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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 4, July 20, 2006

Today’s my last day at the dig—I left after the gas in pump ran out around lunch time. I was still screening buckets today, and I think we did pretty well for the morning, finishing up the buckets from yesterday morning. Plenty more where that came from, though. That’s how it is. In fact, Ron (Richards, Chief Curator of Natural History) is a big fan of having too much to do (in life and screening buckets)—he thinks that it puts the fire in yer belly if you can’t see the end in sight. So, while we screened 27 buckets, there were about 50 or 60 more waiting in the cave. And it’s only the 4th day!

I promised more about peccary yesterday. I was hoping that we’d have found a shiny, gemmy tooth by this time, but to tell the truth, the things that we’ve been finding in the screen have been fairly usual. The diggers have been finishing up back areas in the cave, for thoroughness only. Nothing too fabulous is in the dirt that has been dug, but to be scientifically rigorous, everything’s got to come out.

So, on to peccaries. Although Ron’s not yet analyzed the bones that have been washed and sorted back at the museum, but he’s got a fairly decent general idea of the way of things at the cave. Based on the bones, it appears that peccaries, the little wiry-haired pigs, probably lived in the cave for thousands of years, on and off. They lived in herds, and probably drew predators. It seems strange to me that larger animals (not just peccaries) would make their way into the back of the cave, because many of the rooms are difficult to access, but with many tens of thousands of years of cave occupation, the random one would, and get stuck. Of course, bones would also get washed in back, with sediment. We have evidence of both.

Now, on to people. People doing field work act differently than people working in an office environment. Just like we’re doing a study of past animals and climate in our cave, a bored person doing the monotonous job of screening can do a sociological study of Homo sapiens stuck together, away from home. My favorite part is that certain people take on rolls that they’ve had for twenty years. One person is the phrase and story master: “Pig diggers, back in county” was a headline in a local newspaper, and now that is repeated in the van before the dig starts, religiously. Others take on the roll of comic relief, and there’s always a scapegoat. Then we go back to work at the museum, and we interact normally again.

Tomorrow, Michele Greenan, our natural history collections manager, is going to be the new blogger. A trained archeologist, she’s been working in the cave, mapping.

Thanks for reading!

Peggy Fisherkeller
Curator of Geology
Indiana State Museum