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Ancient Artifacts Found Near Kouts
Stratified site near Kouts revealing items dated from 1100 A.D.
By Mike Truax
Post-Tribune Correspondent
January 30, 2004

Mark Schurr feels certain what he discovered last summer around Collier Lodge near Kouts and what may be discovered this summer will shed more light on what daily life may have been like there a thousand years ago.

The wildlife and topography have changed over the last millennium, but what lies under the surface appears much as early man had left it, said the associate professor of archaeology at the University of Notre Dame.

"I expected it to be very heavily eroded and disturbed a great deal," he said. "I found neither to be true."

Schurr said before any digging could be done around the site of the hunting lodge he had to obtain a permit from the state. A map was plotted, followed by a geophysical survey with a series of magnetic surveys with a gradiometer. The instrument plots magnetic hits to a computer printout showing where building foundations, fireplaces and other features may have sat.

Shovel probes provide proof of the findings, with full-scale archaeological excavation possible after; that.

"A 20-centimeter deep shovel probe is normal, but we were as deep as 60 centimeters and still finding historical and prehistoric artifacts," Schurr said. "We were as much as 41/2 feet deep and still turning up more in the midden."

Midden, he said, is soil mixed with garbage, some of it decomposing and some not. There were a few small sites of midden found which produced many artifacts, he said.

Schurr said he expected to find only Civil War and more recent artifacts, nothing as early as what their shovels turned up, artifacts dating as far back as 1100 A.D.

The year 1679 is the earliest recorded date in Indiana, he said. Early maps show the route explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle may have taken through the area. Schurr is confident LaSalle crossed near where Collier Lodge would eventually be built.

Members of the Louisville Gun Club built the hunting lodge around 1878. According to Kankakee Valley Historical Society President John Hodson, Indiana author Lew Wallace, future president Benjamin Harrison and the entrepreneurial Studebaker brothers all spent time hunting waterfowl in the area.

Of the 630 sites recorded in Porter County that could reveal more about earlier life, only two have been known to produce shards or pieces of prehistoric pottery, he said. Collier Lodge is one of them.

"One little flake of chert we found gives us an idea of the Indian's trade route," Schurr said.

The chert is native to the St Louis area. Schurr said it probably got here by traders canoeing from St. Louis up the Mississippi River to the Illinois River then the Kankakee.

Shell-fired potteries dating back to about 1000 A.D., and some earlier than that, were found in the same general area.

"I was astounded to find a stratified site like this," Schurr said.

"It's extremely rare to rind a site like this, meaning unplowed."

Two main areas of the site have turned up the most artifacts, and Schurr believes them to be the site of George Eaton's Ferry in 1836, precursor to the hunting lodge, and possibly a short-term American Indian camp.

Schurr and his archaeology students will return to the site June 14-30. He hopes the 10-hour days they work will be enough to gather sufficient evidence to place the lodge site on the National Register of historic places.