When reflecting on Indiana history, we most often consider the last two centuries—only occasionally delving into the century or two prior to that. In 2003, however, Indiana distinguished itself as a preeminent location for the study of pre -history. The opening of the Stone Age Institute in northern Monroe County marked a new era for the study of early human evolution and culture. The world’s first facility devoted to Stone Age research was created and is co-directed by anthropologists Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth, who also co-direct Indiana University’s Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology.
Although the Institute is autonomous, it has close ties with the university, serving as a resource for IU scientists and a destination for others. In addition to the work underway at the Bloomington facility’s labs, the institute sponsors archeological and paleontological research in areas of the world where evidence of early tool-making has been discovered, along with studies of modern animals and people.
Nestled in a rolling park-like landscape, the Stone Age Institute is housed in a contemporary, light-filled structure distinguished by its use of local stone; over a million pounds of sandstone, limestone and quartzite from Indiana and Kentucky were used in its construction. A 35-foot circular stone tower recalls a prehistoric Scottish castle. The center’s library comprises a donation of 50,000 books and articles from the late Berkeley anthropologist J. Desmond Clark. Among the artifacts on display at the center are digging sticks used by primatologist Jane Goodall, contrived by the chimpanzees with which she worked.