42,000 Years Old!

by Chuck Smith,  Marketing Graphic Artist

When I was young, my dream of being an archaeologist or paleontologist was a close second to an artistic profession. After graduating, I became a full time graphic designer at the Indiana State Museum. I didn’t think it got any better than creating art for Indiana’s #1 place for science and culture, but I was wrong. For the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a few days on the Megenity Cave dig with other museum professionals searching for ancient bones and tools. 

Today is my first full day back in Indianapolis after three days in the cave and I still cannot believe how exciting the trip was. After only five minutes of digging on Day 2, I made my first real discovery! The hope of finding something special sometimes makes your mind turn every little piece of mud into a bone or rock into an arrowhead, but I knew right away that it wasn’t my imagination this time (or ‘bone fever’ as they call it). Something truly awesome had appeared on my shovel. I whipped off some dirt, held it up for a better look and realized that I had found a peccary jaw which I would later learn dates back between 35,000 and 42,000 years!

The digging and time spent with colleges and friends always makes for a great time, but experiencing the magic of unearthing something like this has made for a day that I‘ll never forget.

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Where’s Your Snap-Link?

By Krystle Buschner, Science & Technology Interpretation Specialist

Photo courtesy of Value Added Promotions

I love carabiners. I use them all the time to fasten my lunch box to my purse, my water bottle to my backpack and even my car keys to my jeans. These handy clips come in all different shapes (the horse is my favorite!), sizes and colors, and can be used for almost anything.

Black Diamond Quicksilver Screwgate Carabiner; Photo courtesy of Extreme Gear

The carabiners that I use are essentially key rings; they do not lock and are not to be used for climbing. The expert cavers, on the other hand, need reliable carabiners to perform advanced vertical caving. Of course, this is only one small piece of equipment that is used when exploring caves.

So you may be asking, what do carabiners and this cave “talk” have to do with Indiana?  Well, for starters, southern Indiana is covered with caves because that is where the limestone is. Put simply, slightly acidic water dissolves limestone and forms Indiana’s solution caves (the one and ONLY trivia answer I will give away from our Underground Jeopardy cave activity — to win a key ring carabiner of course!).

Vertical Caving; Photo courtesy of You Cave

Now, what does all of this have to do with the Indiana State Museum? Despite the limestone on the museum’s facade, annual excavations at Megenity Cave, and the museum’s purpose to represent all things Indiana, we will have an event titled What’s Wild About Indiana Caves? this Saturday, Aug. 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy seeing live bats up close, asking your burning caving questions to cave experts, excavating dire wolves and peccaries in our mock cave, and posing in caving equipment in front of a green screen to make your friends and family believe you’ve gone on a caving adventure. Personally, I will be hanging out by the live bats as I’ve recently learned that, in the wild, they eat over 1,000 insects in an hour, including those pesky mosquitoes. Who could ask for anything better than that?