Archaeological dig reveals Indian, pioneer artifacts 7-07

KOUTS, Ind. (AP) - Volunteers working with a University of Notre Dame archaeologist have unearthed tens of thousands of artifacts including relics from ancient American Indian tribes and from 19th century European fur traders at a site along the Kankakee River.

The team has found arrowheads, pottery, archaic points, animal bones and even a small brass bell this summer, said Mark Schurr, chairman of Notre Dame's anthropology department.

Some of the artifacts date to 8,000 years ago, said Schurr, who's in his fifth year of excavations at the Collier Lodge site south of Kouts, about 25 miles southeast of Gary.

"You never know what you're going to find. We found a new style of pottery that I've never seen before," he said.

The dig along the Kankakee River's tree-filled banks has yielded tens of thousands of artifacts from various time periods.

Schurr said the 3/4-acre site likely has a high concentration of artifacts because it's located along a stretch of the river more easily crossed than others, and was probably used for thousands of years for camp sites and settlements.

Recently, the volunteer diggers from the Kankakee Valley Historical Society unearthed a pioneer-type log cabin dating to the 1830s. Over the coming weeks, Schurr hopes to find more evidence of the day-to-day life of its inhabitants to get a clearer picture of the site's history over the past 10,000 years.

Last year, the group discovered a dense concentration of animal bones that Schurr believes were part of a fur trading camp. A second area filled with animal bones was found this year that apparently dates to a different time period.

Large black pits found several feet beneath the surface were apparently used as roasting pits to cook food and then filled with garbage. The pits could reveal what kind of food was being cooked, what tools were used and during what periods, Schurr said.

"This will give us insight into the kinds of animals traded during different times," he said.

The dig's participants come from various backgrounds and locations, with the current volunteers including music professors, grandparents, students and children.

"I rescheduled my tonsillectomy for this," said 20-year-old Amy Dehmlow, who flew in from Tennessee.


Information from: The Times,