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!
spring 2019 semester with the Wylie House project meant continuing the
categorizing and labeling of artifacts from the excavation. I ended the fall
semester in the middle of working with the glass artifacts, and was unable to
finish this by the beginning of winter break. When the semester started back
up, I returned right where I left off.
The glass was a
bit easier to label overall, as the B72 labeling material applied and dried
much easier than it had on the ceramics. The same general process of labeling
was performed: first a layer of B72, write the account number, category, and
subcategory numbers over the dried B72; then another layer over top of what was
written to prevent smudging. Instead of doing every piece that was large
enough, it was determined the best process would be to label the ten largest
pieces in each subcategory. This was decided because the glass was far more
numerous than the ceramics, with over two thousand sherds, and because the vast
majority was either aqua or clear flat glass. Some container glass and other
types were found, but the overwhelming majority belonged to these other two
With the help of
Lauren, an undergraduate student, we were able to finish labeling all the glass
as of the end of January. Following the completion of the glass, we turned our
attention to the next major category: metal artifacts. The metal was to be done
a bit differently. Instead of labeling the artifacts directly, we were to just
fill out the account card in the same way we had done with the other artifacts
and use a specialized tag for larger and more unique artifacts. We did not have
the special tags as of the time of this writing, but we will be doing this as
soon as we receive them.
The second half of
the Wylie House project in the Fall semester of 2018 was focused on analysis of
the ceramic materials. Along with students from an Archaeological Lab Methods
course occurring at the same time, ceramics would be analyzed and discussed. To
prepare, I was tasked with organizing ceramics into like categories (such as
unglazed earthenware, porcelain, and many more), then labeling each piece with
the Glenn Black account number, category number, and subcategory number. In
order to do this, we applied a thin layer of a quick-drying agent called B72 to
a part of the artifact, and then would write over this once it had dried with
the lab’s account number, the category number, and subcategory number on each
The account number
reflected the number which will be used to file all Wylie House June 2018
artifacts; the category number reflects the artifact type within the field
specimen (or level) bag; and the subcategory number reflects the more specific
type of artifacts, such as porcelain or unglazed earthenware. This was a long,
drawn-out task of labeling hundreds of sherds, and took place over a number of
weeks. At this same time, I was preparing for my qualifying exams to pass
through into Ph.D. candidacy. Taking some weeks off to focus on that made the
task more urgent to complete in a very short period of time. Thankfully, the
hard work paid off, and the ceramic sherds were all completed for the students
Once the students
were in their groups, they each focused on a different category. I helped the
students where I could, discussing the ceramics or clarifying the object
categorization. The students looked through both the sherds and related books
and articles to help formulate a good overview of the types of ceramics present
at the excavation and the site. They were to create a final project
presentation based on their research to present during finals week. At the same
time the students were performing their research, I began the process of
labeling the next major material category: glass. This aspect of the project
continued into the Spring semester, as there was far more glass than even
ceramics! The labeling and categorizing of the glass was a similar process as
the ceramics. Returning to the student analysis, the end of the semester went
well, and the projects proved to be well thought out.
My name is Lauren Schumacher and I’m a sophomore studying
history and archaeology. I participated in the Wylie House field school in
summer 2018, and am now working with the Wylie House and the Glenn Black Lab to
help process some Wylie collections and develop a mapping system to log
artifacts found on the property in the future.
Garden volunteers have been finding artifacts on the
property long before the field school excavations took place. Although the most
artifacts were recovered during the construction of the Education Center in
2009, bottles, ceramics, buttons, and bones are often found in and around the
garden beds. Since these are isolated artifacts found outside of an official
archaeological dig, part of my job has been to create a user-friendly digital
map and artifact form to allow people to pinpoint where they found an artifact
and describe what it is. This is a way to ensure we have information about the
artifact from the time it was found and to make future artifact processing more
organized. As artifacts begin to be logged, it will be interesting to see the
distribution of artifacts on the map and if there are any concentrations of
certain artifact types in a particular area.
In addition to the digital map, I’ve been making an artifact
identification guide and an animal bone identification guide for the Wylie
House. This process has consisted of researching and compiling information
about the major categories of artifacts found at the Wylie House: ceramics,
bottles, nails, flat glass, buttons, marbles, and bricks. Each of these
categories are broken down into more specific types, such as material,
decoration, and use. The hope is that this guide will help students and
volunteers better identify and describe artifacts. For example, using the
guide, one would be able to identify a ceramic fragment as “salt glazed
stoneware” instead of just “ceramic.” Similarly, the bone identification guide
will help with the identification of animal bones and butcher marks. In this
guide, I looked at the skeletal structure of common types of animals raised and
consumed on a 19th century frontier farm: horses, pigs, cows, sheep, and deer.
This guide proved harder to research, as nearly every search for specific bones
or marks just turned up articles on grilling or pictures of modern butchering.
However, I also found this research very interesting as I had never studied
bones or butchering techniques before.
