Life with Darrell - Under the Plow Zone

Darrell and I had been hunting Indian relics for many years in the area surrounding the small country town of Flatrock in southern Johnson County Indiana. Through the years we had talked about participating in an archaeological dig, but were always either too busy hunting relics or with family life.

Then in the early summer of 1995, Darrell met an archaeologist in Madison County who was searching for an archaeological site in the Jeff Anderson and unidentified worker on 1995 field dig in Johnson County Indiana.area where Darrell lives. The archaeologist, Bob McCullough, was talking to local collectors about certain anomalies in the area to assist him with his research. Bob mentioned to Darrell about an upcoming dig and asked if he would be interested in helping out. Darrell and I discussed this and we decided to take a weekend off of relic hunting to participate in this dig since it was in an area we sometimes searched.

The sun was up early as we drove to Johnson County. The day would be hot, humid and tiring as the sun beat down with a vengeance. By the time we arrived at the site, just east of Sugar Creek and Camp Atterbury, the temperature was already in the high eighties. Dust hung in the air from cars travelling the gravel roads to the dig location. We could see that the rest of the survey team had been at work for a while already by the time we arrived. Each sub team had positioned themselves where Bob had selected and dug test pits or strips.
The surface had been removed during the test by using a backhoe to strip off the 12 inches or so of topsoil. Being a novice dig team member I theorize that this may be a common practice. This is based upon the thought that the archaeologist wishes to date material found in association with important items. To be accurate, the surrounding strata must be undisturbed. The removal of the topsoil eliminated the disturbed plow zone.

After introductions, Bob had Darrell and I working on screening the earth as the other team members moved it. The entire day we did not get a chance to work together on any team, but instead were paired up with other volunteers grouped together as management deemed necessary to complete the survey in an efficient and timely mannerif they also entered the field
Darrell Cross on 1995 dig.
The Sugar Creek site where the dig was active is a Late Prehistoric village site located on a flat outwash plain immediately east of Sugar Creek in Blue River Township, Johnson County, Indiana. Sugar Creek itself is fairly shallow adjacent to the site, affording an easy crossing point for access to the uplands located west of the creek. The site is a nearly level surface with a southern portion that slopes gently to the south. The site is bordered by a creek, or ditch, to the north, low land on the east and southeastern edges, and the Sugar Creek floodplain to the west. The western one half of the site is located in a former campground within the Atterbury State Fish and Wildlife Area. The eastern portion of the site is privately owned and at the time of the investigation was planted with hay.

The site we were excavating was first reported to Brian G. Redmond of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (GBL) by Jack Weddle in 1992 and subsequently cataloged as 12Jo289. The eastern portion of the site had been plowed after years of being in pasture, and numerous dark midden stains and scatters of Late Prehistoric cultural materials were visible. Excavations were conducted between August 30 and November 2, 1995. Although the actual dig took place over the course of many weeks, Darrell and I could only attend for the weekend. Most of the items uncovered while we participated where pottery shards and larger pieces.
Pot found during 1995 Johnson County Dig.
The days were long and hot, but Darrell and I enjoyed our work at the Sugar Creek site with the other archeological dig volunteers. It was a very interesting experience observing how the professional archaeologists performed their duties. Too often the professional archaeologist places blame on the amateur archaeologist for different reasons all the while ignoring the past information supplied throughout the years by the amateur. The opportunity to participate in the dig gave me the chance to watch those who often criticize, work.

For additional information, images of pottery and lithics found on this and other archaeological digs check the Glen Black web site detailing this dig, or the Glen Black web site listed below. The Glenn A. Black lab is located at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and is a major archeological presence in the Midwest. The web site is not updated regularly with the last being updated in 1998. The wealth of information contained on this web site is timeless.

While we did not see any great lithic tools or projectile points found while we were present, there were some found. It was an amazing thing to see the pottery being unearthed. I was present and took pictures of large sections of pottery being discovered. I would encourage every relic collector to participate at least once in a similar archaeological dig. It gives the average surface hunter a chance to see what is under the plow zone.

Robert G. McCullough Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale  
Timothy M. Write Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Indiana University  
Glenn Black Lab World Wide Web

By Jeff Anderson
Sunday, December 21, 1997
© 1997 Jeff Anderson