Newspaper Coverage of the Angel Mounds Purchase, 1938-39

by Hannah Rea

In addition to working with social media this semester, I’ve undertaken a project using archival resources here at the Lab. I’m working with newspaper articles from the 1938-39 purchase of the Angel Mounds site near Evansville, which I think is a good intersection of my two areas of study—journalism and history. Being as I am a newspaper nerd, it’s also just a lot of fun.

We don’t know much about the collection of articles I’m using, other than they are part of the Glenn Black papers. That being said, we can’t be entirely sure it was Glenn himself who collected them. But I do thing these articles were collected to serve a purpose, while other articles were excluded.

So far I’ve found some interesting things, including examples of how journalism has evolved in the past 80 years and the editorial nature of many of the articles. There are a lot of what I would call ‘Call to Action’ phrases which indicate the author of the article was more than just informing on a situation, but pushing for action to be taken. This would fall under what some call ‘activist journalism’ today, but the lines between editorial (that is, more opinion-driven) content and not was much more blurred. Now, as a general rule, Opinion columns are labeled as such.

One feature of newspaper coverage at this time in Evansville was the work of Karl Kae Knecht, affectionately referred to by readers as ‘K.K.K.’ He produced editorial cartoons for the Evansville Courier from 1906 to 1960, and was an almost-constant presence in Evansville homes. Knecht often took on activist themes in his work, at times calling for change on a local, national, and global level. His interests ranged from maritime safety after the 1912 Titanic disaster, to keeping morale up during the Second World War, to —for the purposes of my research— the purchase of Angel Mounds.

Newspaper clipping from GBL collections (2019)

One of the most distinctive features of a K.K.K. cartoon is Kay the elephant, who shows up in nearly every one of his pieces and quickly became a recognizable signature. She’s at the bottom left of this cartoon —with her feathered headdress, she’s clearly meant as a caricature of a former Native resident of the Mounds site.

This brings up another feature of K.K.K.’s cartoons and of the coverage of the time: It’s just a few years after Howard Carter’s widely-publicized and global-attention-grabbing excavation of King Tut’s tomb, and archaeology in the 1930s is framed as ‘exotic’ and exciting. The focus of the public was on the artifacts and their potential value (usually monetary), not necessarily on the people to whom they belonged. The articles and this cartoon especially panders to that romanticized view of the study of the past.

When working with newspaper articles, you have to put them in the context in which they were written. They were produced for public consumption, to a public with little or no regard for the memory of the people who once lived and walked where they now stand. There was even less of an understanding that descendant groups were not only present around the United States, but actively being harmed by this method of undermining their existence and the memory of their ancestors.

This is not to say the coverage reflects the views of contemporary archaeologists and historians themselves; that’s a different research project. My focus is on that information meant for public consumption. Arguments can and have been made that the work of writers and artists like K.K.K. is a product of its time, a reflection of norms in how a group of people may be portrayed while at the same time their individual voices were stifled or ignored.

Everything from word choice to the amount of space dedicated to a column can tell us about the perceived importance of a topic. Reading these articles give a glimpse into the information being shared. While it can at times be offensive and shocking to our modern eyes, it shines a light on an important truth in our collective past.


For further information on Karl Kae Knecht, see:

MacLeod, James Lachlan. The Cartoons of Evansville’s Karl Kae Knecht: Half a Century of Artistic Activism (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2017).

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The GBL Goes to MAC

October 9, 2018

by Hannah Rea, Social Media/Outreach

An archaeological conference is an interesting experience for a non-archaeologist. As a social media/outreach person who’s always wanted to attend an academic conference, I decided to tag along to this year’s Midwestern Archaeological Conference (MAC) to post about the experience, and satisfy my own curiosity.

Thursday night was a reception, great for running into colleagues you hadn’t seen in years, to catch up and learn about research done in Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology, the setting of the gathering.

Friday was the first major day of symposiums and poster sessions. It was smaller than previous years, and therefore had an intimate atmosphere as one had more time to peruse the research and ask questions of the presenters. The presenters themselves came from universities and agencies from across the Midwest, and included our own Liz Watts Malouchos and Maclaren Guthrie, who presented on themes of the IU Bicentennial and Wylie House excavation.

Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic, and willing to answer any questions about their research. I attended my first symposium, a series of presentations along a central theme, in the morning; each presenter was similarly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and educated the audience on their current research and future plans.

Saturday, Day 3, was packed with poster presentations and symposiums, and last-minute catching up with colleagues and friends as attendees began to leave town. It’s interesting, as a non-archaeologist, to learn about things I wouldn’t normally encounter. It helps to contextualize terminology I’ve heard in passing, and see how it’s applied in research and fieldwork of others in the region.

There was a recurring theme of conversation, and how necessary discussion was between those within and outside of the region. Outreach to communities and to other academics is necessary for interpretation of data, and meaningful utilization.

In sum, it was an interesting experience. I’m glad I, as an associate of archaeologists, had the experience to view the inner workings of the Midwestern archaeological community.

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A Letter from Eli Lilly

April 2, 2018

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

One of my favorite types of primary sources to work with are letters.  Mostly, I love the language.  You can tell a lot about a person from how they write and to whom they write it.  If it’s to a business partner, maybe they’re more formal.  To a spouse, more affectionate.  To a friend, light-hearted and cordial.

In this case, I’m reading a letter written by Eli Lilly to Ida Black.  Eli and Ruth Lilly were friends of Glenn and Ida Black, and played an important role in the excavation of the Angel Mounds site and Indiana archaeology at large.

The letter –written August 24, 1965, from Lilly’s cottage in Syracuse, Indiana– concerns the founding of the Glenn Black Lab, the fate of Angel Mounds, and the destination of the artifacts discovered there.  It came to the GBL as part of a donation by the family of Glenn and Ida Black.

Lilly begins by wishing Ida well, and seems regretful that he is unable to relay the contents of the letter in person.  The friendship between the two is clear in his frankness; Lilly makes it clear that he did his best to take both Ida and Glenn’s (Glenn died September 2, 1964) wishes to heart, but ultimately did not have the final say in the decision.

He speaks of negotiations with the state and with Indiana University, and assures Ida the site will not be neglected.  In a helpfully numbered list, he details the steps of the thinking process.

The site will not be abused, he says, and it will be kept out of the hands of politicians who might not have its best interests at heart.  There will be attempts to interest Indiana University in the property, and the artifacts.

Later, he mentions his intention to build a memorial lab to Glenn Black, which likely will be on IU’s Bloomington campus. (The GBL did indeed end up in Bloomington, and would be opened April 21, 1971.) Lilly is sure Glenn would approve of the strategy, and its protection of both the artifacts of Angel and the site itself.

It’s interesting to look back at this letter, with our founding day fast approaching, and get a glimpse into the process of opening the GBL.

While the handwriting is a bit difficult to decipher in parts, it does not diminish from the importance of the letter, nor the kind words the Lillys have for Ida Black.  It also gives you a sense that you’re holding history in your hands, a feeling that’s almost beyond words.

There are bound copies of this letter available for viewing in our lobby; if you’re interested in reading the full text, I recommend you come check them out!

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Decoration of Pottery

February 19, 2018

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

Pigments

Humans have used visual means to express themselves, long before words were recorded.  One way of doing this is through painting pottery.  Paint was created with pigments, which came from whatever materials the artist could find.

Different minerals and plants created different colors.  Here are some of the common materials used and the colors they produced:

Charcoal – Gray or Black

Limestone/Crushed Shells – White

Copper – Blue/Green

Ochre/Hematite/Iron ore – Red/Orange

The material was first ground into powder, then mixed with some kind of liquid or other binding agent.  This was then used to decorate the pot, either by being used like paint or mixed into the clay itself.

Negative Painted Pottery

An example of negative painted pottery from an excavation at Angel Mounds.

There was another manner of decoration which focused less on the color of the paint, and more on the color of the pot itself.

Negative painted pottery, demonstrated on some sherds of pottery found at Angel Mounds, used the natural color of the pottery to create the pattern.

In a master’s thesis from 1950, Hilda J. Curry gives the most commonly proposed explanation –wax or some similar material was used to block out the desired designs, and the entire pot was covered in paint, usually black in color.  Once placed in a heat source to fire the clay, the wax would melt away, leaving sections of the vessel uncovered by paint.

