Spring 2020 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 GBL Director

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

From the desk of the GBL Curator

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

This Semester at the GBL!

Getting Our Move On

Jennifer St. Germain, Collections Manager

When the Glenn Black Lab first opened its doors in 1971, it became the new home for two important collections. These consisted of the 2 million artifacts excavated from Angel Mounds under the direction of Glenn Black and a collection of over 400,000 artifacts transferred from the Indiana Historical Society. The GBL’s collections have grown significantly in the five decades since then and now total over 5 million artifacts and specimens. The collections also include associated records, reports, photographs, maps, films, field notebooks, library resources, archives, and other forms of documentation that chronicle the history of research and curation activities at the GBL.

There are also a large number of people for whom these collections hold meaning and value, including students, staff, researchers, tribal partners, volunteers, school groups and other patrons. Moving the collections safely from the building is a responsibility we undertake on behalf of them all.


Our enormous task officially began in October of 2019 when plans for major renovations to the building were announced to coincide with the merger of the GBL with the Mathers Museum. Planning the move included creating spreadsheets, timelines, and long lists of needed supplies. The entire staff chipped in to quantify the volumes of collections and materials in every space, identify appropriate boxes and packing materials, hire and train new assistants, and help get this move off the ground.

Large mobile carts were purchased and assembled to help transport more than 6000 artifact boxes to an offsite storage facility. Prior to moving, every box has to be evaluated, weighed, and barcoded for tracking in our collections management system. Heavier boxes over 35 lbs are split into multiple boxes to meet new shelf weight restrictions, and most boxes are padded out with ethafoam or other protective materials to better cushion artifacts for transportation (Fig. 1). The completed boxes are then loaded onto mobile carts, transported to our interim storage location, and re-shelved onto barcoded shelving units, often with the assistance of a mobile hydraulic lift. Between November of 2019 and when facilities closed for Covid-19 in March of 2020, the staff and students had moved nearly 3,800 boxes, totaling over 35 tons of artifacts! A special note of thanks goes to our collections assistants, Amanda Pavot, Noah Sandweiss, and Cally Steussy, who shouldered (literally!) much of this box moving work.

Prior to our closure due to COVID, we also started photographing and measuring our extensive collection of ceramic vessels before they get packed (Fig 2). These images and dimensions will help IUMAA staff plan for exhibits, research, and new storage and display solutions over the next few years.
Although the work of packing and moving collections has been suspended, we’ve continued to work remotely on renovation blueprints, new storage layouts, database updates, and other plans for the merger and future reopening as IUMAA. Moving the GBL collections may be challenging, but the renovation work and greatly improved storage conditions and workspaces will be well-worth the effort.

Collections Updates

Amanda Burtt

As assistant curator, I have worked closely with Dr. Melody Pope during the spring 2020 semester to help supervise both the Saving America’s Treasures – Angel Mounds Rehousing Project and with packing the type collection for the approaching move. Both projects rely heavily on student hourly workers and I have had the privilege of working with an amazing group of IU grads and undergrads. We accomplished a lot before we had to shut down for the Covid 19 pandemic. When the spring semester began, the SAT team passed the awesome milestone of finishing rehousing all faunal remains from the Angel Mounds site! We began working with the faunal material in the summer of 2019 and have had help from many dedicated students. While rehousing the fauna, we also began a type collection for Angel fauna, which essentially is a collection of extraordinary animal
bones (bears, cougars, raptor, etc.), interesting pathologies, or especially complete specimens. Additionally, the SAT crew identified 29 individual specimens of domestic dogs that will be investigated as part of my dissertation research. I am teaming up with Dr. David Polly and the IU Grand Challenges initiative to have isotopic analysis done on the dog remains to better understand the diets of dogs at Angel Mounds.

Since finishing the faunal rehousing, the SAT crew moved on to ceramics. We were all well trained and running smoothly with ceramic rehousing when we closed for the pandemic. Before closing, Dr. Pope and I established protocols for packing the type collection and had several students trained. We made good progress in a short time, likely due to the exceptional students who
were assisting the project.

