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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 29, 2006

DAY MASTODONT DIG

Oops – sorry about this, but my hotel’s internet service was interrupted so I am forced to publish the past three days at once! Here it goes…

Day 7, August 27, 2006
When we arrived at the site today, it was shrouded in fog… Luckily, the pump was still running which was a small miracle since we had figured that it would have cut out by about 4 am. It’s at a Mastodont site such as this to control water. Most of our skeletons have come from situations like this… where they are in ponds, marshes, and drainage ditches. Oddly enough, as we dig down, underground water wants to come up! So… we do battle with pumps and large water hoses. Today, we entered into such a battle and we may have won. As the water drains from the four foot thick muck, cracks spread across the surface of the peat, and the water slowly drains out. We salvaged a 55-gallon drum and buried it to create a sump we could use to pump the pond dry. As the water was being drained out, frogs leapt out of the pond and a small painted turtle fought to push his head above the thick muck. A dip of the shovel pulled him from the muck and he headed for the open water to the west where the pond is still open.

Most of the day was spent trying to balance pumps and the thick muck. A misstep sends the unwary volunteer waist deep in muck the consistency of chocolate pudding (but much less pleasant). Several of us wound up stepping off of plywood sheets we had carefully placed as floating steps and sunk waist deep into the muck.

Oh, and did I mention the muck! – take a bunch of grass, some sticks, algae, and perhaps a couple of dead animals. Let sit in water for 13,000 years and then let them bake in the hot sun of an Indiana summer. It smells just like you would expect and has the consistency of runny, lumpy oatmeal. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty!!! Which reminds me.. Today, I learned a little secret about the site which I promise to tell you all on the last day of the dig.

Today’s totals:
- Bone count… 5 = some foot bones, rib bones, and some vertebra bones
- Count of people falling in the muck face-first… 4 = (way too funny and always worth a laugh)
- Digging up a Mastodont…priceless.

Day 8, August 28, 2006
Today was spent doing battle with the horrid muck. We began by setting up our water pumps on both ends of the pond and then pumping the water, via fire-hoses, out into areas where there would be good drainage away from the pond. The problem with pumping out muck-water is that it clogs. To try and stop this from happening, we placed the large intake hose into a 55-gallon steel drum that had been found at the site. We buried the drum into the muck, and large holes were hammered in its sides to allow water to seep into the drum. This proved a successful tactic, but we still had to periodically unclog the banged-out holes.

By mid-afternoon, we had drained the pond enough to allow Rex to get in and start bucketing out muck from the floor. With shovels in hand, the team began digging out working terraces and large drainage trenches. We had created an interesting situation where the pond was cut into two halves, separated from each other via “muck levees” that we had created. These muck heaps had large trenches dug into them which allowed us to control the amount and direction of water coming into the pond. By the end of the afternoon, we were all working in what had been the center of the pond; dry in places, but with at least 4 feet of muck in its deeper areas. In our own little world of muck, our engineering feats would have made the Romans proud; or, at least we are as insane as some of their rulers.

All-in-all, we felt fairly good about our work. It had been raining pretty hard and the day was generally cool and wet, but we still managed to work up a good sweat. It is hoped that our work today will allow us to begin really digging out some bone tomorrow.

Today's totals
- Bone Count= 0
- Count of people falling in the muck face first = 0 (but there were at least 3 instances where people got totally stuck in the mud and couldn’t get their boots out)
- An ability to see a mud hill as high achievement = Priceless

Day 9, August 29. 2006
DISASTER!! Rex was so excited to start gridding out the area for digging that he left the hotel before 7am. When he turned the corner to get a full view of the site, he found that the pond was back. He jumped into the water to try and rescue the pump, which was completely submerged in the pond (the author believes he probably paused to cry like a little girl). By the time the rest of the team made it to the site, Rex and John Weddel had already worked like mad-men getting the pumps back in working order.

By about 11 a.m., we decided to leave a few people at the site to man the pumps. Our fearless leader, Ron Richards and his fearless sidekick Gerhard took the first shift and the rest of the crew headed back to the hotel for some needed relaxation. John Weddel also remained behind with Ron and Gerhard. At 5:30 p.m. everyone left the site, but by 8 p.m., Rex and Michele had returned to check the pumps. Ron retuned at 1 a.m. to check the pumps.

Today's totals
- Bone Count= 0
- Count of people falling into the muck face first = 0
- Trying to battle Mother Nature with a tin cup = Priceless.

Michele Greenan
Archaeology and Natural History Collections Manager
Indiana State Museum