Epsilon II Archaeological Site
Epsilon II is a significant archaeological site on the shores of Lake Monroe in Polk Township, southeast of Bloomington. One of the largest preserved sites from its time period in the region, it has been designated a historic site.
Epsilon II sits on the northern and western edges of a peninsula that juts into Lake Monroe on the grounds of the Ransburg Scout Reservation. Before the lake was impounded in 1965, the site lay in an upland area, occupying a relatively flat and open terrace in the valley of Salt Creek. Soil at the site is largely an acidic mix of silt and loam; it is dotted with many outcrops of Harrodsburg limestone. Since the creation of Lake Monroe, between 25% and 40% of the site has been damaged by coastal erosion due to waves on the lake; the summers of 1979 and 1980 were particularly damaging, due to abnormally high water levels.
In 1976, archaeologists from the Glenn Black Laboratory at Indiana University in Bloomington conducted an intensive field survey of the shores of Lake Monroe, finding over one hundred different sites. The location known as Epsilon II, which was designated "12 MO 133," yielded hundreds of artifacts in an area of about two acres, including four projectile points, seven bifaces, a scraper, two hammerstones, and more than six hundred lithic flakes. These findings were in addition to previously-known discoveries of dozens of projectile points, many of which were of the "Karnak Stemmed" or "Karnak Unstemmed" varieties. Also known as the "Sisson Site," Epsilon II was partially excavated in 1976: using shovels and augers, archaeologists dug small test pits no more than deep and discovered conclusive evidence of a large and undamaged midden at the site. Besides more stone tools, the excavation found fire-damaged rocks and significant amounts of organic materials, such as charcoal and pieces of tree nuts.
Different types of projectile points were found at Epsilon II, including ones made during the Paleoindian, Early through Late Archaic, and Early through Late Woodland periods; however, the largest concentration dates from the middle portion of the Late Archaic period. More than 90% of all points date from various parts of the Late Archaic, which is greater than that of any other nearby site, many of which are predominately Early Archaic. Because most Middle Late Archaic peoples in the eastern portion of the Midwest were nomads, they are little known except from major processing sites, such as large clam shell middens in the valleys of large rivers. Few Middle Late Archaic middens or other sites have been found in upland regions, and many of them have been destroyed by agricultural cultivation. Despite the damage caused by erosion, Epsilon II still has the potential to yield significant information about its inhabitants; the Glenn Black Laboratory concluded that it could provide previously-unknown information about the diets, the lithic technology, and the chronology of its inhabitants. At least three other significant Late Archaic sites, called Axsom Branch, Kappa V, and Refuge #7, are known in the vicinity; at one time, it was hoped to designate them all a historic district because of the possibility that they together might yield information about relationships among the groups that inhabited them.
On March 25, 1986, the Epsilon II Archaeological Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the first archaeological site in Monroe County to receive this distinction. A similar status was accorded to Axsom Branch and Refuge #7 (both of which are in Brown County) on the same day, and Kappa V (also in Monroe County) was so designated just six days later. Both Brown County sites were delisted in September 1995, but the two Monroe County sites remain on the Register to the present day.