Wylie House Field School: Week 4 Blogs

25 June 2018

Scout Landin

Hello and welcome back to another blog post by me, Scout Landin! I am a senior about to graduate in August with a double major in anthropology and food studies. I am very passionate on learning about cultures and societies -especially through food and diet! I also really enjoy being outside in nature and working with my hands during this field school opportunity.
On this cloudy and overcast day, most people are probably inside and wishing it wasn’t gray out. On the other hand, the students at the Wylie House field school are welcoming the cool breeze and working their butts off In their last week (can you believe it’s been three weeks already?! Because I seriously cannot…). Today, I have been working on opening Unit 3 to the north, south and west. Last Friday, we thought our feature was in the next unit to the east, in Unit 1, but in Unit 3 we have uncovered lot of bricks and mortar and an outline that suggests the hot house/ green house is actually in that unit. Our plan is to open the three sides to uncover the outline like the one we have seen from last Friday. This entails digging up the humus, or the topsoil, then digging into what we call layer 2. This process usually takes awhile because we are skim-shoveling and making sure the ground is level for each layer. Once that’s done we still have to trowel back to get a clear view of the soil and the outline we will hopefully see.
While I was digging and expanding our unit, I found some really neat things. I found my first piece of ceramic wear, plain white pieces (the big rectangle looking piece) and other small pieces. Other people have found the pretty blue and purple transfer wear when they were digging; and in the screen someone found a ceramic/clay marble. These artifacts, especially the ones that I found, give me hope by the end of this week we will proudly say we have found the Wylie family’s hot house.

26 June 2018

Tori G.

Hi again, it’s Tori. So today was spent working on excavating our greenhouse feature (for real this time), covering everything fom torrential downpour, and then repeating what we did originally to fix the effects of rain and our tarps. Rainy days are still eventful at Wiley House, because they give us the opportunty to keep up with paperwork, wash artifacts, and process data. One thing I have been working on with data processing is creating photogrammetric models of the first unit I worked on, unit 2.  These three-dimensional models are created by using software that stitches together multiple two-dimmensional images. It creates a model that can show soil color and stratigraphy, enable exact measurementsto be  taken, and give us the ability to view a unit from angles that are not otherwise possible. Photogrammetry is a relatively new tool that is being used by archaeologists, and we use the technology on  a daily basis in underwater archaeology. 
While I really miss being underwater documenting shipwrecks, it is great to have terrestrial experience from this field project. I am grateful for this experience not only for the techniques I have learned that are used in terrestrial archaeology, but also for bettering and adapting my previous skills from underwater archaeology. I owe everyone a huge ‘thank you’ for helping me catch up after a late start and for explaining the process to me and teaching me. I can’t believe our time is almost over here, but we will have plenty of time together this semester processing artifacts- a task that lasts much longer than the field projet itself!

27 June 2018

Maclaren Guthrie

Hello all, I’m Maclaren Guthrie and I am the undergraduate archaeological assistant for this field school. During the past fall semester I was one of Indiana University’s Bicentennial interns.  My project was focused on the transition from agriculture to floriculture especially in relation to Bloomington and the Wylie family which culminated in the exhibit in the Wylie House Education Center for this field school.

Maclaren holding a small piece of transferware
This is a picture of me holding a sherd of black transferware that we found on a previous day of excavating.

Today I’m here to talk to you about something extremely exciting: we have finally identified the greenhouse! The feature (feature 1) we previously thought was the greenhouse ended up dissipating and was too small to match the dimensions of the pit that Theophilus Wylie III recalled in his memory map. We have now rediscovered the pit in our unit 3/unit 3 extension areas, where it does seem to mimick T.A.W. III’s remembered size of about 6 ft wide.

Liz at site of greenhouse, squatting in dirt
Here is our wonderful field director Liz Watts Malouchos with our outlined feature.

In addition to focusing our excavation efforts on this super interesting feature, we also backfilled two of our completed units this morning. Backfilling is a necessary part of archaeology, though it is a labor intensive and not super fun endeavor. Luckily, the Wylie House had a wheelbarrow we borrowed to move dirt more quickly. Unit 2 and unit 4 were both completely refilled with dirt as we got the information we needed from the soil and profiles, so they were no longer required since they weren’t part of our greenhouse feature.

Filled in ground
Units 4 and 2 after being backfilled.

28 June 2018

Jorge Allier

Hi! My name is Jorge Rios Allier, I am a first year PhD student in Anthropology Department. My research project is focus to explain the interactions between heritage users and owners in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, mainly focus in explain the economic value of archaeology and how archaeology can be useful to create development for local people. 
The Wylie House Bicentennial project has been a good opportunity to learn how historic archaeology is done in United States. Also it has been a huge chance to know more about the history of IU since his first steps. The Wylie House Museum is an extraordinarily project that combines different fields: History, Building maintenance, restoration, archaeology, master gardening, agricultural knowledge, etc. 
Today wasn’t a regular day, it started so excited because we  visited to the Wylie House’s roof. The roof is a place for a deep breath, the original view allowed to see the first IU Bloomington campus that nowadays is a park and a shopping mall. All the team took some funny photos, also me even I am not a photogenic one. 
About the fieldwork, today is a three stations day. The first one is the pit filling activity, because we are in the last week all the ended pits has to be cover and most of the crew is helping with that. The second one is the delimitation of the main project feature that we can call it “the green house wall”, it is interesting the construction technology of the XIX century for me. The third one was the total station interaction for students, always is useful to know the basics, no matters if you have the newest technology. 
Finally, I would say that Wylie House Bicentennial experience has been an enriching one for me. This project, in particular, could have an enormous impact on IU identity in this celebration times. 
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Wylie House Field School: Week 3 Blogs

18 June 2018

Heather A.

Hi everyone it’s Heather! It’s been very hot out today, but we have kept on working and have made progress! Having canopies and tree cover over our work areas has been a huge help!
So, today we have been working in each of the units we have open.  We opened up three units last week, and we are making progress in each of them! Bricks have been located in units 3 and 5. We have also found large pieces of glass shards, terra cotta sherds, bone fragments, and we continue to find some small pieces of transferware. Unit 4 has made it down to level 3 of their unit, and have begun helping excavate unit 5.  Unit 2 is almost at a stopping point for their unit, and may be split up and start helping the newer units. Just a few minutes ago, unit 5 found a pig molar in their unit.
Pig molar found in unit 5
I have been working in unit 2, and it has proven to be a bit of a challenge. We have been in layer 2, the rubble layer, for a few days now. It is several centimeters deep and we had only just started to see the bottom of the layer at the end of the day Friday. We are still working on getting the unit flat, and we will see what the next level tells us!

19 June 2018

Hannah

Hello, it’s Hannah again! It is the twelfth day out here at the Wylie House dig site. It is another beautiful, but hot day outside, so we decided to start early to beat the heat. Even though it is hot outside, we have had a productive day. Unit 1, unit 3, and unit 5 have expanded to include a unit 6, but instead of being separate units it is one large feature unit. The feature unit contains the subterranean greenhouse that we have been looking for, and we opened up a sixth unit to determine if the edge of the feature could be found there, but it was determined that the feature is only in units 1, 3, and 5. The feature found is believed to be the greenhouse due to the different colored soil and because that soil creates a series of right angles. Today, the feature unit was scraped clean and photographed and is now being mapped.  In unit 4, we have finally found the bottom of layer 2 and are now prepping for a photograph. Another important factor is taking care of the artifacts. Elizabeth and Scout are busy washing artifacts as the day winds down to a close. If you’re interested in seeing our progress, come see us soon! 

20 June 2018

Brenna R.

Hi guys, it’s Brenna again! Today is a gorgeous day, with a nice breeze helping to cool things down a bit and luckily no rain.  We spent this morning finishing up the mapping of units 1,3,5, and 6 as well as photographing and mapping the profile walls in unit 4. We’re now focusing on the feature in the northern set of units,  where we’ve laid out another quadrant that will separate the feature into different areas so that it’s easier to excavate and sift through. So far today we’ve found what looks to be an old metal hook, which came from unit 1, and shards of glass from unit 3. As we dig deeper into the feature our findings will help us piece together how the Wylie’s filled in the greenhouse and evidence of what they could have stored there as well. Unit 4 is doing Munsell’s of the profile walls that they mapped earlier, making sure that everything is identified and recorded as well as it possibly can be. As we dig deeper we’re going to uncover even more information about the Wylie’s and their greenhouse, so come by and see our progress!

21 June 2018

Angel Mounds Field Trip

Hello everyone, it’s Elizabeth again and today we started off the morning a little different than usual. Instead of our typical meet at the 7-8 am time frame, we met at 8:30. Extra sleep time! The purpose of this late meet up was our field trip to Angel Mounds in Evansville, Indiana. Just as a little background context for later, I’m actually from Evansville, so when we found out that our field trip was to Angel Mounds I joked that I get to go home for a day. So about 8:45 we hopped in our IU official vehicles and began our two hour journey to the site. Molly and Liz were our two designated drivers for the day with Maclaren and Jorge as their respective copilots. Now I’m not sure how the ride in Molly’s car was, but in Liz’s car things got interesting with the Bluetooth and radio really fast. In the long run, we gave up on either for most of the trip and listened to podcasts and npr on someone’s phone. 
When our two hour trip was up, we all grouped together in parking lot of Angel Mounds waiting for another few minutes for it to open. As we waited, Liz gave us a nice in depth explanation about the site and its archaeological and historical background. She told us about how the mound you see off to the right when you turn in to the parking lot is called a Woodland mound and how it’s different from the other mounds at the Angel site, how Angel is connected to other sites such as Cahokia in Illinois, as well as the contemporary descendants of the peoples that lived at Angel.
Liz talking to group at Angel Mounds
Once the museum opened, we went inside and explored everything it had to offer, from interactive displays to physical Angel artifacts. Having grown up in Evansville I had been many times to Angel Mounds and seen this museum each time I went, so while it wasn’t completely new to me there was a pleasant sense of nostalgia I could share with my group. And even more exciting were the new exhibits at the end of the museum that I had yet to see. 
By far the most amazing part about the trip was going outside and climbing to the top of Mound A. The view was absolutely beautiful! During our trek to the mound, we stopped along the way for more tidbits of information from Liz. In particular the idea that these mounds were perfectly aligned with specific phases of the moon was fascinating. Brenna joked that she can’t even find North on her own, so it’s impressive that they were so exact in their calculations. However, my favorite discussion point of the day was by far the future of Angel and the collaboration with descendants and the repatriation that is planned. You don’t often think about the multifaceted abilities of a place until you are presented with them head on and this was definitely the case here. This is especially true when you grow up and are told a place is one thing, like a historic site, but later learn it means so much more to others such as Angel’s descendants. 
group photo
Group photo at Angel Mounds
After our amazing adventure to Mound A, we stopped by the gift shop and got caught up in all of the friendship bracelets, arrow points, books and dream catchers to the point where nearly everyone bought something. To finish out the day, we went to a pizza place called Turoni’s and I learned there was a location of this place I’ve never been to! It was a great end to the day, a way to wind down and just talk with everyone and make plans for our week left at the Wylie House site. Well, thanks for tuning in and keeping up with our progress! We really love the community involvement we’ve been receiving, so please keep it coming! 

22 June 2018

Lauren S.

