Enter the archaeological dig at Angel Mounds in Southern Indiana, where you’ll talk to workers on the brink of uncovering the site of a once-thriving Mississippian town. Meet trailblazer Glenn Albert Black and his amateur team, who profoundly expanded our knowledge of these pre-Columbian Native American people.
In You Are There 1939: Exploring Angel Mounds, guests are transported back to the Depression era as workers with the Works Projects Administration study Angel Mounds. The WPA was an American New Deal agency started at the height of the Great Depression in 1935, employing millions of people to carry out public works projects.
At the excavation site, learn how the archaeologists and workers surveyed it, excavated artifacts and processed their findings. You’ll discover the tools and processes these workers used to unearth more than 2 million artifacts in just a few years. You will also hear from them about their experiences living through the Great Depression and working for the WPA in Evansville.
In addition to Black, talk to his wife, Ida, who he met during his training and who assisted with archaeological digs. Other characters include WPA supervisors Ruth Muschlitz and Merrill Grothe, assistant supervisor William Rude, clerk William Merimee, and workers George Van Bibber Sr. and John Henry Van Bibber. All were essential in documenting the cultural practices of the Mississippian people, including the unique style of pottery that has come to define the culture.
The adjacent exhibit space features original artifacts and tools, a recreation of a Mississippian home, and several multimedia activities, including one that lets guests become archeologists by exploring their own theories about what became of the settlement.
Prior to European arrival, Angel Mounds near Evansville was the site of a booming Mississippian town. It is estimated that at its height as many as 1,000 people lived and worked there for hundreds of years, leaving rather suddenly between 1400 and 1450 A.D.
Today, Angel Mounds is recognized as one of the most significant archaeological sites in Indiana. This was not always the case. For generations, it was left unprotected, falling victim to looting.
In 1938, a coalition of federal and state governments, along with IHS and Eli Lilly, organized to engage in expansive archaeological exploration at the site, which had been farmland purchased by the Angel Family. Leading this effort was Glenn Black, who served as director of archaeology with the Indiana Historical Society and the chief steward of Angel Mounds for 25 years from 1939 until his death in 1964.
The work done by Black, along with hundreds of WPA workers, dozens of archaeology students from Indiana University, and many others, led to greater recognition of the significance of Mississippian history in the Ohio Valley and beyond.
Angel Mounds is preserved as a historic site under the care of the Indiana State Museum, which operates a museum and visitors center dedicated to telling the story of Mississippian people and their culture.