IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: No bones about it, State Museum mounts a mammoth show

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

A room of cornstalks might seem like an odd welcoming tableau for “Ice Age Giants,” the State Museum’s new exhibition about mammoths and mastodons—until you look closer and see the massive bones behind the fence.

These remnants belonged to mammoths and mastodons (more on the difference later), creatures that roamed Indiana in the ancient days before basketball ruled the land. The subtle introduction effectively demonstrates how routine the unearthing of prehistoric bones has become in Indiana—not just in rural parts of the state, but also in Indianapolis.
 

ae-20131112-114220-lls-15col.jpg Mastodons and mammoths populate this new exhibition. (Photo courtesy of Indiana State Museum)

From the cornfield, a boardwalk with audio transports visitors into a dig site, most of it for display only, but with a corner for hands-on exploration. Parental patience is a requisite here. Rather than rush the kids along while they are engaged, take time out yourself and lay hands on an actual 10,000-year-old bone, almost nonchalantly attached to the wooden fencing.

As you step down from the boardwalk, an effective push-button presentation plots points on a map where remains have been discovered—and where the State Museum leads the way in unearthing and examining these fascinating finds. In this, the second main area of the exhibition, science—and fun facts—take over. Mammoths and mastodons, we learn, are about as closely related as cats and dogs, with mammoths having closer family ties to today’s elephants. Bones take on the color of the soil where they are buried in a kind of multi-thousand-year dye job.

Thanks to interactives, we can hear the difference between the creatures throwing a temper tantrum, singing a love song, or

shouting a warning. And we can appreciate that, while the romantic notion of discovering an intact bone holds sway, that image glosses over the hard work done by scientists, who sometimes have to assemble bones from hundreds of fragments.

And, yes, there are lots of bones, including a 250-pound skull. Plus teeth, lots of them, some included on models with moving jaws that show how they chewed.


ae-20131112-115354-15col.jpg A replica of a bone dig has both hands-on and hands-off sections. (Photo courtesy of Indiana State Museum)

Lest such an exhibit slip by without some disgusting facts, the museum offers grizzly details about how foot pads detach days after death, leaving bones available to carcass scavengers.

The third section, the Hall of Giants, features larger collections of bones, including some assembled into a real bone mount of a mastodon that formerly resided in Allen County. It faces off against the cast of a mammoth from Wisconsin with time-lapse video showing how both were constructed.

Here (photo op alert) you can also grab a spear and, thanks to video, get a sense of what it was like to stand in the path of a charging mammoth.

FYI: There are also some interesting legalities included here as well. For instance, if you discover bones on your property, congratulations, you own them. Just let the Indiana State Museum know about them, OK? As demonstrated here, the folks here know what to do with them.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Nice job
    Nice job, Lou. It makes me feel like I'm there, and that I want to go back and experience it all.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

  4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

  5. Indy-area residents... most of you have no idea how AMAZING Aurelio's is. South of Chicago was a cool pizza place... but it pales in comparison to the heavenly thin crust Aurelio's pizza. Their deep dish is pretty good too. My waistline is expanding just thinking about this!

ADVERTISEMENT