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Researchers Seek Origin Of National Forest’s ‘Mystery Domes’

An archaeologist works on the excavation site in the Hoosier National Forest with a "mystery dome" behind him.

After a week of excavations, Indiana University researchers say they have developed some theories about what mysterious rock structures in the Hoosier National Forest could be.

Volunteers and archaeologists have been excavating a 19th to early 20th century German farmstead near the Ohio River where they have found 10 so-called mystery domes made up of stacked stones—some as tall as six feet high.

Heritage Resource Specialist Angie Krieger says while her team hasn’t come to any set conclusion on what the domes are, they do have several theories—including one that attributes the formations to the Civilian Conservation Corp—the public work relief program developed during the Great Depression.

“Anywhere from field clearing to some kind of stock piling,” Krieger. “The CCCs were very active in the German era in the ‘30s and ‘40s and did a lot of building and construction with stone.”

Timothy Baumann is the archeology curator at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in Tennessee and has been working on the project.  He says the most recent excavations have left the domes’ origins unresolved, but he says a lack of evidence for some theories can help point them in the right direction.

“The mystery is that there really isn’t any trash or any artifacts left around them, so our goal was actually to try to do some more scientific study looking around excavating around as well as into at least one of the mounds to see if there’s anything in there to tell us what function, what these things were used for,” Baumann said.

The researchers are still analyzing the data and hope to soon be able to pinpoint the domes’ age and origin.

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