Indiana State Museum Digs

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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.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

DAY MASTODONT DIG
Day 13, September 2, 2006


Well, instead of waiting to write down my little blog, I decided to do this one fresh from the dirt. I am sitting here in the back seat of our fancy DNR car writing this down as Katherine drives and volunteer Ed directs us back to horror hotel. We are all really tired; kinda like we were hit by a Mack Truck. Today was a beautiful day, but it got hot and we all got some good sun burns. But, we thankfully had some great help today, particularly a budding paleontologist, Kyle, and his mom. You guys really helped us move some dirt! - - Good luck at State this year!

The majority of the day was spent shoveling and hauling muck (sound familiar?)… But today, we really battled water. After we had found that area of bone (scapula/ribs) the other day, we realized that we needed to dig down deeper, so emergent ground water became an even bigger hassle to us than before. We would dig down certain little areas, then have to immediately dig trenches around to guide all of the water towards the water pumps. Then we’d throw plywood boards on top so that we could stand, and dig some more. By the end of the afternoon, we were all wondering where the other parts of the animal lay. We had clearly dug all around the area of exposed bone and had dug even deeper, but we found nothing. No new bones were uncovered at all today, which was completely unexpected. We were excited about a potential bone bonanza, but it was not to be. That’s a hard reality to face after so much hard work, but it’s all a part of this paleontology gig… sometimes stuff just doesn’t turn up like you’d think.

John W. and I bagged up the exposed bones (scapula/ribs) and we assigned numbers to them for tracking. Rex worked to draw a sketch map of the bones in situ (in place), just before we pulled them from the ground. As the bones came out, John and I were careful to make sure that there was plenty of water in the bag. The bones are well preserved, but once they start to dry out, they can fall apart. Keeping them wet is crucial to preservation.

On another good note, I was able to set up our Total Station over a known point like a pro… Damon and Bill would have been proud. After that was completed, Rex and I mapped in the bone cluster (before we removed them, of course) AND some reference points on the nearby house and barn.

I am signing off for now with a little warning. If you were thinking about coming out to the site this week, you will probably need to change you’re plans. Word has it that if we can’t find anything tomorrow morning, we will pack it in and go home.

Michele Greenan
Archaeology and Natural History Collections Manager
Indiana State Museum

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DAY MASTODONT DIG
Day 12, September 1, 2006


I’m going to give this blog a working title: An Ode to the South Men! – Thanks a bunch, guys. And, to the many, many volunteers who came out to help, including Daniel and a certain science class from here in Plymouth. Thanks! There is a special place in our hearts for those willing to spend hours flinging muck and hauling buckets. You’re our kind of insane.

O.K. So what did we do today? Tons. We shoveled and hauled buckets until our backs and hands ached… a good day. In the morning, Bill Wepler and I started off by setting up our Total Station and began the process of mapping in the site. A “Total Station” such as ours is just like the ones typically seen doing survey work along highways and byways. We use it to help us map the site, and specifically, to map in the bones that we will find. And, as luck would have it… we have bones. In fact, John W. spent the morning excavating out a grouping of bones that included a scapula (shoulder bone) and some ribs. He excavated all of the dirt around the bones, leaving them sitting on what we call a pedestal, and it looks exactly like you’d think... bones on a pedestal. A few other bones were found as well including a small foot bone. This find was an extra special find because it was a first-find for one of our staff members. At the end of the say, the back-hoe guy came back and dug out some more muck for us, which is always helpful.

A special note of interest concerns a very lovely man known affectionately as ‘chicken;’ a special back-hoe operator known for his lack of fear. He had no fear and had the muck buried up to the cab of his back-hoe at one point. We were all very impressed when he finally pulled himself out.

Another important note regards our lodging. As you might imagine, when we go digging, we are often at the mercy of near-by hotels. Today, we had to switch hotels due to over-booking. I have one word of advice…. Never stay at a hotel beginning with anything suggestive of the term ‘Economical…’ Oh holy crap, me and my roomie are in hotel hell complete with fungus in the showers and smoke stench throughout. Save for the bag of the shoes hanging from the AC unit to quell the horrid rattling, we wouldn’t have had a moments peace all night. God willing, we will live to dig another day. P.S. the 14 years of college between us luckily prepared us to tackle the bizarre refrigerator present in our room.

Bone Count= 5 (yeah!)
Count of People Falling into the muck= 3 a least, including an instance where John W. fell so hard and skidded sooo fast that as he skidded… his butt pocket filled with muck. Another fabulous fall came from one of ISM’s own, who fell backwards into a ‘crab’ position (hint— think paper). As a special note, Bill W. DID NOT fall today!
Number of people stupid enough to find this professionally fulfilling… all of us.

Michele Greenan
Archaeology and Natural History Collections Manager
Indiana State Museum