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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Expedition at the Indiana State Museum

By Krystle Buschner, Science & Technology Interpretation Specialist

A new program titled Expedition! is premiering at the Indiana State Museum this Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21.  It is a game similar to Oregon Trail, but slightly different. Expedition teams will be traveling through 19th century Indiana to complete scientific objectives (even “hunt” with rubber band rifles!) or their team will face consequences. 

In anticipation of Expedition!, the education staff decided to go on their own expedition … through the Indiana State Museum:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During the Expedition! program, leaders will explore a cave and uncover fossils, identify three rocks or minerals, find a new discovery, identify three types of soil found in Indiana, and encounter a Native American tribe. We hope to see all expedition leaders on April 20 and 21!

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?

I Wanna Check You for Ticks

That’s Brad Paisley … but applies to Peccary Digs, too … but more about the creatures of the day in a second. Day four of a 17 day dig = my second day. Started all wrong;  a knock-knock had me flying out of bed in my jammies, hair unruly, to find Ron Richards, museum paleontologist at my door … our alarm hadn’t gone off! OMG! Leap into clothing and out the door … cavers don’t need makeup or hair fussing. *whew* Luckily its a 40-minute drive to the cave, which is plenty of time to drink coffee and wake up.

Many creatures today … spiders (again) and butterflies and ticks. But the real find of the day was a copperhead snake! Yes, they are venomous. Neal reached down for something next to his chair and the snake moved; thankfully it didn’t strike, but chose to slither away instead.   

The other interesting find amidst over a hundred buckets full of cave dirt was a shark tooth, probably over three hundred million years old, from a geological period of time when Indiana was covered by water. The buckets are brought out of the cave and carried to the screeners, who carefully wash off excess dirt and rock, picking through for anything unusual, which they set aside in special containers.  The rest is put into plastic bags, brought back to the museum, and carefully studied under microscopes.

It was a long day of hauling heavy buckets, shooting dozens and dozens of photos and video, and sweating. But what an honor to be part of something as cool and important as this. We are literally picking through history! More tomorrow!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine