A 5-inch awl fashioned from the leg bone of a deer may not seem like a significant discovery, but when a group of archaeology students uncovered it during a dig in northwest Indiana several years ago, it opened new revelations about the ancient past.
Radiocarbon dating showed the prehistoric bone tool to be at least 10,000 years old, offering evidence of a civilization that had settled in northern Indiana not long after Ice Age glaciers had receded.
The breakthrough discovery is cited by state archaeologist Rick Jones as evidence to bust what he says is a pervasive myth among the public that emerges in this frequently asked question: “Is there anything good left to find?”
There is, Jones said, and finding it, protecting it, and preserving it is a job for any Hoosier who treasures the past.
That’s a message that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology wants to get out in the next few weeks.
The state has designated September as Indiana Archaeology Month and is celebrating it with a series of events around the state, themed with the slogan, “Archaeology Rocks.”
It’s a play on words, designed to convey the prehistoric stone artifacts featured on a commemorative poster and to pique public interest.
With a small staff and more than 45,000 registered archaeological sites in the state, Jones needs the public’s help protecting those sites from accidental or intentional harm.
The looting of artifacts from archaeological sites, especially ancient burial grounds, was a significant problem in Indiana in the late 1980s. The widespread looting of an ancient burial site in southwest Indiana that took place in 1988 on property owned by General Electric captured national attention. At the time, Indiana could do little to stop the looting because it took place on private property.
Federal prosecutors stepped in and invoked a federal law that protected burial remains, arresting and prosecuting the looters.
A year later, the Indiana General Assembly passed a tough new law that protected artifacts and human remains on both public and private property. It also required anyone who discovered human remains to report it to the state archaeologist or law enforcement officials within 48 hours.
“We couldn’t have gotten that law passed without the public’s support,” Jones said.
To find out more about Indiana Archaeology Month, including information on how to obtain a commemorative poster or T-shirt, and locate an event near you, visit the website in.gov/dnr/historic.
Maureen Hayden is statehouse bureau chief for CNHI’s Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at email@example.com.