osted on 31, March, 2011, By Rachel Cerrone, Indiana Daily Student, idsnews.com
At the corner of East Thornton Street and Huntington Drive, senior Bob Zerface held what appeared to be a small, smooth rock in his palm as Cheryl Munson, research scientist in the department of anthropology at IU, examined it.
The object was actually not a rock at all — it is what archaeologists call a flake, something produced by Native Americans thousands of years ago.
“Flakes are debris from the process of making tools, produced by applying pressure against a larger piece of flint or chert to shape the tool,” Munson said.
The presence of flakes meant there had been prehistoric Native Americans on the land at some point, Munson said.
“I’m not at all surprised that we found prehistoric site there. There is a nice, gentle hillside, and it’s relatively close to water sources,” she said.
This find, along with many other artifacts discovered at the site, will contribute to the city’s knowledge and understanding of the area in which three Habitat for Humanity homes are planned to be built, Munson said.
Munson, along with Susan Alt, professor of anthropology and instructor of the students who helped excavate the site, led efforts to conduct cultural resource management work at the properties on which Habitat for Humanity will be developing homes, a state requirement that usually costs money to do. Munson and Alt volunteered their efforts free of charge.
“Habitat is a really great organization, and I thought this would be an excellent intersection of educating the class, helping the city and helping Habitat,” Alt said. “Everyone got something out of it.”
After Bloomington’s Historic Preservation Officer contacted Munson and asked her to survey the land, Munson said she thought this opportunity was a perfect chance to do a service-learning project with students. Alt also said she felt the project would give the city a better understanding of the historic remains of the property.
“We knew it was a low-income area, and there was a push in the ’90s to get higher cost housing,” Alt said. “The detailed history of the area was just really lacking, and no one really knows a lot about it.”
Along with prehistoric flakes, excavators found more recent artifacts, including limestone from the nearby mill, pieces of brick and coal clinker from coal furnaces.
“I didn’t expect to find as much disturbed soil, and it surprised me,” Alt said. “The city didn’t know a lot about the history, so they thought the area wasn’t as used as much as it turned out to be.”
Zerface, an anthropology major who helped excavate the site, said he thinks a
wider understanding of the archaeological past of an area can educate people on how to handle present concerns and issues.
“When you do archaeology, you learn that people really haven’t changed, but exactly what they do and how they do it has changed,” he said. “It’s exciting because you’re essentially digging through history.”