State archaeologists to speak at IU in celebration of Archaeology Month

Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

This September is the 20th celebration of Archaeology Month in Indiana, and the Glenn A. Black Lab will present the talk “Public Service Work: Archaeology and the State of Indiana” as one of over 30 archaeology events statewide throughout the month.

The talk, on Sept. 11 at 12:15 p.m. in Indiana University’s Glenn A. Black Laboratory, will feature Amy Johnson, state archaeologist, and Rachel Sharkey, staff archaeologist, from the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. They hope to shed light on what their staff does — not typically digging in a field but rather serving as a management service for all of Indiana.

State Archaeologist Amy Johnson

State Archaeologist Amy Johnson

“There are some basic misconceptions out there about what archaeologists do,” said Johnson. “Sometimes we are out in the field. But we certainly aren’t looking for dinosaur bones — those are paleontologists. And most of our work takes place after the fieldwork.”

Daily activities of a state archaeologist range from compiling environmental reviews and grant assistance to reviewing archaeological sites such as cemeteries and cultural heritage locations.

“We help with grant funds from various offices and programs, not just archaeological projects,” said Sharkey. “Our office often functions as a liaison between the grant recipients and historical preservation sites.”

After decades of housing developments and an expanding highway system that was demolishing historic sites in its path, preservation activists found success in the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. The new legislation created the State Historic Preservation Office and built partnerships from the federal level down to local levels for preservation activities. Today the Indiana office works closely with town and county governments as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service.

Johnson and Sharkey hope to convey to the audience a new sense of what archaeology can look like as a government actor and how it affects the daily lives of Hoosiers.

“We are coming from a state government perspective,” said Johnson. “This is a very different perspective than people who are in the field every day.”

The talk is complemented by a full calendar of events celebrating Archaeology Month in Indiana. Other events include public archaeology days for all ages at state parks and field days. A full list of events can be found on the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s website. The celebration concludes with the Sept. 26 Indiana Archaeology Symposium, which will bring back speakers from the last 20 years of Archaeology Month events.

Other Archaeology Month events at the Glenn Black Lab include “When Americans Dug their Past: Doing Archaeology during the Great Depression,” a talk by Bernard K. Means, director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University, at 4 p.m. on Sept. 18.

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