The Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology has been associated with Angel Mounds State Historic Site for approximately 75 years. Because direct evidence about the Mississippian era people of Angel Mounds exists only in the archaeological record and not in any written record, our knowledge about these times and people is greatly enriched through careful excavation and examination of objects left behind. Mississippian culture originated in the Mississippi River Valley approximately A.D. 800 and spread east and south from there, encompassing what we know as the American southeast today. They may have had many languages, and the culture may have been shared by many different groups, but evidence like pottery types suggests shared traits.
The site was inhabited from A.D.1000 to A.D 1450, and during this period up to 1,000 people may have lived there at any one time. Angel Mounds is thought to have been a political, religious, and social hub for the people living along the Ohio River. These residents were likely horticulturalists/agriculturalists who supplemented their diets with fish and freshwater mussels from the nearby river and game from the surrounding lands.
The people of Angel Mounds had a complex social system that included mound building, extensive trade with others in the region, hunting, farming, and the construction of elaborate stockades and earthworks. For reasons yet unknown, the site was abandoned long before Europeans arrived in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1852 the site was purchased by the Angel family. The land remained in the Angel family until it was sold in 1938.
By 1938 the significance of the site had been realized and the land was purchased from the Angel family by the State Historical Society with money donated by Eli Lily. Angel Mounds was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 due to its archaeological and cultural significance. Today work is ongoing at Angel in a variety of ways. In addition to periodic field schools/excavations, archaeologists associated with the Glenn Black Lab, IU, IUPUI, and other institutions are re-examining many existing collections to learn about topics as diverse as health, nutrition, architecture, and social structure. The daily work that goes into preserving and interpreting such a valuable resource is conducted by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corporation. This site is accessible to the public. More information about the site and the interpretive center located there can be found at the following sites: