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Hovey Lake site HERE!


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Last Updated 8.21.2007



What is Archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of past cultures based on scientific analysis of material remains, including written documents. It is a way to understand our common heritage.

Both prehistoric and historic archaeological sites are part of Indiana’s heritage.

They are a unique source of information about the people who lived before us.

Prehistoric sites and artifacts are the only record of the many cultures that existed before written accounts. In southwestern Indiana, prehistoric archaeological sites represent ancient Native American cultures. The ancient peoples had diverse lifeways rather than a single culture, and they differed from the historic tribes encountered by the first Euro-Americans to visit this region.

Historic archaeological sites provide key information not included in written records. This is the “below ground” component that surrounds most historic structures.

Archaeological evidence includes artifacts, features, and sites.

Artifacts are objects that were made or used by people. Pottery, china, spear points, bone scrapers, gun parts, waste flakes from making stone tools, bricks, and food remains are all artifacts. Artifacts include whole objects, plus fragments and refuse everyday living and manufacturing.

Brass ornament from an early 1800's musket

Features are material remains that cannot be transported, such as soil stains, fire-pits, wall foundations, and post holes.

Sites are places where human activity resulted in features or deposits of artifacts. Sites in southwestern Indiana range in size from a small camp to an entire town. They also vary from special-purpose (e.g. a mill, a hunting camp) to a multi-function (a village with a wide array of buildings).

Sites from recent prehistory known to exist in Southwestern Indiana

The primary clues that archaeologists use to reconstruct past cultures and to examine ideas about cultural relationships and changes are:

  • Dating (stratigraphy, radiocarbon, maker’s marks on historic objects, written documents)
  • Types and functions of artifacts and features
  • Associations of artifacts and features found in undisturbed deposits

Reconstructions of pottery jars used by the Caborn-Welborn people (A.D. 1400-1700)

For example, by finding associated fragments of pottery of different vessel shapes and sizes, archaeologists learned that Native Americans had a long tradition of making a wide range of ceramic containers for various purposes (cooking in jars and wok-like pans, water containers, storage pots, serving bowls, etc.)