Archaeology in Indiana

Map of Muskegon Shipwreck

This illustration reproduces part of a map of the Muskegon Shipwreck Site located off the coast of Indiana in Lake Michigan. Underwater archaeologists recorded information about this nineteenth-century steam-powered, wooden hull passenger-freighter designed for Great Lakes travel. This site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989; the map was an attachment to the nomination for the Muskegon site prepared by Gary D. Ellis in 1988.

Into the 1960s, Glenn A. Black and Eli Lilly were two of the most prominent names in Indiana archaeology. Black spent much of his career studying the Angel Site in southwestern Indiana that Lilly had purchased in 1938 and given to the state of Indiana in 1947. After Black's death in 1964, Eli Lilly working through the Indiana Historical Society and collaborating with Indiana University established the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology. The Lilly Endowment contributed funds for the building which would house a permanent collection of artifacts and records from Black's thirty years of research.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Indiana universities (IU, Ball State, Indiana State, Purdue, Notre Dame) added archaeology appointments to their faculties. The number of archaeological research projects in Indiana steadily increased. Another impetus to the growth of archaeological information was federal and state legislation, particularly after 1966 with the National Historic Preservation Act. This legislation, passed by the U.S. Congress, created the National Register of Historic Places and state historic preservation officers and programs.

One requirement of this law, and subsequent legislation, was the review by archaeologists of proposed construction or building sites, for their impact on the cultural resources at those sites. In response to these laws, the Indiana General Assembly in 1971 created a state preservation program within the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. In 1977, Gary D. Ellis was the first professional archaeologist hired by the Department of Natural Resources. In 1981, the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology was created within the same department.

As a result of the federal and state legislation and the building boom of the 1980s and 1990s, there has been an explosion of archaeological information about Indiana. Currently, there are over 47,000 documented prehistoric and historic sites in Indiana. Common prehistoric site types include campsites, villages, mounds, chert quarries, cemeteries, artifact caches, tool manufacturing areas, food processing and gathering areas, and hunting and butchering sites.

Historical site types in Indiana include refuse heaps or dumps, old homesteads and farmsteads, forts, battlefields, cemeteries, family plots, burials, workshops, quarries, historic Indian villages, fortifications, canals, old trails and transportation routes, mills, towns, shipwrecks, and industrial and business sites.

The ages of these sites range from nearly 12,000 years ago to the twentieth century. There is still much more to learn.

Sources: Jame H. Kellar, An Introduction to the Prehistory of Indiana (Indianapolis, 1983); Indiana's Cultural Resources Management Plan 1998-2003 (Indianapolis: Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, 1998); James R. Jones III, State Archaeologist.