Archaeology Field School Digging On Campus

By Allison Smith

Students are getting the opportunity to truly get their hands dirty and learn about the history of campus with an archaeological dig that started this week behind River Crossing campus housing.

Led by Jay VanderVeen, associate professor of anthropology and chair of the department of sociology and anthropology, this intensive six week course provides students valuable field work experience. It is funded by a grant as part of the IU Bicentennial Initiative, celebrating the University’s 200th anniversary.

“Other areas near campus have been dug up previously due to construction, demolition, and other movement of land. This is one area that has not yet been touched,” explains VanderVeen.

The site where students are digging was once a Woodland Indian village camp site, dating back from 1000 BC – 1000 AD. After that point, it was farm land and in the late 1800s was the end of the interurban trolley line. From 1912 until 1962, it was Playland Park, an amusement park that offered amusement rides (including two roller coasters), a carousel, swimming pool, casino, roller rink, dance hall, race track, and baseball field, where the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League team, the South Bend Blue Sox played. The amusement park’s cement grandstand remains on campus property.

There are two main goals for the course: to teach students how to dig, investigate, map, record, and photograph artifacts, as well as learn more about the history of South Bend. Although it is their first week digging, students have already found two golf tees and one golf range ball with the Playland mark printed on it. “This allows them to experience the process of knowing the story behind a site, and finding artifacts that prove it,” says VanderVeen.

Junior Felicia Bowker, a general studies major, minoring in history and anthropology, is participating in the archaeology field school as a way to gain experience for her desired career working in a museum.

“This will be beneficial in getting a job in a museum by showing experiencing with cataloging objects. It was a great decision to take this course,” says Felicia. “Yesterday I got to go up onto the grandstand and measure it. It was so exciting to be really on a piece of history.”

After students complete the course, they will have fulfilled the state and federal requirement for a supervised archaeology field work apprenticeship. “You can’t get hired and work in the archaeology field unless you’ve had so much experience and supervised fieldwork. This course counts for that requirement, so students will be qualified to do their own projects,” explains VanderVeen.

The campus archaeology digging site is open to the public, and the community are welcomed and encouraged to stop by, take a look around, and share their memories. VanderVeen and his students are on site Monday through Thursday, from 9am to 3pm.

Read the release from IU South Bend