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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 20, 2006

MEGENITY CAVE DIG
Day 3, July 19, 2006

Today was not a cave day for me. A couple new people showed up, who I had a sneaky feeling wouldn’t be screening. So, moved out of the cave coveralls and put on the big plastic apron and I screened dirt. The screeners are the end of the line on a dig. There is a temptation to be lazy about the screening—leaving little bits of dirt in the buckets or in the screen. But here we get to the part about why buckets are god.

The entire point of an excavation is to bring home relevant material that is associated with data. Each bucket coming out of the cave is mapped—sometimes one bucket equals a mapped unit, and sometimes several buckets equal a mapped unit. Throughout the entire process of shoveling dirt into a bucket, moving a bucket from cave to screening station, and finally running the dirt through the screen to retrieve just the coarser material, we’re very careful 1). To keep the mapped data associated with the sediment, and 2). Not to mix units by cross contamination.

Quite a bit of effort goes into getting this dirt out of the cave, and finally to home. If the sediment’s been compromised by mixing, or has been separated from its defining information, then its just expensive dirt that we brought home, and not even on our boots.

So, we must not be lazy screeners. And we weren’t. We went through at least 50 buckets today between the three of us. At first, we found very little, just rocks. But then, we started pulling out little bat bones, then rodent bones and teeth, and what I believe to be parts of peccary. It’s a real joy to find shiny wet bones, after smooshing through loads of mud. We even found a bonus fossil—a spine from a Paleozoic shark that came out of the cave ceiling rock, about 350 million years older than peccary and bats and rodents.

So, again a good day. We had a longer day than the others. We didn’t get back to our hotel until 7, but ended the evening with a picturesque car trip to a German buffet.

Tomorrow, a little about cave formation…

Peggy Fisherkeller
Curator of Geology
Indiana State Museum