We are blessed with amazingly interesting neighbors. During a recent spring cleaning of their backyard, my neighbor’s father collected the debris, and with twine and wire, he constructed a teepee. It propelled us into some purposeful play and sparked an interest in Native American history.
During a recent excursion to Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville, I noticed that the park had a natural history museum that included exhibits about Native Americans. With just a little online research, I found out that Taylor Center for Natural History was the hub for the archeological work being done at the park.
The Taylor Center offers a free educational tour on most weekends, called Strawtown Enclosure: Native American Village Tour. The tour is free and open to all ages. As of this writing, the tours are offered on the second Saturday of each month at 11 a.m. and the fourth Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Registration is required, and you can sign up for it on hamiltoncounty.in.gov/calendar.
The tour description states: “Our interpretive staff conducts tours of the Strawtown Enclosure, a Native American village that was inhabited over 700 years ago. During these tours we will discuss the Native Americans who built and used the enclosure and see some of the artifacts recovered by archaeologists. The tours begin inside the Taylor Center of Natural History and include a short stroll to the village site.”
My neighbor and I brought five children, ranging in age from 4 to 10. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we hoped that the tour would be able to hold the interest of all of our children.
We met our archeological interpreter at the museum. The museum is small, but incredibly interesting with a variety of artifacts, including some that were interactive.
Starting the tour with images of mammoths and mastodons was a sure-fire way to capture the children’s attention. And the parents! We were standing near a hunting trail where the first Hoosiers, Paleo-Indians, tracked large game animals thousands of years ago. Archaeological investigations unearthed artifacts dating to the end of the most recent ice age.
Our tour leader took us into the park, and filled our imaginations with imagery as we looked at a stretch of what had previously just seemed like a large grassy field. She then led us into the Koteewi Trace, a replicated Native American village site. The giant, life-size structures were inspired by what the archeologist had uncovered in the grassy field we had just left.
Everyone in our group had questions and participated in the tour. The hour flew by!
Places in Indiana to Find Archeological Fun
Our visit to the Taylor Center for Natural History left me wondering what other similar archeological gems Indiana might have. It turns out, there are many! Here are five local trips for the budding archeologist:
- River Road Park This Carmel, Indiana, park offers a playground set for young children which was inspired by archeology. There is also an interpretive building which includes artifacts and information about the Early Archaic and Woodland People who lived in Indiana.
Indiana State Museum
The Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis offers two exhibits of particular interest, including A State of Change Frozen Reign and Indiana’s Founding People: First Nations. Both exhibits are interactive and would easily capture the attention of children and adults.
The Glenn A Black Laboratory of Archeology
This Bloomington destination is a working lab for students and professional, but it also houses a museum and, in non-pandemic times, offers engaging events for the public.
Mounds State Park
This park in Anderson features 10 unique earthworks, or mounds, that were created by the Adena-Hopewell people. Archeologists believe that the mounds were used for religious ceremonies. You can learn more about them at the Nature Center. Each year, Mounds hosts an Archeology Weekend, where visitors can mingle with professionals from the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Natural Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Kids can even participate in fun activities like digging for arrowheads and cookie excavations.
Angel Mounds State Historic Site
This site in Evansville, Indiana, offers a 4-mile hiking trail called the Angel Loop that promises to take you to an unexpected slice of archaeological history and stunning scenery. The Interpretive Center tells the story of the Mississippian people who inhabited this location from 1000-1450 AD.