While working remotely, my efforts have concentrated on organizing documents for future SAT work that will help streamline the project once it resumes. I have also been investigating application software for use in the new IU MAA. This new technology is evolving and there are a lot of exciting options to be considered.

Besides working on all the important GBL projects, I continue to work on my dissertation. In April, a volume that I both coedited and contributed a chapter, Dogs: Archaeology Beyond Domestication was published with the University Press of Florida. Very exciting! Currently, I am preparing a manuscript on wolf dietary behavior to be submitted this month, also very exciting!

Library

Kelsey Grimm, Librarian

In preparation for the renovations of our building and merger into IUMAA (prior to quarantine), the library collections were busy being packed into boxes! As of March 20th, 563 boxes of materials were packed and housed on shelves ready to be moved. As soon as we can get physically get back to work packing will resume, and then most of the library collections will be moved alongside the archaeological collections at the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF).

Image down library aisle full of brown boxes.
Library collections in boxes (March 2020, photo courtesy Kelsey Grimm

No worries, though! Researchers will still have access to the materials while moved out… we’ll just need a few days lead to time to pull and transport them for you!

Congratulations! Dr. Watts Malouchos!

GBL Research Scientist, Liz Watts Malouchos, successfully defended her dissertation on May 5th. Her dissertation, Assembling Mississippian Communities: Integration and Identities in the Angel Hinterlands, explores relationships between the Angel Mounds center and outlying sites in the southwestern Indiana region. She conducted a non-invasive magnetic survey of the Stephan-Steinkamp site in Posey County, Indiana and detected at least 83 houses at the site. She also undertook targeted excavations of houses and domestic features. She found that one quarter of all the known houses in the countryside were precisely oriented in the same direction as Mound A and Mound F, the oldest mounds at Angel, and were aligned to the movements of the moon. She also noted a unique region-wide practice in which Mississippian Angel peoples collected millennia old stone tools from local Middle Woodland period sites for recycling and reuse. She argues that the lunar alignment of regional houses and mounds and reuse of ancient stone tools were integral practices for creating and maintaining Angel group identities and relationships across the region.

Image of woman holding piece of pottery as if explaining it.
Dr. Elizabeth Watts Malouchos

Volunteers, Student Workers, and Part Timers!

Thanks to all of those who worked with us this semester:

Archaeological:

  • Mackenzie Cory
  • Ariel Creal
  • Carley Divish
  • James Edens
  • Preet Gill
  • Mara Gordon
  • Maclaren Guthrie
  • Conner Hayes
  • Anne Hittson
  • Grace Nelson
  • Amanda Pavot
  • Karrigan Perkins
  • Ryan Peterson
  • Jorge Rios Allier
  • Haley Rogers
  • Brenna Roller
  • Noah Sandweiss
  • Emily Schopmeyer
  • Lauren Schumacher
  • Sheree Sievert
  • Matthew Staats
  • Cameron Strause
  • Cally Steussy
  • Evan Weis

Library:

  • Patrick Sovereign

Social Media and Outreach

  • Josie Myers

Be on the lookout for our new social media profiles!

Identifying Animal Species in the Angel Mounds Collections via Teeth

by Maclaren Guthrie

Color, close up image of the front of an animal skull
Fig. 1 Raccoon cranium (Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 2019)

Hi everyone, it’s Maclaren Guthrie back with another blog post! This time I’m excited I get the opportunity to talk about something that’s really of interest to me lately – identifying animal teeth.

Though this rehousing angel mounds project is all about the physical rehousing and conservation of the angel collection, we do see a lot of really interesting artifacts in our daily routines. This first segment of the project is focused on the packing crates of moldy bones due to our method of need-oriented rehousing. While our main task is to locate mold and deal with it and the task of putting these artifacts into new bags and boxes, a lot of us can’t help but try and figure out what type of animal’s bones we may be looking at.

For me, I’ve been particularly interested in the identification of animals by their teeth. We find quite a few teeth on a day to day basis, which is really cool and helps to show what species were hunted, eaten, or present in the lives of the Mississippian people at Angel Mounds. Teeth are a great way to identify this information because teeth are less likely to decay because of their density.

