"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Indiana Stone Head Artifact (or what I gave up)


STONE HEAD ARTIFACT
Early American Rare Effigy

The sandstone head artifact was plowed during the clearing of a 10,000-acre ancestral farm estate near the tiny town of Carlos in Randolph County Indiana. The great-grandfather of the farm's current owner discovered the artifact. Until 1999, the stone head remained in the basement of one of the farm estate's seven homes. I acquired the artifact in 1999 and researched it. The artifact is 10.5" in height and 6" wide. It is relative in size to a human head and in weight to a bowling ball.

For many generations, this artifact remained in the the possession of the family who originally homesteaded the property where the artifact was found. I am the second owner of the artifact. Every expert I contacted indicated that they are unaware of any stone effigy of its size (life sized) that has been found anywhere in North America.

My research concludes that the artifact was most likely carved by pre-civil war African American who escaped via the Underground Railroad, as the object was found very close to the Levi Coffin home in Newport (Fountain City, Indiana) . Coffin, a Quaker, was often called "The President of the Underground Railroad". Together, with his wife, they helped more than 2,000 slaves escape to freedom in the North.

Rick Jones, State Archaeologist
Jim Mohow, Archeologist
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Historic Preservation & Archeology

The object was presented to the state archeologist's office in July 1999. Both archaeologists who examined the artifact confirmed that the oxidation present is at least 100 years and could possibly be hundreds of years old. In addition the archaeologists were able to confirm that the head was carved from sandstone rock deposited in the Randolph County Indiana area and was carved using stone instruments. Based on their knowledge of found or excavated artifacts in Indiana, they were unable to identify any similar effigies from the eastern United States, nor were they able to confirm who may have carved the artifact. They offered that the artifact might have been carved by a 19th century Randolph County settler, and if so would be considered a rare primitive, as wood, rather than stone, was the favorite medium for carvers of that time. They agreed that the object was quite rare and suggested it be kept in a secure location and that the object be presented to the Glen Black lab in Bloomington and the Indianapolis Museum of Art and an appraisal be obtained.

Bob McCullough, Archaeologist
Glen Black Laboratory of Archeology at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

The object was presented to Mr. McCullough in July 1999. he was unaware of any other sandstone head unearthed anywhere in Indiana. he indicated in pre-civil war Randolph County there was a large African American population who arrived via the Underground Railroad settlement, as it was found near the Levi Coffin home near Richmond Indiana. He felt strongly that the object was carved by a member of that community in the style of the traditional arts and crafts.

Tom Cavanaugh, Curator of Collections
Mathers Museum, Bloomington, IN

Mr Cavanaugh was unaware of a similar artifact found in Indiana and agreed the oxidation present was very old. He also indicated that small effigies are found in Indiana, particularly among burial sites, but was unaware of any stone head of its size found in Indiana. he agreed with Mr. McCullough that the object could be the work of an early African American.

Ted Celenko, Curator of African South Pacific and Pre-Columbian Art
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN

Photographs and research summary were submitted by mail to the museum. Mr. Celenko telephone me with his remarks. he stated that he was unaware of any similar sandstone artifacts. he offered that the object's nose and brow had suffered quite a bit of damage and was probably sculpted more finely that it appears today. He had no judgment for the age of the object or who may have made it.

Ray Gonyea, Associate Curator for Native American Affairs
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art, Indianapolis, IN

the object was presented to the Eiteljorg Museum in September 1999. Mr. Goneya believed that the object could be Native American, as there is evidence it may have been sculpted with tools characteristic of Native Americans. he stated that the nose was probably drilled with a pointed flint tool (confirming the Indiana State Archaeologists opinion it was made with stone tools) and the eyes were carved with an unusual reed tool. The reed tool was used by pouring sand and water through the opening of the hollow reed and rotating the reed between the sculptor's hands thus utilizing the sand, water, and friction to carve. In addition he felt certain that the scrapes present on the right side of the object were plow marks, as there is no oxidation there and the scrapes are indicative of those made from a heavy plow. he asked if the object was for sale and kept photos to show the other staff of the museum who were unavailable that morning. He also mentioned that possibly a similar stone effigy exists in Buffalo Museum of Science in New York. Subsequently, I was unable to find a similar object in the Buffalo Museum.

The accompanying photographs were taken immediately upon my acquisition of the artifact in 1999. The white smudges are plaster dust from the basement where the object was kept during for several decades. The plaster and dust on the object was brushed away using a soft brush. No other attempt to clean the object has been made.

1 comment:

Jay Short said...

It is unclear in reading this how the artifact is associated with Fountain City, if it was discovered in Carlos, Indiana by a farmer where numerous Indian artifacts including mounds built by the Indians are known to exist. These towns are several miles away. Seems most likely to be an Indian artifact.

Where is the object today?