Hi guys, it’s Lauren again! Today has been an exciting one despite the weather. This morning we had 6 volunteers join us in our continuing excavations of Unit 3, Unit 4, and Feature 1. This group was made up of a previous vounteer José, Maclaren’s grandmother, and a team from the Children’s Museum’s archaeology lab incuding my aunt. My aunt was able to help me dig in the small unit Brenna and I started in the northeast quadrant of Feature 1 earlier this week. Being a conservator at the Children’s Museum, she enjoyed learning how to excavate artifacts instead of processing them. While community involvement is awesome, getting to show off your work to your family is pretty great too. We were able to dig through the orange clay we’ve been associating with Feature 1, a silty brown layer of soil we named Layer 4, and are now on to Layer 5.
Volunteers at Wylie House
About an hour before the volunteers left, it started pouring down rain. After a mad dash to the barn, and a few nasty slips in the mud, the volunteers started to wash some artifacts. While they washed, the rest of us continued to fill out the paperwork associated with our units and features. Paperwork is much harder than it sounds and almost always leaves us with questions as we try to interpret the quick notes we take in order to fill in missing information. Once we got our paperwork sorted, we got back to digging. Hopefully we will find more artifacts to add to our exciting finds this morning: a marble and a piece of purple transferware. Come out and visit us next week as we enter the home stretch of our excavation!
Cleaning artifacts
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Wylie House Field School: Week 2 Blogs

11 June 2018

Elizabeth Berry

Hi guys, my name is Elizabeth Berry and I’m a recent graduate from IU (Class of 2018!). I graduated with a BA in Anthropology and Germanic Studies with a minor in History. Wylie House is my first dig site experience and hopefully not the last. I’m using my time here as internship experience before going back for graduate school in Fall 2019.
Elizabeth sitting in grass at Wylie House
Elizabeth Berry
Today marks the sixth day of the dig and the addition of Tori to our team. The rain was a bit intense this morning, so we started at 10 am instead of 8 am to avoid the worst of it. We started out the morning with washing and dry brushing some of the artifacts that we’ve encountered up til now. Certain pieces are actually rinsed in the “salad spinners” (as we called them this morning) while others such as coal are only dry brushed and placed on the tray. Once all the pieces are dry, they will go back into their assigned artifact bags until further analysis, etc.  can be done with them. After this, we set up our tents and screening areas as normal. Unit 1 is currently tasked with getting rid of the layer 2 soil still in the unit in hopes of uncovering our layer 3 or subsoil. Thus far the usual bits of coal, brick and glass have been found. Unit 2 on the other hand have found a button made of shell (found by Tori) and a bucket handle. And as both units get further and further in, the more we are separating into various buckets and trays to isolate the different layers and any “possible features” we may come across. Hopefully the weather behaves the rest of this week and we can get right back on track. 

12 June 2018

Lauren Schumacher

Hi everyone! My name is Lauren Schumacher and I am a sophomore at IU majoring in history and minoring in archaeology. I’m particularly excited about this project since we have so many first hand accounts and photographs to reference when planning the next step in our excavation.
Image of Lauren at Wylie with shovel
Lauren Schumacher
Despite the occasional rain, today has been an exciting day for archaeology as we were able to add some interesting stories and artifacts to our growing collection. This morning, we learned about the darker side of the Wylie House from Sherry, the master plantsman. We asked if the barn or the house was haunted and to our surprise she said some believe the ghost of a red haired woman in a yellow dress haunts the house. You can see her depicted in the mural. Interestingly, there is a yellow-green dress in the Wylie House collection. Though none of us have seen the ghost (yet), we all thought it was fun to learn a little more about our site. Hopefully we can draw the ghost woman out to our units with some more interesting finds!
Yellow dressed woman in mural at Wylie
Mural image
Today, we embraced 21st century archaeology as we found diagnostic artifacts in one of the two new units we opened up directly to the west of our previously existing units. While screening the topsoil, Unit 4 found remnants of a Pizza X cup. This is a great example of a diagnostic artifact, or an artifact indicitave of a particular time. This cup is clearly modern given that it’s made of plastic and was found in the very top layer of soil. We know the Wylies weren’t eating Pizza X on their front lawn, but it seems as if someone else was!
Small plastic piece of stadium cup
Piece of Pizza X cup
As we start to excavate our two new units, we hope to find more artifacts appropriate to the time period and hear more stories from people in the community to give us a better understanding of our site!

13 June 2018

Tori G.

I am Tori, a junior majoring in Anthropology and Underwater Archaeology with a certificate in Resource Management. I have been on many underwater archaeology field projects, but this is my first swing at terrestrial work! So far project has been great, and all of the students have helped me catch up from the first week that I missed. Today we found more buttons in unit two, the unit with all of the tree roots, which has lead to us naming the neighboring tree “the button tree”. Sherry, the master plantsman at Wylie House, showed us a matching button she had found a few years ago, which was very cool. Also, we thought we had found another feature (possibly a second greenhouse), but it turned out to be an abnormal color pattern in the soil. We are beginning to excavate level 4 today so keep your fingers crossed!

14 June 2018

Scout Landin

Hi guys, my name is Scout Landin. I graduated in May with a double major in anthropology and food studies. While I am really interested in food anthropology in different cultures and societies, I wanted to spend my summer learning the practical side of anthropology through the subfield of archeology at the Wylie House field school! 
Image of Scout at Wylie House
Scout Landin
Today in our field school, I learned how to do a profile, which includes a profile map of one of the unit’s walls. To begin that process we needed to level the wall so we could see the stratigraphy clearly. Once we made a perfectly straight and level wall, we had to set up our measurements and equipment so that we can measure each level correctly. The next step after that is to make a scaled map of each level of soil to represent the whole profile wall in the unit. I had a lot of fun pairing up with Molly and learning this step in the process. When we were done with the map, we officially finished our first profile wall in Unit 1! Even though this process may sound particularly simple, it takes a lot of attention to detail and willing to practice and be precise.
Something that I did not get to do everyday in college is being able to learn with my hands and here at the field school I can do just that! I have really enjoyed my time here at the Wylie House and I think my geologist dad would appreciate how much time I have been spending with dirt. 

15 June 2018

Welcome back, readers, and happy Friday! My name is Joseph, and when I am not doing archaeology I work as avisiting researcher in the IU chemistry department. 
As happens every Friday, this morning we welcomed five new temporary volunteers to our ranks. Today’s adventuresome helpers were Danielle, Mackenzie, Susan, and James (who is the IU Historian!). Together, they assisted us with screening for artifacts and cleaning walls with trowels. Everyone had a great time swapping stories and learning new techniques, and we were sad to see them leave at lunch. With their help, we accomplished quite a bit.
 One of our biggest accomplishments was starting a new excavation unit. Unit 5 (see pictures) is a 1 m x 1 m  square unit that is adjacent to the unit containing our greenhouse feature. We began digging through the topsoil and have just started to reach the layer of rubble that lies underneath. Our goal with this unit is to better understand the shape of the feature which we found in unit 1.
In addition, we also found a sheep bone in our deepest excavation unit (unit 2 – see pictures). Wiley family records of livestock ownership suggest that the sheep would have been  owned by Andrew Wiley, not his cousin Theophilius. This is exciting! We have found evidence of Andrew Wiley’s subsistence farming practices. (Most of our material culture so far is tied to Theophilius and other second generation Wiley inhabitants.
Next week, we will continuing excavating our units. One of our main goals is to better understand the feature we found and excavated this week, using the stratigraphic data we will collect from unit 5. Stop by next week to see how we’re doing!
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Wylie House Field School: Week 1 Blogs

4 June 2018

Molly Mesner

Hello and welcome to the Wylie House Field School!
 
As a part of this archaeological field school, students will receive intensive training in controlled excavation techniques, field survey, instrument mapping, artifact identification, and artifact analysis. In addition to learning these skills, students will be using this blog to document their daily work at the Wylie House site. They will have the opportunity to describe their personal experiences in the field, what they found interesting or exciting about the excavation, and they will be able to document various techniques they learned, equipment they used, and artifacts they collected. 
 
Nine undergraduates and two graduate students from Indiana University have come together to spend four weeks excavating in the front lawn of the Wylie House, the home of Indiana University’s first president, Andrew Wylie, and his family. This field school will focus on uncovering the location and extent of a subterranean greenhouse(s?) used by the family of TheophilusWylie, cousin to Andrew Wylie, to store non-food plants over the winter. 
 
