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The Ransom Place Archaeology Field School began on May 9, and in the first week we've removed the parking lot that covered the site a week ago and begun to expose the foundations of the Deschler meat-packing shop.  For more information on the Evans-Deschler site, visit the Field School 2001 home page.  In the next week we will clear around the foundations and structural features that were exposed by the backhoe and begin to place excavation units throughout the two yards.

On May 9 (right) we toured the Ransom Place neighborhood and the IUPUI campus with Thomas Ridley, who was born and grew up on Center Street, which is now under an IUPUI parking lot.  Around 1912 and into the 1920's, his grandmother lived on West Street just across the alley from the Evans-Deschler site, so she certainly would have known both the Deschler family and the residents of the Evans boarding house.

grading.jpg (43840 bytes)On May 7, a backhoe was used to mechanically remove the gravel that has been placed on the block since it began to be used as a parking lot (thumbnail right, facing north toward Michigan Street in the background; just click on the thumbnail for a full-size picture).  The backhoe cleared just down below the gravel (about two-feet thick in most places) in a space about 100' square, which was sufficient to uncover the Deschler meat-packing shop and the Evans boarding house that neighbored it.  Using a backhoe to remove soil may seem unusual, but it is a relatively typical excavation method to reach the deposits that we are most interested in digging.  There were no archaeological materials in this parking lot gravel, and this lot was compacted by at least 15 years of cars compressing tons of rocks into a layer a couple feet thick.
The backhoe exposed most of the foundations for the Deschler shop just as they were placed on the Sanborn fire insurance maps, and partial brick structural features were exposed for the Evans boarding house.  As luck would it have it, moments after the backhoe neatly exposed the whole site we were greeted with a torrential downpour, and the newly cleared site provided a handy run-off for the parking lot's rain.

beforeafter.jpg (87285 bytes)Thumbnail left: the site (facing south) immediately after the backhoe removed the parking lot gravel.  In this photograph, the Deschler building is in the foreground, and the Evans boarding house is near the parking barriers.  To the right side of the thumbnail, the same scene the following morning.

Several initial excavation units have been placed within both the Deschler and Evans structures, and we will soon begin testing in the Deschler yard space.   Two units were placed along the north wall of the Deschlers' meat packing shop, which was exposed by the backhoe, and they have revealed a brick destruction level with a light scatter of artifacts (see thumbnail below).

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skimming.jpg (80140 bytes)Thumbnail right: here we are clearing the foundation of the Deschlers'  meat-packing plant.
ed015w.jpg (36883 bytes) Thumbnail left:
This unit is placed within a spot in the Deschler shop where the Sanborn insurance maps indicated the presence of an engine.

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Thumbnails above: This ring (above left) was recovered from a unit within the Deschler shop, and the jewelry fragment (above right) and domino (right) were recovered from units associated with the Evans Boarding House.



This Knights of Pythias pin (left) was recovered from deposits near the bulldozed surface, so it is difficult to reliably date; it was recovered in units associated with the Deschler shop.  Dr. Kenneth Moder, the Indiana state secretary and historian for the Knights of Pythias, identifies this as a circa 1920-1940 membership pin that identified the wearer as a Pythian Knight.  The Order of Knights of Pythias was formed in 1864 and still maintains over 2000 lodges in the US and Canada, including many in Indiana.  The Knights had over 456,000 members in 1896, when many Americans were fraternal society members.  There were at least five Knights of Pythias Organizations, including the Knights of Pythias, a non-associated Knights of Pythias, the Uniform Rank (regular Knights military branch), the Endowment Rank (a group associated with the Knights' insurance group), and the Black Knights of Pythias (African American).  The letters F, C, and B on this pin's face stand for the fraternal organization's mottos of Friendship, Charity, and Benevolence.   There were African-American Pythian lodges in Indiana; for instance, employees in the French Lick and West Baden Springs resorts formed Knights of Pythias and Masonic lodges in the early twentieth century (see This Far By Faith: Black Hoosier Heritage), and an African-American Pythian lodge is still active in Fort Wayne.

If you'd like to see the site yourself, just come by weekdays between 9:00 and 2:30 for a tour of the site.  A tour program for the summer has been generously supported by a grant from the Indiana Humanities Council.

We are always happy to have folks come dig with us for a day or as long as you'd like.  We ask that volunteers plan to spend a full dig day with us, which is from 8:30 to 3:00.  Pre-teens should be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and you should feel physically up to a day of sweating and modestly strenuous activity.  If you are interested in volunteering to dig, please email the Project Director (Paul Mullins) for more information.

Click here to visit the May 27, 2001 Field School report

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