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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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

DAY MASTODONT DIG
Day 2, August 22, 2006


It could be whole lot worse. At about 2:30, after many hours of shoveling for Dale, and several on and off for me, we looked at each other and thought about what we might be doing otherwise. I think that Dale’s pretty much always in meetings, and I’d probably be typing something at my desk.

So, today, we’re busy cleaning up sterile sediment. At least we’re hoping it’s sterile. We prefer a nice tightly clustered site. Ron’s general rule is to dig out 2 meters from the last bone on an edge, so we’re doing it, and then some. I would say that we’re re-delineating. We can do large chunks of dirt though, instead of delicate digging around bone, which takes quite a bit more time.

I actually find this sort of digging very satisfying. On a very basic level, I am changing the earth, roughing it out to my specifications. But all the while, I'm also watching and feeling the sediment change, in color and texture. And so my thinking during shoveling goes something like this: “Mmm, I bought cherries for lunch. Mmm, cherries. Oh, sediment’s changing—this sand has fewer stones than the upper units. Mmm, cherries.”

More happened than just bulk digging today, though. We mapped the grid of the site in today, and the screens were going for part of the day. The sides of our lower pit are gradually undercutting and calving as groundwater trickles through freshly-made walls. Diggers uncovered a small tusk yesterday along the edge of the lower pit, and so today, fearing the wall would slump, Rex pulled it up. Tusks especially are very delicate and often fall apart after they’re removed from the ground. In fact, this tusk came up on a backboard, like a spinal injury victim. But all was well, and it came out intact.

I promised to write a little about the glacial geology of northern Indiana. The northern 2/3s of Indiana was covered at one time or another by continental glaciers. Thus, northern Indiana is flat, a favorite of those who revel in subtlety. As the glaciers were receding - out of Indiana by about 14,000 years ago - they left a changed landscape. Peat bogs were abundant, and it just so happens that most northern Indiana mastodonts exposed turn up within or below peat.

We’re looking at more beautiful weather tomorrow. The Day’s have friends and family watching and helping us, and they provide donuts, too. It could be a whole lot worse.

Peggy Fisherkeller
Curator of Geology
Indiana State Museum