Image of Molly in front of Wylie House
Molly Mesner

My name is Molly Mesner and I am a third year graduate student in the Anthropology Department at Indiana University. While my work mainly focuses on the Middle Woodland Period in Indiana, I am thrilled to have a chance to help excavate a Historic Period site! On our first day at the site,  students were given a tour of the Wylie House by Carey Beam, the Director of the Wylie House Museum. Students then prepared their tools for the excavation, including sharpening trowels and shovels, and marked off the areas to be excavated. After peeling off the first layer of grass, students already recovered various historic artifacts, including shards of glass, brick fragments, and a nail! The team is excited to continue with the excavation tomorrow — hopefully with as much enthusiasm as they put into sharpening their shovels! 

5 Jun 2018

Heather Altepeter

Hi everyone!
My name is Heather Altepeter and I am a senior at IU majoring in anthropology. I am also on the team for the Wylie House Bicentennial dig. I got involved in this project to gain some hands on experience with archaeology, as this is my first dig! So far we have made. A lot of progress, but still have so much more to do! The first two days have been a blast, and it’s been so nice outside so we have been able to accomplish a lot!
Image of Heather Altepeter at Wylie House
Heather Altepeter
So today we were working on cleaning and up and leveling out the floors of the first level of the 2 units we started yesterday.  So far we have found nails, glass, limestone rubble, plastic, and some coal.  Throughout the day we have learned more about shovel skimming and using trowels to clean up the walls and floors of our unit. We have also learned how to draw a map that depicts a possible feature we found in Unit 1. I say possible because we are not totally sure what what the discolored dirt may be. We’ve also  learned about the extensive paperwork that goes into keeping track of what we are doing, and have taken photos of the possible feature. 

6 June 2018

Hannah B.

Hello! My name is Hannah and I am a senior here at IU. I am majoring in anthropology and minoring in art history and archaeology and the Wylie House Bicentennial dig is my first time in the field! I was really excited to get started and so far it has been great.

Image of Hannah crouching at Wylie House
Hannah B.

The third day of the Wylie House field school is another beautiful day with clear, blue sky’s. The two units are coming along nicely: unit 1 is working hard at leveling their second level, and unit 2 finished the leveling of level one and did the plan map and Munsell Soil testing. The Munsell soil testing is done by comparing the soil of the unit to the color swatches provided in the Munsell Soil book. The book provides colors ranging from a reddish to a greenish soil color along with the more typical yellow, brown, and black ranges. Each page is labeled and  a very common page for archaeological digs in the Midwest is ‘10YR’ which stands for yellow-red. Along with the color of the soil the texture of it is also tested. This is done by a touch test. The archaeologist feels a chunk of soil to determine if it has silt, sand, clay, or a combination in their unit. Unit 1 has a combination of silt and clay, and as unit 2 digs deeper their soil progresses into clay. The third day is winding to a close and a lot of hard work has been done, so feel free to stop by to see our progress!

7 June 2018

Brenna R.

Hello everyone, my name’s Brenna and I’m a senior here at IU majoring in anthropology and minoring in art history and archaeology.

Image of Brenna with shovel at Wylie House
Brenna R.

Today the weather is fantastic and we’ve made a lot of progress!  We’re now digging down to the third level of our units and sifting through the soil for any artifacts that could be there. So far today we’ve found a part of a glass milk bottle, a few piecs of ceramic whiteware and transferware, and some small shards of glass, as well as a large section of what appears to be a brick. In the unit I’m helping excavate we’ve sectioned it off into three separate layers based on the stratigraphy of the soil so we can get a better understanding of what might be a feature and what might not. We’ve got layer one, which is our silty top layer with only a few artifacts being found there, then layer two is our darker soil, with the majority of our artifacts coming from this area, and then layer three is our sub soil, which indicates we’ve reached a section of soil that hasn’t been majorly disturbed and we can expect to find almost no artifacts there.  This sub soil layer is very helpful in pinpointing where more features might be and allows us to better plan where else to dig. I’m sure as we go further we’ll find even more interesting artifacts, so make sure to drop by and see!

8 June 2018

Joseph B.

Good afternoon, dear reader. I am Joseph, a student volunteer working on the Wiley House Bicentennial excavations. When I am not doing archaeology, I work in the IU chemistry department.
Joseph squatting at Wylie House
Joseph B.
Today was as dull as our trowels, which is to say it wasn’t. This morning, four intrepid volunteers came to labor beside us: José (who found four nails while screening soil), Catherine (who regaled us with stories of her previous work in Midwest archaeology and education), Suzanne (who helped us screen through the toughest soil we had), and Daisy (who found an honest-to-God ornate handle – see picture). Everyone had a wonderful time working together and getting to know each other and the volunteers helped us accomplish a lot. By lunch time, unit 2 had started a new level of excavations, and unit 1 was getting ready to do the same.
In unit 1, we scraped our way down through about 5-7 cm of soil, to the bottom of our third level of excavations. We leveled our unit out at this depth, and then took photographs of the soil surface. We mapped this surface by hand, using tape measures and a plumb line (see picture), taking special note of roots. Creating maps in this way will help us to determine whether changes in soil color and texture indicate potential features or are the remains of root systems or rodent runs.
Other interesting finds for the day include a metal hook and a ceramic marble, both of which were in unit 2 (see pictures).
We are making good progress, and are starting to see signs of subsoil. Soon, we might get to open another unit. Next week, we invite you to stop by and see!
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A Point in Time

February 19, 2018

by Isabel Osmundsen, GBL Archaeological Field Technician

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Acknowledgement of State and Federal Assistance
This project has been funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. The project received federal financial assistance for the identification, protection, and/or rehabilitation of historic properties and cultural resources in the State of Indiana. However, the contents and opinions contained in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or disability in its federally assisted programs. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240.
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The process of identifying and dating an artifact can be an elusive one.

Imagine, if you will, being an artifact, a tool, held by a human for the first time in thousands of years. Much has changed from when you were discarded, forgotten, or lost, after you were used for the last time. What do you share about your own lifespan and the era from whence you came from with this person?

In the summer of 2017, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory conducted a survey project headed by Principal Investigator Associate Research Scientist Elizabeth Watts Malouchos, in which I participated as a field technician. The survey covered nature preserves in northern Monroe County across the watershed of Bean Blossom Creek, seeking to find new prehistoric sites. In the many acres of forest and field that we dug shovel test probes or walked over where visibility was high, we found naught a diagnostic prehistoric artifact—yet the effort was not fruitless. As a moderately-sized group carrying buckets, shovels, tarp, and daypacks traipsing through the woods, our work often catches the eye of those observing us from the fringes as they go about their daily business, arousing their curiosity and usually leading to conversation and education about our work.

While surveying in a less-frequented part of the Indiana University Griffy Lake Research and Teaching Preserve (RTP), we ran into IU RTP Property manager, Michael Chitwood. He showed us a projectile point that another IU researcher had previously discovered in a creek bed on the property. Utilizing artifacts for research which were not systematically collected by trained archaeologists can be a double-edged sword; not everyone is aware of all the standard procedures used by professionals, such as maintaining provenience, but they may have finds that contribute to the record and help fill in the blanks. Pitblado (2014) argues that, according to the Society for American Archaeology’s own guidelines, it is actually unethical for professional archaeologists to wholly discount collectors’ finds, and instead should seek out collaboration with them. In our case, we were lucky in that Michael and the IU researcher recognized the importance of the artifact and its provenience, and recorded where it was found.

Once the GBL subsumes the projectile into its collections, the first step is to identify what it is before we can start making interpretations, followed by greater extrapolations about the past, regarding the people who used the point and how they lived. Two markers of identification are: what material it was made from, and what type of projectile it is exactly. This entails utilizing the GBL’s own Type Collections by taking the specimen and attempting to visually or tactilely match it with known specimens, which seems like a cut and dry process—until it isn’t.

One issue archaeologists encounter while doing analysis is, to borrow from Captain Cragen of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, “We don’t get to pick the vic[tim].” The proverbial victim here being artifacts, archaeologists do not have the option to choose to work with the most illustrative artifacts of the past or the ones in the best condition, but we make the best of what we find. Contrary to what Indiana Jones and Lord Carnarvon might have led you to believe, many archaeological finds are not so “sexy.” From the time they are deposited, artifacts have to battle the elements, which can cause wear and tear. This exposure can simulate use wear and overinflate how much an artifact was utilized in its life, skewing our interpretations. Case in point, (ba-dum-tss) the point discussed here was discovered in a creek bed where water and tumbling stones could have polished it, leading us to believe it was utilized more heavily than it was.

Another factor in identification has to do with the classification of different projectile points. The specimen’s identification as a certain type typically demonstrate the peak, distinctive characteristics that define a central group of like artifacts which are associated with a culture. Similar to how law enforcement uses ten points to match fingerprints, an archaeologist tries to match as many observable characteristics in the artifact as they can to those in the type collection. The point discussed here is not the most finely crafted and has been worn by water, hindering this comparison and making it difficult to perfectly match it to a particular type.

This also makes its individual story all the more interesting: was the person knapping this in a hurry? Were they a novice practicing their form? What makes it difficult to tell the story of the deep histories of Monroe County serves to highlight the hand and life of a real individual from long ago, connecting us to them.

After some deliberation, I decided the point seems to be most like a Merom point, of the Terminal Late Archaic culture from 2,000 to 1,000 calibrated BC (Stafford and Cantin 2009) and made of Holland chert, a stone with a waxy to glassy sheen of varying muted colors. This point type is most commonly seen throughout the bottom half of Indiana and parts of Ohio, as far as just across into Missouri, and the upper half of Kentucky (Justice 1987). Holland chert comes from a type of limestone of the Staunton Formation, part of the Pennsylvanian geologic system, named after an exposed outcropping near Holland, Dubois County (Indiana Geological and Water Survey).

Even within this single period, the points greatly vary across time; some have large barbs towards the base, others have a neatly serrated edge. Some are squat and triangular, others are slightly longer and even a bit ovoid.

Around this time, the people of the Archaic started transitioning in the ways they lived. They moved their home bases from creeks and streams to larger confluences and rivers, which could have been due to a change in their environment (Stafford and Cantin 2009). People focused more heavily on collecting and stayed put for longer periods of time, made possible through longer-term plans for the future. Such planning is indicative of a more complex society in which tasks and roles were more delineated, and why such collectors practiced what is termed “logistical mobility,” used in deciding whether to move or stay put, or in other matters such as sending out task groups. (Binford, 1980)

That’s certainly a lot to glean from one diagnostic projectile point! But this argumentation is also what I love about archaeology—our interpretations open up so much about our past that can’t be found in a book. It’s a logical challenge based on the strength of your argument, and cracking that code is an accomplishment that feels like none other.

References cited

Binford, Lewis
1980     Willow Smoke and Dogs’ Tails: Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems and Archaeological Site Formation. American Antiquity, 45(1): 4-20. doi:10.2307/279653

Indiana Geological and Water Survey
Holland Limestone Member. Retrieved from https://igws.indiana.edu/compendium/comp6bhg.cfm

Justice, Noel D
1987     Merom Cluster. In Stone age spear and arrow points of the midcontinental and eastern united states (1st paperback ed., pp. 130-132). Indiana University Press. Bloomington.

Pitblado, Bonnie
2014     AN ARGUMENT FOR ETHICAL, PROACTIVE, ARCHAEOLOGIST-ARTIFACT COLLECTOR COLLABORATION. American Antiquity, 79(3): 385-400. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43184913

Stafford, C. Russell, and Mark Cantin
2009     Archaic Period Chronology in the Hill Country of Southern Indiana. In Archaic societies: diversity and complexity across the midcontinent, edited by Thomas E. Emerson, Dale L. McElrath, and Andrew C. Fortier, pp 287-313. State University of New York Press. Albany.

Wolf, Dick (Writer) and Jean De Segonzac (Director)
1999     Payback. Law and order: special victims unit. NBC.

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