An archaeological dig at southern Indiana's Angel Mounds complex has uncovered a pottery-making operation that reveals the artistic skills of the Indians who lived there hundreds of years ago.
Indiana University researchers believe they've uncovered remains of a potter's house once used by the Indians who inhabited the area overlooking the Ohio River from 1100 to 1450 A.D.
Excavations have revealed pottery tools and masses of prepared but unfired clay awaiting shaping into bowls, jars or figures which suggest that the structure that once stood there was used to make the pottery now found in shards across the site.
"This is the best collection of pottery tools ever found here," Chris Peebles, director of IU's Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, told Evansville Courier & Press.
The finds at the site a few miles south of Evansville have also revealed some of the ancient tricks Angel Mounds' inhabitants used to strengthen their clay creations.
The excavations reveal that the Indians of the Middle Mississippian culture used ground mussel shells to temper clay for pottery, making it stronger and easier to shape.
Scientists began studying the site last year after an underground imaging device called a magnetometer showed the remains of more than 100 homes and a stockade wall thousands of feet long in the grassy fields near the site's 10 mounds.
"In terms of the quality of archaeological learning, this is first rate," Peebles said.
He and research fellow Staffan Peterson are being assisted on this year's dig by 17 students from eight Midwestern universities.
"It's really interesting to think about the people who lived here and to try to imagine what their life was like," said Ashley Metzger, a University of Evansville student.
The students have uncovered dozens of pot shards, as well as bones, disc-shaped pieces of coal and shells.
Researchers also have found evidence of a flint-working operation at the site, where the Middle Mississippian Indians hunted and farmed on the rich bottom lands of the Ohio River.
The Indian community that once thrived at Angel Mounds is renowned among archaeologists for the quality of the pottery left behind there.
Last year, the researchers discovered two deer jawbones that appeared to have been carefully buried within the house, perhaps as part of a consecration ritual.