In an article published in the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, negative painted pottery is described as being found “almost exclusively” during the Middle Mississippian period, which dates from 1200-1500 CE.  Most sherds and pots demonstrating the process have been found in the Lower Ohio River Valley; near Nashville, Tennessee; and in southeast Missouri.  It is a rare find, but is considered to be a signature item of the Angel Mounds site since large quantities of negative painted pottery have been found there.  The exact origins are unclear, and there is some evidence to suggest the process was originally used on fabric.

Though many samples of negative painted plates, vessels and bowls have been found, a debate is underway on the precise purpose and origin of the process.

Sources:

Baumann, Timothy E., Tammie L. Gerke and Eleanora A. Reber. “Sun Circles and Science: Negative Painted Pottery from Angel Mounds (12Vg1).” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, 38:2 (2013). 219-244.

Curry, Hilda J. “Negative Painted Pottery of Angel Mounds Site and Its Distribution in the New World.” Master’s thesis, Indiana University, 1950.

“Prehistoric Pigments,” Royal Society of Chemistry.

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A Look at Glenn Black’s “Excavation of the Nowlin Mound” (1936)

January 29, 2018

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

In 1936, Glenn Black published an account in the Indiana Historical Bulletin of the excavations he led at Nowlin Mound in Dearborn County, Indiana.  His account is an intimate look at the digs, and is accompanied by diagrams and images meant to place the site in geographic context.  It may come as a bit of a shock, given how honest it is in its admission to errors on the part of the excavation team.  But the description provided is nonetheless an interesting look at archaeology of the 1930s, and how it differs from methods of today.

The land, owned by Guy Nowlin as of 1912, was used as a playground by local schoolchildren.  The first official excavation was started in 1934 and, Black reports, the old schoolhouse was used as a “windbreak.”  Several trenches of varying lengths were dug to expose the different areas of the mound.  These trenches, dug with vertical faces, revealed a soil makeup of various types of clay and uncovered pottery sherds and projectile points.  Two log-lined burials sites were found.  The next season was delayed by heavy rains, and finally began in June 1935.  Several other log-lined burials were found, one of which was found to have been damaged by moisture.

Black reported about 60% of the artifacts recovered from the site were found in the first season.  He divided them into two categories: intentional deposits (those artifacts placed in the burial sites by the mound builders) and chance deposits.  The latter could have been explained by error on the part of the excavators; an example given was the discovery of pottery sherds, which could have accidentally made their way into a site, once disturbed by the digging of a trench.  This provided an interesting insight into the method: not only were the archaeologists on the site aware of the possibility their actions were disturbing the site, but the head of the dig duly noted it in his report.

This gave me pause; I had always assumed excavation techniques of the 1930s and ‘40s were disruptive and sometimes dangerous, but had never stopped to think whether or not the archaeologists realized it.  This article, written by Black after he had headed the digs at Nowlin Mound, made me wonder how often archaeologists of the time acknowledged the nature of their techniques.  Despite the fact that Black was never academically trained in archaeology (as was common at the time), he was still a noted figure in Midwest archaeology; his report made for an interesting read and illuminated the methods he and his team employed, and the errors to which they had admitted during excavations.

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Negotiating Homelands and Sovereignty in Indiana Territory

October 9, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#AskACurator Day

September 14, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

On September 13, the GBL participated in #AskACurator Day, which is a chance for anyone to send question in to participating museums.  The GBL was one of some 1500 museums from more than 50 countries around the world that took part.  More information on the day can be found here .

One question the GBL received was related to the recent devastation caused by hurricanes in the Southern United States and the Caribbean:

Q: What role do curators play in developing disaster preparedness plans for artifacts and museum collections?  What are the priorities of curators when returning to post-disaster museums and collections which have incurred significant damage?

A: The first step upon return is assessing damage.  Then as necessary, re-bag and re-tag artifacts that can be saved, kill mold, deal with bacteria, move the artifacts to a stable environment, etc.  Most institutions already have a disaster plan in place to deal with such situations, which is made with the help of curators/administration, depending on the affiliations of the museum.

Here are answers from our staff to a few more questions that were asked with the hashtag throughout the day!

