Purdue News

June 17, 2005

Archaeological class digs past to prepare students, teachers for future

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Anthropologists, Indianapolis students and Indiana teachers will dig up history this summer at Purdue University's Archaeological Field School.

2005 Archaeology
Field School

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Starting Monday (June 20), Purdue students will be in Mulberry, Ind., to conduct a six-week excavation in the back yard of the Hovde house.

In addition, Indiana teachers will join the students at the site on June 29 as part of the Indiana State Museum's Project Archaeology to help teachers learn more about incorporating archaeology into their classrooms. More than a dozen Science Bound students from Indianapolis Public Schools also will participate on July 8. The public can tour the site, at 410 Main St., from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, weather permitting.

"Archaeology is like a puzzle," says field school director Deborah Rotman, an assistant professor in Purdue's Department of Sociology and Anthropology. "We piece together information from historical records and clues from the site to learn about its history. To solve the puzzle, archaeology requires skills in science, history and mathematics."

After the fieldwork is completed on July 29, artifacts will be processed in a laboratory on campus. Every summer, field school students are taught basic methods used in contemporary archaeology, including site surveying, mapping, excavating and computer-based analysis of archaeological data. Visitors from Project Archaeology and Science Bound will be introduced to these topics and also will have a chance to dig with the Purdue students.

Science Bound, a program initiated by Purdue President Martin C. Jischke in 2002, mentors eighth-grade to 12th-grade Indianapolis Public Schools students and encourages them to take classes in preparation for future careers in science, engineering, technology, agriculture and math-science education. Upon acceptance, Science Bound students receive an opportunity to earn a full-tuition scholarship to Purdue to study in an approved technical field.

Project Archaeology is a national program that was created by the Bureau of Land Management in the early 1990s to promote awareness, stewardship and appreciation for American heritage.

"Purdue is the first site for Indiana's Project Archaeology this summer," says Alicia Stewart Comer, Indiana coordinator for Project Archaeology. "This is a great opportunity for all educators to learn more about the history and culture of west-central Indiana and learn the technical skills needed in archaeology. Teachers are very positive about the program, and many report that their participation inspires them to incorporate archaeology in their social science and history classes."

Project Archaeology operates in 32 states, and more than 200 Indiana teachers have participated since 1999. The other Indiana sites this summer are in Clarksville and Evansville.

The Hovde site was occupied by the Rothenbergers (1853-1884) and Steckels (1884-1904), two wealthy families known for their farming and business interests. The site is now home to David Hovde, associate professor of library science and bibliographer for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Marjorie Hovde, assistant professor of technical communications at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Rotman is focusing on Mulberry because the community was well-connected to Indianapolis and Lafayette in the late 1800s and early 1900s, thanks to the Lake Erie and Western Railroad and other major transportation routes.

"That makes this rural community an important link to larger, more urban and industrial areas, and we want to learn more about the class status and gender ideologies in this kind of community through the residence of its families," she says.

Prior to the field school, Rotman worked with Archaeological Survey from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne to conduct a magnetometer survey. Using a device similar to a metal detector, the team locates disturbances in the ground that help determine where to dig. Visible clues, such as depressions in the ground, old remnants of a cement foundation and a lilac bush, also will influence what sections are excavated.

"Because of their sweet fragrance, lilac bushes were often planted around privies to cover odors," she says. "These old outhouses were places that people visited often, and we will certainly find some personal artifacts in this area."

Last year, the students participating in the archaeological field school excavated the Wea View Schoolhouse (No. 8) in Tippecanoe County's Wabash Township. The one-room school, which dates to at least 1866, closed in 1916.

"One of our interesting findings from this site is that there appeared to be an element of gender-specific training at the school," Rotman says. "For example, in one area inside the schoolhouse foundation, we found a concentration of sewing items such as pins, needles and buttons. We also determined that there were separate privies for boys and girls. The boys' privy had many marbles, balls and jackknives in them, lost from trouser pockets, while the girls' privy had primarily buttons and other clothing-related artifacts. Separate restroom facilities for boys and girls was consistent with the ideology of gender separation that emerged in the 1830s. Today, we take this gender separation for granted because this is what we know, but it wasn't always so."

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology is housed in the College of Liberal Arts. The anthropology program has more than 100 undergraduate students majoring in this field and about 20 graduate students. Anthropology graduates from Purdue work at field sites in Europe, Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa and the United States.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Sources: Deborah Rotman, (765) 494-4683, drotman@soc.purdue.edu

Alicia Stewart Comer, (317) 233-9348, astewart@dnr.state.in.us

David Hovde, (765) 494-2833, hovde@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Mike Strezewski, from the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, carries a magnetometer to survey possible excavation sites at the 2005 Archaeological Field School. Brian Somers (in background) and Scott Hipskind (front), both from Archaeological Survey at IPFW, help record readings that indicate unnatural items underground. Starting Monday (June 20), Purdue students will conduct a six-week excavation of the back yard of the Hovde house in Mulberry. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at https://www.purdue.edu/uns/images/+2005/arch-survey.jpg


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