Multiple mandibles (jaw bones) in a line vertically
Fig. 2 Various animal mandibles (Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 2019)

Prior to this project, I was not the most experienced in identifying animal teeth with the exception of cows and pigs due to their common presence on historic archaeological sites. Lucky for this project we have Amanda Burtt, a zooarchaeologist, on staff to help us with our identification questions – which we have lots of.

So far, the most common animals we have been rediscovering in the collections are raccoons, deer, and fish which is unsurprising for the most part. We have definitely found some other cool species in the collections through identifying teeth, such as bear, river otter, opossum, dog, beaver, bobcat, and various rodentia. We’ve also found multiple bird beaks.

Image of the front of a bobcat jaw bone, has pointed front tooth
Fig. 3 Partial bobcat mandible (Glenn A. Black Laboratory of ARchaeology, 2019)

Identifying animals, specifically by just looking at teeth or possibly a mandible, can include a few different strategies which can really depend on experience in working with faunal remains. For me personally, as I don’t have much experience in this area as of now, I go through a little flowchart in my head to help me narrow down what animal the teeth could belong to. First, the size – this is a helpful observation that should start me off in the right direction whether I am looking at just a tooth or a mandible with or without the teeth still attached. Next, I look at the shape of the tooth. If it has a mostly flat crown I know it could be a molar, if it’s long and pointed it could be a canine, etc. Knowing what kind of tooth you’re looking at is important because the shape of that specific tooth gives you an idea of what type of animal that would have a tooth that looks like that – i.e. a wolf would have larger canine teeth than a raccoon, or a carnivorous animal like a dog would not have flat-topped molars like herbivores like deer or omnivores like humans. Having multiple teeth together, perhaps still in a mandible, is even easier since you can tell whether or not the individual was homodont (one type of teeth) or heterodont (multiple types of teeth) which would also allow us to tell what the animal could have eaten and therefore give us hints to what species the animal may have been. Fortunately for us, Amanda Burtt also brought a handy comparative collection that can help with this process for teeth and other animal bone identification.

Gloved hand holding a partial jaw bone, teeth are much flatter than bobcat
Fig. 4 Partial beaver mandible (Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 2019)

Teeth are also helpful in ageing an animal. For example, we can tell whether or not an individual is a juvenile or adult based on if the teeth are deciduous “milk” teeth or permanent dentition since most mammals are diphyodont and have two sets of teeth throughout their life. Another way teeth can be aged is due to wear – it seems only logical that the more worn a tooth is the older the individual would have had to been to have used it enough to wear it down. There can be other factors that effect this, though, as different diets wear teeth differently. An example of this in the Angel Mounds rehousing project is various raccoon molars, usually still attached to the mandible, have been noted to have very worn down molars. This could mean they were older or they could have been eating a harsher diet that was harder on their teeth.

Raccoon jawbone on table, teeth are short but pointed
Fig. 5 Raccoon mandible with worn molars (Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 2019)

A lot of information can be gained by studying animal teeth that can then help us better understand the people of Angel Mounds and beyond. Knowing the species, and sometimes age and diet of said animals, gives us more of an insight into the daily lives of the animals and the people they most likely came into contact with. Teeth are a great resource to use since they are often found in the archaeological record.

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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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.)

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.

Unpacking the Animal Life of Angel Mounds

by Amanda Burtt

Hello All! My name is Amanda Burtt and I am one of the newest members of the IMLS funded Curating Angel project that is underway right now. My job as Associate Curator for the rehousing project includes helping lead a team of graduate and undergraduate students in the many steps involved in transferring the Angel Mounds archaeological collections from their original storing containers to archival grade curation bags and boxes.

In addition to working for the Glenn A. Black Laboratory on the Angel project, I am also a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Department here at Indiana University. I am an archaeologist with a specialization in zooarchaeology. Zooarchaeologists analyze animal remains (bones, teeth, shells, fur, etc.) from archaeological sites to better understand ways that people interacted with animals in the past, which can vary greatly, from food resource to companion to deity. My dissertation research investigates the diets of domestic dogs in Precontact North America. I am able to examine dog diets by employing Dental Microwear Texture Analysis (DMTA), which evaluates the surface of a tooth to determine what kinds of food textures a dog is accessing. This method can determine if dogs are heavily processing bone for nutrition, a sign of food stress. This method has allowed me to quantify when dogs are allowed access to flesh or cooked foods or are utilizing lower quality foodstuff (i.e. bones).

