My Photo
Name:
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

Located in White River State Park in the heart of Indianapolis, the Indiana State Museum is a wonderful place to find everything you never expected. Whether you are a visitor to the state or a life-long Hoosier, this world-class institution will allow you to explore Indiana’s past, present and future through artistic, cultural and scientific exhibits. Starting with the birth of earth and tracing Hoosier history into the 21st century, the museum offers an eclectic and ever-changing adventure. Constructed of all Indiana materials including limestone, sandstone, steel, brick and glass, the museum’s exhibit space covers 72,000 square feet, and the organization maintains a collection of more than 400,000 artifacts. From the soaring Great Hall showcasing Robert Indiana’s INDIANA obelisk to 92 pieces of sculpture representing the 92 Indiana counties, even the building itself is a work of art. The museum is the crossroads of everything interesting, educational and unique about the state. The museum's collection began in 1862. The new building opened in 2002.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

MEGENITY CAVE DIG
Day 11 (Last Day), July 27, 2006

We’re out of the cave! Not only are we out of the cave, we’re off the site. There was a ton of work to do, but everyone put it into overdrive and we finished up – about 80 buckets of screening, pulling gear out of the cave and from around the rock shelter, mapping the newly dug areas, hauling all our equipment to the top of the cliff. Last day is always a bear and this was as tough as any, but we’re out. Got back to the hotel about 8 p.m. Indy time and took a looong hot shower. We all got together for a nice dinner (as always in southern IN, Chinese tonight) and now finishing my last blog entry. We’ll head for home in the A.M. The blog was fun – interfered with my sleep and with my ... unwinding ... but it was fun. Hope it was worth a look and not too rambling. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime. In the meantime ...

Our chief curator of Natural History, Ron Richards, is the force of nature behind this project. He’s been organizing the dig, plotting our strategies, driving the workers, finding out what we’ve learned and conveying new knowledge to visitors for 20 years. I thought it proper that he sum-up what we did this year and what we hope to accomplish next season. The following paragraphs are ... essentially ... his words:

-----------------------

During our annual field seasons we deal with many unpredictable circumstances. With all of the rock, and mud and water; with all the blood, sweat and tears some of the crew may loose sight of our ultimate goal. When you’re not seeing immediate and sexy results like dire wolf skulls or cave bear femurs, it’s easy to get discouraged. Long-term, what we’re looking to accomplish is the excavation, with extensive sampling, of an entire limestone cave. Completing this ambitious task will allow us to interpret the life & environment of Indiana’s Ice Age perhaps more completely than this has ever been done before. A cave often preserves remains from environments that are not usually preserved at typical paleontology dig sites. For example, lake deposits in northern Indiana. primarily preserve aquatic life. The extensive sampling at Megenity Cave will allow us to map the remains of practically any animal whose remains ended up in the cave.

The remains that we have discovered so far, over the course of 20 years of digging, date from over 100,000 years ago to the present. Many of the animals are from the 25,000 - 35,000 year old period and include animals such as the flat-headed peccary, dire wolf and beautiful armadillo that are now extinct. We also find animals that no longer occur in Indiana: yellow-cheeked vole, artic shrew and northern bog lemming (but are in some cases common in northern Canada).

We began excavating deep in the cave’s lower levels, gradually moving, room-by-room, toward the entrance. The first 10 years of the project dealt with the lower levels, the last 10 with the upper rooms. We are now on the final phase of the project, excavating the rooms nearest to the entrance. So far in the Twilight Room we’ve gone thru deposits of the last 8 - 9,000 years. Next season we’ll again enter the Ice Age; 25,000 – 35,000 year old deposits. We’ll plunge deep into the room where we anticipate a great diversity of animal bones. It would be great to find sloth, jaguar or tapir remains – maybe even signs of a great saber cat. This year’s excavation has basically set the table for next years feast. We’ll be ready. Any frustrations will be long forgotten and we’ll be as optimistic as ever.

---------------------

We’re on the way home! We’re tired, beat up, worn out, homesick and done with Megenity Cave for another season. Most of us won’t think much about an expedition for the next several months and then we’ll start looking forward to ‘07. For now; family, our own beds (sleeping in a little), pettin’ the dog, home cookin’ and everything that goes with it are our priorities. Oh yeah, there’s that mastodont in Marshall County we’re supposed to go get in August. Most of us should be healed up by then ...

R. Dale Ogden
Chief Curator of Cultural History
Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites