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.

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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.)

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Shawnee GLOVE digitized!

Update and troubleshooting help

Big news here in the library and archives! All 30 boxes of Shawnee Tribal History Documents from the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory (GLOVE) collection have been digitized and are freely available online!

Screenshot of the Archives Online at Indiana University webpage, showing the Shawnee subseries inventory with links to the digitized images.
The GLOVE finding aid on Archives Online – Shawnee subseries (June 2019)

Thanks to the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma for including us on their Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) grant. We were able to partner together to improve accessibility to the archival resources found in our collections by digitization. With their help we hired a part-time worker, Selena McCracken, to digitize more than 12,000 pages of copied historical documents directly relating to the Shawnee experience in the Midwest from the 16th to 19th centuries.

GLOVE History

If you’re unfamiliar with the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory project, let me give you a quick rundown. The US Justice Department hired a team of researchers at Indiana University, headed by Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin, to research land use and occupancy of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions (think the Midwest) for the Indian Claims Commission cases. Her small team spent over a decade in the 1950s and 1960s visiting any and all archives, libraries, and museums to find written information. They copied only those relevant documents (be they diary entries, letters, published books, etc.) and brought them back to IU, where they were organized by tribal group and then chronologically within each tribal group. These photocopies were used as references when compiling final ethnohistory reports submitted to the Justice Department as legal evidence. Normally, researchers wouldn’t keep their research notes after the final report has been written – but we’re SO THANKFUL these were kept.

Yes, we essentially have a collection of incomplete facsimiles, but what’s important is that they’re TOGETHER in ONE SPACE as a SINGLE COLLECTION. That’s what a collection is: objects particularly selected and brought together. Imagine being a researcher and trying to recreate this collection. Perhaps it would be easier with the Internet, but you’d still spend a lot of time searching… Secondly, our patrons want access. It’s really difficult to take a whole week to visit our facility and go through boxes and boxes of documents. It’s a privilege that not everyone has. My job as librarian and archivist is to make the materials accessible to those people. Digitization is our answer.

Accessing the Documents

Now an explanation on how you can access the collection! (With pictures!)

The finding aid, or written inventory, is available on Archives Online at Indiana University, in the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives.

Screenshot of the Archives Online webpage header
Archives Online header (June 2019)

The collection is divided into multiple series (microfilm, maps, reports, etc.) but the Shawnee documents are found within the Tribal History Document Series.

You can click on “Shawnee” in the menu on the left to pull up the subseries.

Screenshot of the menu on the left side of the GLOVE finding aid webpage
The menu along the left side, highlighting the Shawnee option.

Alternatively, you can use the search box in the left side menu to search the citations found on the finding aid. Unfortunately, you cannot use the search box to search within the digitized documents.

When you arrive on the Shawnee page, you’ll see links to the three federally recognized tribes at the top. We’ve been able to achieve more with the support and guidance of these partners. I hope that it also contextualizes these documents by showing researchers that the Shawnee people are still around and very active.

Screenshot of the top of the Shawnee content page.
(June 2019)

Beneath is the actual inventory of Shawnee boxes. Feel free to use CTRL+F to search the text on the webpage. I find it’s the quickest way to locate particular boxes or years.

Screenshot of the beginning of the Shawnee box inventory. It begins with Box 8001, Folder 01, Item 001.
(June 2019)

Every item has a bibliographic citation and 1 or 2 links.

  • “View item(s)” is the digitized document from our collections.
  • “Full text…” is where our coder was able to find the original document fully digitized online. You can find the pages that precede or follow our document!
Screenshot after clicking "View item(s)" when a smaller window appears showcasing the digitized document.
The digitized document shows up when you click a “View item(s)” link (June 2019)

Troubleshooting…

If you find that our digitized image doesn’t pop up, check your browser’s security settings. Several researchers have found that they must turn off pop-up blockers and other security features before the item shows up.

In Firefox:

  • Click the lock symbol next in the left side of the URL box
  • Click “connection”
  • Click “disable protection for now”
Screenshot of the Firefox browser's URL box. the lock symbol has been clicked deploying a window declaring the "connection is not secure."
Firefox troubleshooting: click the lock to the left in the URL box

In Google Chrome:

  • Click the shield symbol found at the right side of the URL box
  • Click “load unsafe script”
Screenshot of the google Chrome browser's URL box. the shield symbol has been clicked deploying a window declaring "insecure content blocked."
Chrome troubleshooting: click the shield to the right in the URL box

Next steps

Making 12,414 pages of documents relating to the Shawnee experience is only the first step.

Our goal is to get the entirety of the Tribal History Document Series digitized. It will take time, but we’re chipping away at it.

Next we need to make the documents we’ve digitized text-searchable. As I mentioned above, you can’t search within the digitized documents, but that’s a useful feature and would be ideal for researchers. It would allow for even greater accessibility because screen reading software cannot “read” these pages yet.

There are a few drawbacks to using the Archives Online platform, namely that it wasn’t created for a collection of this size. You’ll quickly notice that to get to box 8028, you’ll have to scroll for a very long time. We have to list every item in order to link to the digitized files, which makes for a looooong list. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we’re working with right now. (The IU Digital Library staff have been wonderful helping set us up!) In the future, I think the GLOVE could have it’s own website. That would give us more flexibility to link between tribes, add subject terms, sort by categories, or add other forms of tagging.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions about the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection. As the librarian/archivist in charge of these collections, I’m here to help you. So let me know!


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.)

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#AngelArchaeo80

A social media event about 1939 Angel Mounds

by Kelsey Grimm

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

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

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

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

Check us out on:

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

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