shawnee Pottery

September 23, 2016

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

The screen at the front of the room filled with pictures of elaborately sculpted pots as Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, described traditional Shawnee pottery and efforts to recreate it.  Second Chief Barnes presented “Beauty of Shawnee Pottery” from 4-5:30, September 23, to a packed crowd at the Mathers Museum.

The talk, sponsored by IU’s Beauty Themester, detailed the restoration of Shawnee ceramic art, as well as the recovery of the methods used to make them.

“The way ceramics were made…signifies this region had a very specific cultural paradigm,” he said.  This paradigm would shift away from ceramic pots to metal kettles, acquired through trade with the Spanish.

“For Shawnee People, pottery was largely gone by the 1700s,” Second Chief Barnes said.  “Metal pots were superior because they traveled well.”

Second Chief Barnes compared the curiosity to a seed, planted by a question of one of the tribe’s elders: What did Shawnee pottery look like?

“As historians water that seed, Shawnees are coming into this information, sometimes for the first time,” he said.

The ongoing project is a collaboration between among the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes and scholars from University of Kentucky, University of Iowa and Indiana University, as well as from the Ohio History Connection.  Second Chief Barnes said the hope is to create a new record of Shawnee People pre-European contact.

In shaping the project, influence was taken from Eli Lilly’s method of triangulation: approaching a problem from different angles.  Lilly popularized the approach by hiring people from different disciplines in order to gain different perspectives and study a problem in an interdisciplinary way.

“We believe triangulation has largely been forgotten,” Second Chief Barnes said.  “Perhaps we can have these interdisciplinary teams, too.”

These teams have helped in their own way toward the ultimate goal of using pottery methods to learn about Shawnee history.  One area of particular interest in the language utilized in the creation of and daily use of the pots.

Second Chief Barnes explained the importance of verbs in the Shawnee language, and how, “The use of the thing usually describes the thing.”  He continued, “The verb becomes the center of the universe.  Verbs become nouns.”

Thanks to the different partners the project has, there is a variety of experience in this and other areas of interest.  The Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Eastern Shawnee and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe are all actively involved in the efforts, as well as artisans and potters who apply their modern experience to the ancient art.

“We would be nothing if we didn’t have master potters, master artists to guide us,” Second Chief Barnes said.

Working in tandem, the groups involved have been able to recreate to ballpark temporal and geological zones for the methods: areas of Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and northern Kentucky from 1400-1550 C.E.  This time and place aligns with the archaeological culture known as Late Fort Ancient.  Most of the pots that have been recovered and are used as models are cord-marked with thick handles and thin vessel walls.  Without tests to figure out the exact composition of the pots’ shell-based temper, trial and error taught the potters that the calcium carbonite they needed could not come from just any shell.

“Little did we know that all shells are not equal,” Second Chief Barnes laughed, explaining the difficulties in finding the correct ratio of shell to clay.  He continued that once they found an ideal shell – burned and crushed mussels – they faced difficulties in finding good sources of clay, and sources of the shells themselves, since mussels are endangered locally in Oklahoma.

After finding the clay and adding the temper, the mix is cured, sitting in a fine paste for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the potter.  Then it is formed, usually into a discoidal shape that gradually will become globular.  Cord markings are used to stretch the clay and help remove air bubbles, and handles, usually two or four, are added.

The piece then must dry until all moisture is removed, before it can begin firing.  Starting at a low temperature to acclimate it, the pot will eventually be put into the coals and brought to a glow.  Second Chief Barnes showed photos of what happens to pots upon over-firing: “I don’t think disintegration is too strong a word to use.  They just crumble.”

In the future, he said the project hopes to do several things.  Firstly, to create a database of Ohio Valley Late Fort Ancient ceramics.  Next, to source temper and clay to be able to pinpoint the natural sources used in creating the pot, to trace what village it came from.  Finally, to use the organic residue to determine the vessel’s function and, in the case of food remains, try to decipher some of the food culture that has been lost over the centuries.

“We might be able to see new things about our people and look backwards through time to see, ‘Okay, here’s when beans arrived,’” Second Chief Barnes said.  “It’s a unique thing to be able to write a page of your own history.”

Watch the talk here.

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The Beauty of Shawnee Pottery — Press Release

September 16, 2016

The Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology is hosting the Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.  Second Chief Benjamin Barnes is scheduled to speak at the Mathers Museum, in conjunction with the opening of a new exhibit at the Laboratory.

“The Beauty of Shawnee Pottery” will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. September 23, at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures Classroom, and light refreshments will be served at a reception beforehand.  Second Chief Benjamin Barnes will speak about the ongoing project to restore traditional Shawnee pottery, and open an exhibit of the restored works to the public.

The project is a collaboration between members of all three Shawnee Tribes – the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Eastern Shawnee and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe – and scholars from University of Kentucky, University of Iowa and Indiana University, as well as from Ohio History Connection.

The project intends to rediscover ancient ceramic technologies that were disrupted by European colonization, Liam Murphy, public programs and exhibits coordinator for the Glenn Black Laboratory, said.

“This project is an attempt to reclaim ancestral ceramic arts of the Shawnee,” Murphy said.

The event is sponsored by the Glenn Black Laboratory and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Beauty Themester.

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