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IU South Bend students dig up the past for archaeology field school class

The weedy, rubble-filled vacant lot near Coveleski Regional Stadium in South Bend was once home to a tin shop adjacent to a boarding house.

Urban Dig

IU South Bend students in an archaeological field class conducted a dig in a vacant lot that was once home to a tin shop. Leading the expedition was Jay VanderVeen, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at IU South Bend.

With assistance from his archaeology field school class, IU South Bend Assistant Professor of sociology and anthropology Jay VanderVeen recently explored, dug and examined bits and pieces from south of the former Sons of Israel Synagogue in search of items from the past.

The students measured off meter-by-meter squares, examining one layer at a time. One area was near an alley, another near the synagogue's exterior wall and another near the boarding house. Using whiskbrooms, students dusted away soil for a better view of the objects. Buckets of materials were sent to a screen, where relics of the past were sifted out from the dirt and rocks.

The students retrieved more than 100 plastic bags of found items, which will now be examined and cleaned more carefully back on campus. "We've found a horseshoe and small things like ceramics, pieces of glass and animal bone fragments," VanderVeen said.

Mike Passini, a senior from South Bend, examined his dig area, a deep hole lined with bricks and what looked like old water pipes. "The jury is still out on what they are," he said.

Theresa Barnett, a sophomore from South Bend, hoped the former residents of the area had dropped interesting items in the alley, but the residents seemed fairly neat.

The class spent two weeks at the first site before moving to another dig site near the Center for History on West Washington Street. That area at one time housed a drug store and ice cream store that VanderVeen hoped that would produce some interesting objects.