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Archaeological dig gets bigger

Archaeological dig gets bigger
Archaeological dig gets bigger
Historic interpreter M.L. James catalogues a wall unearthed during an archaeological dig on a lot between Gov. Hendricks' Headquarters and the Wright Interpretive Center in Corydon. (Photo by Charles S. Ewry)

Carefully peeling away one layer of soil at a time, archaeologist Bill Wepler began probing the ground between the Gov. Hendricks’ Headquarters and the Wright Interpretive Center on Walnut Street in Corydon about five weeks ago. After several days of digging, sifting and cataloging, Wepler’s two holes, or ‘archeological units,’ had yielded little discovery.
Then he dug a little deeper.
About a foot below ground, Wepler found a stone wall that through various probings has been followed 28 feet so far. The wall extends at least to the modern sidewalk on Walnut Street and much of the length of the headquarters.
The wall is about a foot high and at its base is a brick sidewalk heading in the direction of the Wright Interpretive Center. Wepler is beginning to plot new units to examine and catalog the sidewalk.
It’s probably not an earth-shattering find, but it was significant enough that Wepler’s dig is still underway. He has been joined by two assistants and frequently receives additional help from historic interpreters at the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site.
The dig was required by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Wepler’s employer, before construction could begin on a new historic reproduction ‘ the Coburn-Porter Law Office.
As the group sits in their units, digging, sifting and cataloging beneath a canopy, the scene resembles the unearthing of some Biblical city consumed by the desert. Despite the depth of his find, Wepler’s hypothesis is that the base of the wall was at ground level as recently as 150 years ago.
‘People don’t realize all the filling that goes on in towns,’ Wepler said. ‘Any time they tore something down, a lot of times they just filled it over. If you can read those different layers of fill, you can tell the story.’
Wepler noted that the wall outlines the boundaries of the lot on which the governor’s headquarters rests. He believes the space between the headquarters and Wright Interpretive Center was filled in after William A. Porter became the owner of the two properties in 1837.
‘If it ends up there’s been a lot of filling, we have to be careful about how we deal with (the lot) in future,’ Wepler said.
‘Sometimes if things are dumped over, it’s actually better for the archaeologist than if things have been exposed.’
Wepler said the finds would most likely be cataloged and filled back over. In cases where the ground is going to be altered or otherwise significantly disturbed, he said that finds are sometimes removed and reconstructed. In either case, pains are taken to accurately catalog the discoveries.
In this case, Wepler said the law office may be moved closer to the interpretive center.
‘That would put the law office at least on its original lot,’ he said.