Q: What proportion of your collection do you have on display?

A: It’s hard to even give a ballpark estimate; we have millions of artifacts, the bulk of which isn’t able to be exhibited for various reasons (i.e. pottery sherds, time-sensitive artifacts).  It would probably be less than 1%. (Melody Pope, Curator of Collections)

Q: What social media methods are museums using to appeal to Millennials?

A: Lots of museums are doing more ‘Live’ events on Facebook and Twitter, and giving followers a look into what goes on behind the scenes at their favorite institutions.  There are also several campaigns that museums have had success with, including #DayofArchaeology, which the GBL took part in over the summer.  One-on-one interaction is really important to increasing awareness and interest in museums and their collections! (Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern)

Q: What was the most recent item that made you think, ‘I can’t believe I get to do this for a living’?

A: A month or so ago, Bailey and I needed to gather artifacts to take some requested images, and a mastodon tooth was on the list. I told Bailey I knew where one was without having to check the database, and it occurred to me that I’m so lucky to have a job where I get to say things like, “Follow me, I know where to find a mastodon molar in the back.” (Alex Elliott, Collections Assistant)

Q: What are some of the hardest objects to conserve in your collection?

A: Negatives are difficult because of the way they age and decompose. A good deal of our large format acetate negatives suffer from warping, bubbles, and channeling. (Bailey Foust, Collections Assistant)

Thanks to all who participated in this year’s #AskACurator Day!

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Drums Along the Scioto

April 11, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures Classroom was packed full of people for a lunchtime talk on Tuesday, April 11.

The discussion, entitled “Drums Along the Scioto: losing our marbles but gaining new insights on Hopewell material culture from contemporary Shawnee ceremonial practices,” was a joint presentation of a collaborative research project by Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, and Dr. Brad Lepper, Senior Curator of Archaeology for the Ohio History Connection.

In the talk, they discussed objects found at the larger Seip Mound in the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Ohio.  Specifically, five small stone orbs –Steatite Spheres.  Unearthed in excavations led by Henry Shetrone in the 1920s, they were previously thought to have been marbles used as children’s toys.

Second Chief Barnes and Dr. Lepper described that Shetrone likely arrived at this conclusion by using his current context, as marbles were a popular pastime of American children in the ‘20s; however, Second Chief Barnes pointed out, there is no evidence of such games existing in American Indian culture.

A possible identity can be found in the practice of using water drums, common throughout the centuries in various tribes across America: cylindrical bowls or dishes, sometimes made of wood, which are covered in various types of animal hides, are secured; around the edges, small round stones are pulled tightly and tied in place under the hide.  The stones seem to bear a striking resemblance to those found in the Seip Mound excavation.

Dr. Lepper explained that he hoped this possible identification would open a discussion on new interpretations of the objects, saying it was an “exciting opportunity” moving forward to increase conversation on Hopewell culture.

Video of the talk at the links below:

Part One

Part Two

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The GBL at the Lotus World Bazaar

April 3, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

On Friday and Saturday last week, staff from the Glenn Black Lab ran a table at the 22nd Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar.  One of many booths in the gym of Binford Elementary School, the GBL’s table featured ‘rock art,’ which asked students to imagine the paper was the wall of their family’s cave.  Staff then asked them what was important to them, such as a pet or family member, that they would want to have on their cave wall for archaeologists to discover thousands of years later.

The activity helped students understand how messages were conveyed before systems of written language existed.  It also described the difference between petroglyphs –which are etched into rock– and pictographs –which are painted.

There were many different pictures shared by the students; here are some of our favorites:

A face

Two dragons

A Celtic knot

A squid

And, of course, we joined in the fun:

Other booths included several typewriters from the Writers’ Guild, on which people could type their own haikus or construct them from fragments of other sources; seeds from the Bloomington Community Orchard that students could plant in cups of dirt; several gourd instruments, medieval calligraphy and many, many more.

The fair was open to the community on Saturday for Family Day.

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Saying Goodbye to the ‘Work in Progress’ Exhibit

March 28, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the interesting comments we received:

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

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

“Cuff game strong”

“Heads up!”

“That is hard work.”

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

Thank you to everyone who left comments!

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