Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

February 27, 2013

Ancient Indiana

Greensburg — Indiana has an exceptionally rich archaeological heritage, thanks to the efforts of numerous dedicated professionals and amateur archaeologists alike.

To date nearly 50,000 archaeological sites have been recorded in the state, according to the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA).

Recent archaeological evidence indicates that small bands of hunters were making forays into the area we now call Indiana at the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago, and quite likely much earlier. Archaeologists call these hunters Paleo-Indians. The prefix paleo comes from the Greek adjective “paleos” meaning old.

The environment toward the end of the last Ice Age was a good deal colder than it is today. Pollen samples recovered from the mud and debris at the bottom of ancient ponds and other water places indicate that much of Indiana during this time was covered by large stands of spruce and pine forests. The land between these forests was open steppe-like grasslands. These grassy areas attracted herds of the grazing mammals such as the mammoth. A mature mammoth could reach a height of 13 feet at the shoulder, which is three feet higher than a basketball rim, and weigh equal to about 140 grown men.

Other large mammals that roamed the state during the waning days of the Ice Age include the vicious-looking saber-toothed cat (Smilodon fatalis), with its six to seven-inch long incisors (cutting teeth). Also in the area were Ice Age heavyweights such as the American mastodon (Mammut Americanum) and giant ground sloth (Paramylodn harlani). The skeletal remains of an American mastodon, I am told, inspired students and the Indiana-Purdue University campus in Fort Wayne to name the athletic team the “Mastodons.”

Some time ago, I visited the Joseph Moore Museum on the campus of the Earlham College in Richmond. I had gone there because I had been told that they had a mammoth skeleton. Even though the mammoth turned out to be a mastodon, I was not in the least disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the museum also possessed the skeletal remains of a giant ground sloth.

I had never seen a giant ground sloth up close and personal. They were truly awesome animals. I also discovered that Earlham College museum has the world’s most complete skeleton of a giant beaver (Cvastooroides ohiensis). In life, these magnificent rodents were seven to eight feet long and could weight as much as 250 to 300 pounds, which is roughtly the size of a black bear. The Earlham speciman, I recall, had front incisors that were about seven inches long. The giant beaver went extinct about 10,000 years ago.

The museum also has the skeleton of another Ice Age animal that once prowled Indiana. The saber-toothed cat. Admission to the museum is free, but I suggest that you phone ahead to make sure someone will be available to show you around. Their number is 765-983-1303 or you can email them at www.earlam.edu/jmm.

Ben Morris, MA, RPA is an archaeological and historical columnist for the Daily News. He can be reached at 812-932-0298 or bjmorris1935@gmail.com.

 

1
Text Only
Columns
  • Pat Smith: A reader's special note Before beginning this week’s column it must be stressed that I love getting emails from readers, love getting telephone calls from readers and love seeing readers when I’m out and about – especially those who very generously tell me that they read th

    July 24, 2014

  • Spaulding Outdoors: The Inside on Indiana's Outside Early Migratory Bird 2014 Season Dates The 2014 early migratory bird season dates have been submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Indiana DNR as listed below. The dates are not final until the USFWS approves them, which typically hap

    July 24, 2014

  • Why incumbents get reelected Incumbents are masters at posing as outsiders, when in fact they are insiders who produce the Congress they disdain. It’s no news that Congress is unpopular. In fact, at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its

    July 24, 2014

  • Lessons from the largely forgotten war As we approach the official date on which the First World War started, July 28, 1914, when the first shots were fired by the Austro-Hungarians who invaded Serbia, it’s appropriate to think about the lessons that catastrophic event has taught us one h

    July 24, 2014

  • Protecting Indiana's agricultural heritage With the 4-H fairs in full swing, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about agriculture. Since Indiana became a state back in 1816, agriculture has played a vital role in our livelihood. For those who are not from Indiana, our state is practica

    July 22, 2014

  • Improving Indiana's infrastructure It is always a happy time when my family visits, especially to celebrate a wedding. I recently played hostess for my niece and her wedding party when she was looking for somewhere to hold her rehearsal dinner. I absolutely enjoy when family comes to

    July 22, 2014

  • Shining a light on the Federal Reserve If you are like most Americans, you probably have heard of the Federal Reserve. But, you may not know much about what the Fed actually does or the very real ways its decisions impact your day-to-day life. The Federal Reserve was founded by Congress i

    July 22, 2014

  • Expiring term heightens the urgency of lawmaker's mission INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrant

    July 22, 2014

  • fea-gb072214 Spaulding column jpg Spaulding Outdoors: The inside on Indiana's outside Free beginner waterfowl hunting workshopsTwo free waterfowl hunting workshops for beginners will be offered in August and September by the Department of Natural Resources. The focus of the workshops is on hunting Canada geese, although there will be

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thankful for our veterans' sacrifice On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, giving birth to a new nation. To Great Britain and the rest of the world, the U.S. proclaimed itself the proud home of free people. Since that day, on more than one occasion, this freedom h

    July 17, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 U.N. School in Gaza Hit by Israeli Strike Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Officials Warn of Avoidable Death in Hot Cars Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.