Doing the dirty … work

Written by Amy Sciutto, Collections Management Intermittent

I realized today that 5 a.m. is way too early for anybody to be awake. I came to this realization when the alarm clock, the courtesy wake-up call from the hotel and Michele’s cell phone alarm all went off at 5 a.m. Awesome. I then realized that 6 a.m. is way too early for anybody to try to work. I came to this realization when I tried to pee in the field, and happened to pee all over myself. Awesome. It was at this point in the day that I also realized that I was in for one dirty day. Little did I know just how dirty I was going to get. After I peed on myself, Michele laughed at me, and on we went, excavating away.

The first thing we did was try to figure out how to use a ladder. You would think that two highly-educated people would easily be able to figure out a ladder, well think again. It was like the blind leading the deaf. The darn ladder was folded in half and then once unfolded it continued to extend from every angle. Once the ladder could no longer be unfolded, and folded and extended and retracted, we haphazardly placed the ladder against the cliff that we were working on, said our prayers, and repelled to our destiny.

Around 7:30 a.m., the Field School from IU got to the site and began their work. By this time Michele had already began to excavate her feature while I was on water screening duty. If you want a fun task on a dig, water screening is perfect for you. I was responsible for dumping buckets of dirt onto a screen, then dumping water on the dirt, in the hopes of finding artifacts. What I discovered, however, was that when you mix dirt with water, you get a mess. Now I do want some things to be a surprise for when you go on a dig and get to do some water screening for yourself, but I will tell you that a sunburn, soaking wet shoes and socks, and bending over until you forget how to stand lead to an immense hatred for your life. But believe it or not, there are rewards for doing such a labor intensive job.

After lunch I found myself peeing all over myself again, but this time I was covered with Michele’s boots, so the joke is on her! That’s what she gets for laughing so hard, and not teaching me proper techniques for keeping dry when nature calls. After I laughed to myself, we went back to work. By this point we had finished excavating the feature on the cliff, and we had bagged all the artifacts to take with us. The next task was simple: to cut back the bank. If you thought water screening sounded fun, oh boy are you in for a treat. I stood on a 6-inch ledge with a pick-ax and had to pick away the face of the cliff. I was nervous at first because our rickety ladder was attached to the cliff I was ordered to pick at, but Michele reassured me that in the worst case scenario we could swim across the Ohio River to the Kentucky side, and easily make our way back to civilization. We picked away until our hands were calloused and bleeding, then called it a day. If I am able to walk tomorrow, I assume we will continue picking away at the face, in order to take samples, and all that jazz.

We gathered up our tools, ascended the stairway to heaven, also known as our trusty ladder, and went home for the night.

Now, I have to go wrestle the alarms out of Michele’s hands before she does something crazy again!

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Windows on history

Written by Mike Linderman, sectional archaeology manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site


Barracks at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky

Angel Mounds staff is heading to Old Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky to retrieve windows from three army barracks that date back to World War I. The buildings are scheduled for demolition and our goal is to salvage these pieces to one day use in potential reconstructions of the laboratory and barracks that stood at Angel Mounds from 1939 until the early 1970s. The original buildings at Angel Mounds were former CCC barracks that Dr. Glenn A. Black scrounged around and found at Vallonia State Nursery; and prior to that they were WWI barracks from an undetermined army base. Since Angel Mounds is a co-op of sorts with The Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (GBL) at IU, both of our agencies have a desire to reconstruct these buildings, not to be museum pieces, but usable facilities for archaeology in the southwestern part of Indiana. Only the exteriors of the buildings will look like the original structures.  The interiors would be modern to accommodate lodging for students and guests, and lab space for archaeological field work at Angel Mounds and other locations in the area.


Barracks III, the original WPA lab building, getting scraped before painting.

Camp Breckenridge is now the Earl C. Clements U.S. Dept. of Labor facility. When the army was there, the camp was primarily training African American troops during WWII. Such famous names as Joe Lewis and Jackie Robinson did basic training there. The barracks that we are taking apart are the last three from the old base, which once had over 300 of these type of buildings. The camp also served as a German POW camp. So, in salvaging these items to potentially recreate history at Angel Mounds, we are preserving some broader history in the process.

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