As the semester goes on, I look forward to helping the Wylie
House as they process more artifacts in their collection and prepare for future
I’ve spent most of the
year getting to know the various Wylie House collections. After being
introduced to the Wylie House through the summer field school, I’ve started to
process the artifacts rescued during the construction of the education center
at Wylie, helped process the artifacts collected during the field school, and
completed a Wylie ceramic analysis project for a class in laboratory methods in
I started processing the
collection at Wylie last semester by roughly sorting the artifacts into their
types and cleaning them. Once they were sorted into the broad categories of
glass, metal, and ceramic, I started to further sort the ceramics into
categories based on the type of ceramic, decorations, and type of vessel sherd
(rim, body, or base). Once the sorting is finished, we will be able to start
labeling the artifacts and entering them into the database. The system for
labeling will be a little less complicated than the one we have been using for
the summer excavation collection, since these artifacts weren’t formally
excavated. Working with the ceramics has been fun, but I’m looking forward to
finishing the sorting and start the labeling process as it will be a nice
change of pace.
From this work at Wylie, labeling the summer excavation artifacts has been interesting since I’ve been able to recognize many of the pieces through my other work with Wylie artifacts. In particular, there is a set of glass tumblers that I first saw in Sherry’s collection that continue to pop up in the glass fragments collected during the summer excavation. Finding these surprising little connections has definitely made the labeling of hundreds of flat glass fragments more exciting. With that being said, I am looking forward to being done with the glass and starting to label the metal artifacts. After seeing a collection all the way through from excavation to labeling, I’m excited to get back to work on the Wylie collection and see it completely processed after being neglected for so many years.
In 1947, Glenn A. Black taught three courses in Indiana University’s Anthropology department. He did his best to teach excavation methods, problem-solving methods, and how to develop film and use the proper tools. But he found it wasn’t enough.
In Angel Site: An Archaeological, Historical, and Ethnological Study, published posthumously after his death in 1964, Black wrote he found it impossible to really teach students how to conduct fieldwork in the classroom. So he turned to field schools –after a few trial runs in 1945, ’46, and ’47, he received funding and the go ahead to establish a field school at the Angel Mounds Historic Site. The state of Indiana had held the title to the site since 1945; just a few years previously, it had been owned by the Indiana Historic Society.
It was in late 1947 at Angel that six old hutments from the U.S. Army were set up, along with (after some pushing) basic sanitation facilities, barracks, and a kitchen. Gertrude Behrick was hired as the cook. The first class of students arrived in June 1948.
This wasn’t the first excavation to take place at Angel Mounds in the twentieth century. During the Great Depression, jobs were provided at the site thanks to the Works Progress Administration. WPA efforts at the site lasted from 1939 to 1942, eventually halted by America’s entry into World War II.
By 1945, the war was winding down and Glenn Black and others were itching to return to the site.
Field schools weren’t exactly an easy sell to the University, and certainly weren’t just easy work for students looking to make a few bucks over the summer, something Black himself noted in Angel Site:
“Field schools can be justified only in the hope that the practical training given the students will pay dividends in the years which they devote later to field archaeology.”
Field schools continued (after the initial post-war test runs) from the first student group in 1948 to 1962, all at Angel Mounds with the exception of 1953 (which instead took place in Warrick County, at the Yankeetown site) and 1956.
In honor of Indiana Archaeology Month, here’s a few photographs of field school crews.
Back Row: (left-right) Donald Lee Hochstrasser; Charles T. Jacobs; Hugh N. Davis, Jr.; William L. Kaschube; Richard W. Noel; Roy K. Flint; and a man identified only as Hickerson
Front Row: (left-right) Nancy Parrott Hickerson; Dorthea M. Vedral Kaschube; Barbara Jo Serber; Alice Shroyer; Ann Chowning; and Emily Jane Blasingham
Not Pictured: Henry P. Childs; Robert Crabtree; Ellas Adis-Castro; and Hilda J. Curry
(left-right) Lynd J. Esch; Clarence H. Webb, Jr.; June S. Nettleship; Barbara J. MacCulley; Gerald W. Hubbart, Jr.; Jerry D. Hopkins; James H. Kellar; Robert C. Dailey; Jane Kellar; and Virginia E. Rice
Not Pictured: Hilda J. Curry and Hugh N. Davis, Jr.
(left-right) James H. Kellar; John R. Longbons; Jana Kellar (baby); Ida Black (holding Jana); Jane Kellar; Emily Jane Blasingham; Gertrude Behrick; Robert Forth; Nelson Smith; Ann Liest; and Elizabeth Brockschlager
(left-right) Lily O’C. J. Marchant; Joan Popoff; Bettye J. Broyles; and Ann Stofer Johnson
Not Pictured: Carol K. Rachlin
Glenn A. Black (sitting, far right); George E. Noble; Ethel M. Enyart; Edward V. McMichael; and Martha Orr
Not Pictured: Richard Johnston, Joan Potochniak, and Lora Steele
(left-right) Duane Campbell; Phyllis L. Jacobs; Jeaneatte Hornbaker; Loretta Reinhardt; John T. Dorwin; Andrew L. Szczesniak; and Robert C. Kiste
(left-right) Richard B. Johnston; Theodore Stevens; William R. Merrimee; Charles Jenkins; and Charles A. Martijn
Not Pictured: Thomas Downen
Recently, there have been several other digs at Angel Mounds, and continued cooperation between the University, the GBL, and Angel Mounds to preserve and study the area’s history.
Black, Glenn A. Angel Site: An Archaeological, Historical, and Ethnological Study. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1967. Volume 1.