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KVHS Archaeological Project
Digging Up A Treasure Trove
Archaeologists offer assessment of items dozens bring to Kouts Library.
By Charles M. Bartholomew
Post Tribune Correspondent
March 30, 2003

KOUTS - As Kankakee Valley Historical Society president John Hodson lugged two more boxes into the Kouts Public Library, he looked pleased at the almost-full parking lot.

"I'm starting to think maybe we can do this again," he said.

For more than two hours, dozens of people drifting in and out kept the library meeting room full while two professional archaeologists eyeballed cases, bags and pockets full of things that had been picked up from yards and fields.

Jason Shutske, 4, of Kouts pulled out his small rock to show to Mark Schurr, associate professor at Notre Dame.

"Those ripples are wave markings. That's a good one to keep for your collection," Schurr told the boy.

Schurr and Bill Mangold of the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology had come in to help Hodson's 2-year-old group get some attention for its coming excavation of the old Collier Lodge, the last of the old Kankakee Marsh hunting retreats still standing.

"This is all a platform to tell the story of the river. We have to have enough interest so that the building can generate income for our programs," Hodson said.

Hodson said the diggings near Baum's Bridge starting in June will help the society's application to list the lodge on the National Register of Historic Places, which will boost efforts to secure grant money for restoration and educational projects.

"We've got an ambitious program, probably a quarter-million dollars, to restore the building and it's going to take a wide variety of people," he said.

In that end, the group has connected with everyone from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Northwest Indiana Ghost Trackers, Hodson said.

Saturday's road show, an outgrowth of the society's activities with schools and civic groups, drew plenty of the curious of all ages as well as casual and concerted collectors, "That's maybe a gaming stone," was Schurr's assessment of the baseball-sized sphere that Sarah Miller's husband had plucked from an unplowed section of their field.

He said Indians thousands of years ago may have bet on who could place an arrow closest to the stone after it had been tossed.

Children in the audience received a copy of the Department of Natural Resource's "Early Cultures of Indiana Coloring Book."

"That's quite a wide range of cultures and uses there," Mangold told Sue Bell of Wheatfield, who had mounted an array of stone points and tools found near Rochester in Fulton County.

Mangold called the display a good example of trade among prehistoric cultures, since some of the materials were from Carroll County.

Schurr explained that the Indiana Historic Preservation Law defines an artifact as anything from before Dec. 11, 1816, the date of statehood.