This week we were visited by researcher Christine Keller, a Master’s student with Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. While she was here I sat down to talk to her about her research, Glacial Kame Sandal Sole Gorgets: An Exploration of Manufacture, Use, Distribution, and Public Exhibition.
Pansing: Christine thank you so much for taking time away from your research to answer a few question about what you are working on. Keller: Glad to do it!
Pansing: How did you become interested in archaeology? Keller: I have always been interested in archaeology and my family has done a lot of traveling to National Parks and historic sites. So when I decided to pursue my second Master’s degree (my first was an MBA) I decided to get one in a topic that I was really interested in.
Pansing: What are sandal sole gorgets? Keller: They are made of whelk shell and resemble the sole of a sandal, hence the name. The shells come from the Gulf of Mexico and are found in Glacial Kame burials (3000 B.C. to 500 B.C.). It is assumed that they were suspended around the neck or worn on clothing but that is something we don’t know. How were they made, what was their purpose, how did they get here and where else can they be found, and how can we best analyze and portray the story of the gorgets to the public are all questions that that I will be investigating for my thesis.
Pansing: What drew you to study them for your thesis? Keller: A couple things made this project intriguing to me. I grew up close to (and actually worked at for a short time) the Fort Recovery State Museum, an Ohio Historical Society Site which is operated by the Fort Recovery Historical Society. They have a display of 13 gorgets and when I told my professor about them he was really interested because they are fairly rare. In addition there is a lack of current research on the subject. And finally the Fort Recovery State Museum is interested in revamping the gorget exhibit. By doing this study I hope to be able to answer my thesis questions and be able to better inform the public about these rare and exotic pieces. Unlike some research that stays on a shelf in a library mine has the potential of impacting visitors to the site.
Pansing: How many have you looked at so far? Keller: From what I have found out, there are somewhere around 100 known gorgets. Some are in museums and some are in private collections. All told I have analyzed 66 so far.
Pansing: What does your analysis consist of? Keller: I am taking measurements of each gorget, including measurements and ratios of the holes. Detailed microscopic examination of etching and markings, wear patterns on the gorget and holes. The data and associated photographs will be put into a spreadsheet for analysis and report writing purposes. The information will be compared with data from existing literature to see if it supports past hypotheses on manufacture, use, and distributions or if new theories emerge.
Pansing: What is the neatest thing you have found so far? Keller: Actually there are a few things. I recently took an historic archaeology class as part of my studies. For the class I did research on how historic Native Americans used gorgets in the mid to late 1800’s. I looked at how they were suspended and this made me wonder if this is how shell gorgets were suspended in the past. Another thing I discovered is that Glacial Kame burials, which have been primarily found in northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, southern Michigan and southern Ontario, have also been found on the east coast.
Pansing: Was it pretty easy to find literature to help in your research? Keller: There are a two books, one by Cunningham and one by Converse. Other than that there are multiple small articles and site reports.
Pansing: What goes into doing a Master’s thesis? Keller: First thing and often the hardest is to come up with a topic. I was fortunate and had mine right away. You need a well defined research design; what you will study and why, research methods and listing of available literature. At the end of the research phase you start writing. You list and discuss all of your information, draw your conclusions and make recommendations for future research. So far I have around 500 hours put into the project and I would guess I am over halfway done. Pansing: Well we certainly wish you good luck and look forward to seeing the Thesis once it is complete! Keller: Thanks!