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 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
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
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
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.
Sunday, December 21, 1997
© 1997 Jeff Anderson