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.


  • 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

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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim