UPDATES 2003-2005
Geophysical Surveys
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Recent Excavations
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Field and Lab
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Learn more about
Indiana Archaeology Month at Hovey Lake HERE!
Research at the Hovey Lake site in 2003-2005 is supported by: a grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under the Transportation Enhancement Program, Indiana University, and private contributions. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) administers the TE grant. Also contributing to the research project are: Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana University - Bloomington Department of Anthropology, the Indiana State Museum, University of Southern Indiana, University of Evansville, Indiana State University, and community groups and volunteers.


IU-Bloomington Anthropology Dept.
Last Updated 9.6.2004



Research Background

Cheryl Munson's research since the 1970's has concentrated on learning more about the Native American peoples and cultures of the Mississippian tradition in southwestern Indiana and adjacent states. Archaeologists recognize two distinct Mississippian cultures in this area. The Angel culture was centered around the preserved town and mound center at Angel Mounds State Historic site in Evansville. The Angel society existed for about 300 years, during the period A.D. 1050-1450, but by A.D. 1400 started to decline. About this time another Mississippian culture began to emerge from the collapse of the Angel chiefdom. This is the Caborn-Welborn culture, which lasted to about A.D.1650 or 1700. Caborn-Welborn people moved from the Angel site and Evansville region and began building their villages and hamlets near the Mouth of the Wabash River. After living there for several hundred years, they abandoned the Ohio Valley region for reasons that are not understood. Warfare with neighboring groups (perhaps the Iroquois?) and reduction of the population due to diseases introduced from Europe are two possible explanations. By the time American explorers reached the Mouth of the Wabash in the 1760s, they enountered only hunting parties of eastern Native American tribes that had been displaced from their original homelands.

Angel and Caborn-Welborn sites

Archaeologists have so far documented the location of 29 Caborn-Welborn sites in Indiana. Many more are probably present, since surveys have covered less that 10% of the homeland of the Caborn-Welborn people.

Research on the Caborn-Welborn culture includes learning about the lifestyle of these people.

Where are their settlements? How big are they? How old are the various Caborn-Welborn sites, and how long did the occupations last? What did the people eat? What kinds of plant foods did they grow? Were wild plant foods important? What animals did they hunt, trap, net, and hook? Were bison an important source of meat? Were sites located in particular environments, to take advantage of certain soils, sources of food, or access to transportation routes?

What kinds of houses and storage facilities did they build? How did they arrange their houses and other facilities? Did the people build defensive walls around their villages? What did their villages and hamlets look like? How did the people arrange their houses and other constructions? How did life in the larger villages differ from that in the smaller hamlets? How were the various communities in the region organized socially and economically? What was the nature of trade with other Native American groups? What kinds of European trade goods were acquired by Caborn-Welborn people: metal and glass ornaments, or metal tools, guns, and gun flints? Were there changes over time in Caborn-Welborn culture or society?

Engraved stone (siderite) tablet found by Jerry King in 1964 on the surface of the Caborn site (Posey County), one of the type sites of the Mississippian Caborn-Welborn culture (A.D. 1400-1700). The human-like figure appears to be a hunter holding weapons. A similar engraved figure is on the back of the tablet.

Research at multiple Caborn-Welborn phase sites carried out to date has begun to answer these questions, among others. David Pollack (Kentucky Heritage Council) has added new information and understanding, particularly from new surveys in Kentucky and the analysis of a vast collection of ceramics recovered from the Slack Farm site. Cheryl’s recent research at the Bone Bank site (1997-2003) has revealed similarities and differences among the large Caborn-Welborn villages of Slack Farm, Hovey Lake, and Bone Bank. Much remains to be learned.

Cheryl's research on the Caborn-Welborn culture has emphasized five approaches:

(1) Interviews and site reports.
Cheryl and her research team record the locations where artifact collectors have found materials that could signify a Mississippian site (whether Caborn-Welborn, Angel, or another yet undefined Mississippian culture). Artifacts that are diagnostic of Mississippian cultures are triangular or small willow leaf-shaped arrow points, endscrapers, and pottery which contains fragments of mussel shell for temper. She sometimes photographs or sketches artifacts to augment the site records. These site reports provide an essential resource for advancing our knowledge about Mississippian and other cultures.

(2) Surveys.
Cheryl and her research team conduct surface surveys to search out sites in areas that professionals have not previously checked. Survey work also involves documenting site size and types of artifacts, assessing the intensity of prehistoric occupation, and mapping site boundaries. More intensive survey methods are used to study large, complex sites, or to select areas that would be most amenable for test excavations. (See photos below. Also see 1997, 1998, 2000 reports by Cheryl Ann Munson, on file at the Alexandrian Public Library, Workingmen's Institute, Department of Natural Resources - Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, National Park Service, and Indiana University.)

Survey of a recently plowed farm field in southwestern Indiana.

(3) Test Excavations.
To reconstruct Caborn-Welborn lifeways and to interpret the social, political, and economic aspects of Caborn-Welborn society, it is essential to compare large and small sites, and sites of different ages. Thus archaeologists need radiocarbon dates, as well as systematically excavated samples of artifacts, ecofacts, and construction features, from a range of sites. It is also necessary to excavate test samples in a variety of locations within large sites, to obtain representative samples. So far, archaeologists have carried out test excavations in only a few locations at large sites, but five Indiana sites are represented by excavation samples: Leonard, Hovey Lake, Caborn, Murphy, and Bone Bank.

Testing additional areas at large sites, like Hovey Lake and Murphy, and testing other smaller sites, like Caborn, continue to be primary goals. (See 1997, 1998, 2000 reports of test excavations by Cheryl Ann Munson on file at the Alexandrian Public Library, Workingmen's Institute, Department of Natural Resources - Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, National Park Service, and Indiana University.)

(4) Mitigative Excavations.
Prior to modern constructions, archaeologists have excavated impact areas at several Caborn-Welborn sites, in order to learn as much as possible about areas of significance. Archaeologists also excavated the many disturbed areas at the Slack Farm site near Uniontown, Kentucky, after this large Caborn-Welborn village and its cemeteries had been greatly damaged by looters. The looters dug into more than 1,000 burials and hundreds of village features. Archaeologists and volunteer workers collected artifacts and radiocarbon samples from village refuse deposits and documented the looter's impacts. (See: Slack Farm and the Caborn-Welborn People, by David Pollack, Cheryl Ann Munson, and A. Gwynn Henderson, Kentucky Archaeological Survey, Education Series No. 1, Lexington, 1996; see also Cheryl Munson's 1998 report.)

Other mitigative excavations include the important work in construction areas at the Murphy site, and rescue excavation of archaeological samples from the surviving remnant of the Bone Bank site.

(5) Public Education / Indiana Archaeology Month.
Archaeological research depends on public support, and to this end Cheryl and her team have geared their work so they can share aspects of their research with the public. In addition, they have developed innovative programs to teach young people about archaeology, and presented numerous public lectures in southwestern Indiana.

Since 1996, many co-sponsors from Posey County and southwestern Indiana have joined with Indiana University to present a program that allows the general public to see and learn about archaeology. We first held Archaeology Week programs, but it took much longer than a week to meet the public’s interest so now we provide a series of events over a month. There have been exhibits, public lectures, a booklet about the Hovey Lake site, artifact identification days, scout programs, and field trips for 4th graders to Indiana University's ongoing research at the Hovey Lake site. The annual education program culminates with an Excavation Open House for people of all ages.

Thanks to the Indiana Humanities Council, Indiana University was awarded funds in 1999 for Cheryl to produce a video of our 4th grade lessons in archaeology, inlcuding the field trip. Indiana University and the University of Southern Indiana teamed up to prepare instructional materials that could be readily available to teachers and youth group leaders throughout Indiana and other states. The videography was done by the University of Southern Indiana. Available for rent through USI's Distance Learning Network are the Hovey Lake video as well as Archaeology Learning Kits which contain artifacts and a study guide.