Amanda smiling toward camera, sitting in front of computer screens depicting graphic data
Amanda Burtt at Vanderbilt University’s Dietary Reconstruction and Ecological Assessments of Mammals Laboratory, dog tooth scan in the back. (2018)

Lucky for me, the Angel curation project began with re-housing the fauna remains recovered from Angel Mounds. Which means I get to spend my work days opening bags (some haven’t been opened since their original bagging in the 1940’s) and seeing the remains of animals that shared the landscape with Indigenous communities that occupied Angel Mounds hundreds of years ago. My research interests extend beyond dogs; I am also interested in ways that humans in the past interacted with carnivores more broadly. One of the fascinating things I have observed while rehousing fauna remains is the abundance of raccoons (scientific name Procyon lotor) in the Angel Mounds assemblage. Since my first day working with the Angel Mounds fauna, I noticed evidence of raccoons from all parts of the skeleton, including teeth, skulls, long bones, and even the baculum (which is a bone found in the penis of many placental mammals).

Raccoon skull resting in gloved palm
The cranium of a raccoon (Procyon lotor), recovered from the Angel Mounds site during excavations in the 1940’s and being rehoused as part of the Curating Angel project. (2019)

The mandible (lower portion of the skull) is a bone that is both recognizable and dense enough to survive the deposition and excavation processes. We have found many mandibles belonging to raccoons and the following image shows two (circled in the picture). Of interesting note, the left mandible exhibits extreme dental wear when compared to the one on the right. You will notice that the molars of the left raccoon appear flat while the mandible on the right still has prominent cusps. Also, both mandibles are from the right side meaning there are at least two raccoons represented in this subsample. This is a quantification method that zooarchaeologists use called MNI (minimum number of individuals).

Artifact tray filled with bone material, jaw bones are circled
Two raccoon mandibles. (2019)

Like dogs, raccoons also belong to the taxonomic order Carnivora. Though also like dogs, raccoons tend to be omnivorous as they will seek out food resources that are available and usually do not pass up the opportunity for a meal. We have seen many worn molars from raccoons while rehousing the Angel fauna, which has me wondering why. My current theory is that the residents of Angel Mounds were keeping the predator population in check and raccoons were able to survive well into adulthood resulting in elder raccoons with advanced worn teeth. This theory is among many that my coworkers and I hypothesize while working side by side rehousing animal bones. Though there is evidence of predators among the assemblage, including black bears and bobcats, their remains do not compare to the amount of raccoons we are finding. We will keep thinking on theories and keep you posted!

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.)

#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!

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 5

Part 5 of Amanda’s Angel Rehousing Project blog series

by Amanda Pavot

I have returned with news!

First, this is going to be my last blog post of the semester. However(!), the current plan is to continue to make blog posts about the project as it goes on. It’s just going to be different people writing. Maybe we’ll get more perspectives other than mine! Keep checking the blog for more updates!

More importantly, the Rehousing has started! It’s being divided into a couple of phases, those phases being “sort out the moldy bone boxes” and then “do everything else.”

~Issues in Curation~

Remember last post when I said that our NAGPRA team was pulling out AFOs and going through faunal remains to ensure that all sacred items and human remains are accounted for? Also, remember waaay back when I said that some of the boxes of artifacts have mold in them?

After opening boxes that had faunal remains in order to go through them, many of those boxes were found to have mold in them. Before our NAGPRA team can sort through those bones, they need to be cleaned up and rehoused into temporary bags and boxes. Only then can they be sorted through. Because it’s Very Important to get this done, cleaning up the moldy bone boxes is the priority right now. So here’s how it works:

First, we put on our respirators and nitrile gloves. That’s very important. Then we pull one of the moldy boxes. We take out one of the bags and look up the information written on the bag to find it in our digital database. Then we take the bones out of the bag, count them, vacuum off any mold (using a special attachment on the vacuum with the HEPA filter, which I think is cooler than it probably really is. The mold just comes right off, though!), and then weigh them. We get a new, archival-quality bag, write the information from the old bag onto the new one along with quantity and weight, and put the bones into the new bag. We also update the information in the database –for example, sometimes the number of artifacts in the bags and the number the database says we should have in those bags are different. Put the bag into a new box, move on to the next bag!

I left out a lot of the nitty-gritty details, but that’s basically how it works. We’re working in teams of two, one on a laptop with the database and one on the vacuum. When we finally finish all of the moldy bones, we’ll move on to the rest of the bulk collection. We’ll be training more people soon, and with more people we’ll be able to plow right through these boxes this summer!

I want to thank everyone who’s read these posts and has followed along so far. So: thank you! I’m looking forward to where this project is headed, and I hope you all are interested in it, too. I may be making some posts in the future, but, until then, have a great summer!


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

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.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 4

Amanda’s 4th blog about the ongoing Angel Rehousing project

by Amanda Pavot

Time for another Angel Update!

I’m still working on inventorying the boxes of the Type Collection. At first, I worked on a box of mostly projectile points, especially small triangular points. Then I worked on an especially heavy box of groundstone, which includes items like stones they used as hammers and celts (stone axes). Now I’m working on a box of worked bone, which includes bone tools and pins. One neat thing about working in a museum like this is the variety of interesting artifacts you get to see! Holding an object that was carved into by a person hundreds of years ago can really make you feel things.

There are a lot of other projects connected to this Angel Rehousing project. One of these is the very important job of repatriating artifacts and human remains. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a law that, among other things, sets the procedure of returning certain Native American artifacts to their related communities. It also reflects changes in thought, specifically how archaeologists in the early 20th century think in terms of family connections to communities of Native Americans. Excavations at Angel Mounds began in the early-to-mid 20th Century, so human remains and objects associated with burials ended up in the Glenn Black’s collection.

What we call the “NAGPRA Team” has already been working on sorting out the human remains and AFOs (Associated Funerary Objects, or objects buried with the deceased) to be repatriated. There is an original list of AFOs that is used to find the artifacts in the collection that were associated with burials. Each object is pulled from the bulk collection and carefully documented; they are measured, weighed, and identified and described in more detail than what was done previously. An object noted in the original logs as simply “animal bone” will now have more pertinent information listed in the database. The Angel Rehousing project will end up playing an important role in this as well.

While AFOs have already been pulled from the bulk collection, sometimes, despite our best efforts, objects can be missed. As we sort through each individual artifact to be rehoused, we can look them up in the database where it will say if it is an AFO or not. Any found AFOs can then be separated out to be repatriated. In other words, the rehousing gives us the chance to go through every artifact to ensure no AFOs are missed.

There’s also the rehousing of the faunal artifacts, aka all the animal bones. A lot of times animal remains were buried with humans, or animal carcasses were discarded near burials. While most of the human remains have already been separated from the rest of the artifacts, it can be very difficult to identify small bone fragments, and some human remains have been found mixed up with animal remains. As we rehouse faunal artifacts, we will be going through the bones to double-check that no human remains are left behind, ensuring that, if any are found, they can be treated with the respect they deserve and be repatriated.

I’ll end this post with exciting news; rehousing starts this week! Next time, I’ll be back with more specifics about that!


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

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.)

Spring 2019 Newsletter

From the desk of the Director

Click here to read a message from Director April Sievert.

From the desk of the curator

Click here to read a message from Curator Melody Pope.


conferences

Anne Lacey, Kelsey Grimm, and Bob Wicks at MAC

Kelsey Grimm, librarian for the GBL, hosted a session in April at the 2019 Midwest Archives Conference in Detroit, Michigan. She, Bob Wicks of Miami University, and Anne Lacey of Kansas City, Kansas Public Library, presented “Collaborate and Listen,” in which they described the Wyandotte Heritage Digital Archive. This project, organized by Bob Wicks and hosted by the Wyandotte Nation, will bring together digitized primary source documents from repositories across the continent.

Ph.D. student Molly Mesner presented at the Midwest Archives Conference, alongside Wylie House Museum Director Carey Beam, concerning last summer’s campus archaeology project.

Curator Melody Pope presented research at this year’s Society for American Archaeology conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Head over to her ‘From the Desk of the Curator‘ to read more.


Collections news

Cataloging Collections

Malachai Darling has been continuing the book cataloging and completed the Jonathan Reyman collection, a set of books donated by the former curator of anthropology at the Illinois State Museum. Those can be found on our LibraryThing catalog.

Cleaning the Lilly Map

The Lilly Map

Sheree Sievert, a volunteer, has been cleaning the Eli Lilly map. It should be completed very soon, and will be on display in the Mather’s Museums’s fall exhibit, “800 Seasons.”

Wylie House Excavation

Follow our work at the Wylie House on our blog!

Save America’s Treasures Grant

In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

Amanda Pavot in the Angel Room

As the project gets underway, collections assistant Amanda Pavot is posting weekly updates on our blog. Click here to follow along!

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. Follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter!


Outreach news

Stephanie Holman, children’s librarian at the Monroe County Public Library, wrote and performed a story of Angel Mounds with support from the Indiana Historical Society and Storytelling Arts of Indiana. She debuted “Baskets of Dirt: the building, excavation, and interpretation of Angel Mounds” in early March at the History Center in Indianapolis. Look for more performances around the state in the coming year!

Part of the GBL’s “Postcards from the Past” activity

Lotus Blossoms was another absolutely treat this year! The GBL hosted a table with the activity “Postcards from the Past,” where students could identify artifacts found in the state of Indiana and try writing a postcard on the back. Thanks to everyone who came out to see us at Fairfield Elementary!

Hannah Ballard and Amanda Pavot at the Powwow

The GBL had a table at Indiana University’s 8th Annual Traditional Powwow on April 6th.


Exhibit News

Out With the Old: Hats of Archaeology”

Produced in conjunction with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures 2018 exhibit “Heads and Tales,” our exhibit “Hats of Archaeology” takes a look at the various head fashions used in Indiana archaeology throughout the last century. The hats may not have been chosen explicitly to make a statement, but by looking at these photographs from our collection, we can get a sense of how people thought about clothing throughout the last century. 

The exhibit closed in Spring 2019.

IHS Partnership: You Are There 1939

Throughout the past spring and fall, researchers from the Indiana Historical Society have been extensively using the archives for their exhibit You Are There 1939: Exploring Angel Mounds. Danny Gonzales and Dan Shockley visited the facility and were in constant communication with the GBL staff while preparing the exhibit. Uniquely, the “You Are There…” exhibits contain a section allowing visitors to simulate stepping back into the past by talking and interacting with actors; in this case you can talk to Glenn and Ida Black, William Rude, and other WPA workers at Angel Mounds. GBL staff members April Sievert, Melody Pope, and Kelsey Grimm spent a day teaching the “YAT” actors about Angel Mounds and the people of the WPA project. “You Are There 1939” discusses the history of the Angel Mounds Site from Mississippian occupation to today. The exhibit will be on display until August 2020 in Indianapolis at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center.

The new “Images from the WPA-era: Angel Mounds in 1939” exhibit in the GBL lobby

In With the New: “Images from the WPA-era: Angel Mounds in 1939”

In partnership with the Indiana Historical Society, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology provided images, artifacts, and other primary sources to the development of the IHS exhibit You Are There 1939. An image exhibit was developed in the lobby of the GBL to showcase more of the historic images from 1939 Angel Mounds. The photos highlight some of the earliest, formalized archaeology conducted in the state of Indiana.

The exhibit opened in March 2019.


volunteer and student appreciation

           Collections: Hannah Ballard, Preet Gill, and Amanda Pavot

           Library: Malachai Darling, Sheree Sievert, and Ethan Shepherd

           Programming: Hannah Rea

Thank you to all who gave their time this semester!


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