Cave replicates past era

By Louise M. Koryta

NIU students and faculty can return to prehistoric times and wander inside a paleolithic cave exhibit in the Anthropology Museum.

Milton Deemer, anthropology instructor, built “The Oldest Masters,” a cave depicting the Paleozoic era from 10,000 to 30,000 B.C.

The cave contains drawings which are replicas of those found in France and Spain, said Deemer. He said the originals are about 10,000 to 20,000 years old but the age of the drawings only can be estimated. “They put them in context with other things they can date,” he said.

The drawings were made from enlargements of slides in the NIU collection, Deemer said. He said he picked these particular pieces because they “are some of the most developed pieces” and they depict the era well.

Geosina Willbanks, a receptionist at the museum and a criminal justice major, said it took Deemer about one semester to complete the project. However, Deemer said it actually took 10 months including the designing stage.

According to Deemer, the department will start “improving the exhibits, spending more money, taking longer to design (exhibits) and put more effort into it.”

The Paleolithic cave is a permanent part of the museum, and Deemer said there might be more in the future. The cave, which he estimated cost $1,000, was funded primarily by the anthropology department.

Deemer said some genuine caves in Europe have been closed because large numbers of tourists walking through the caves can cause a build-up of algae on the walls. Ultraviolet light also can break down items in caves and museums.

Deemer said replicas are becoming more popular in order to preserve the originals.

Willbanks said the department has thousands of other artifacts in the basement. She said some are not brought up because they are so valuable and, added Deemer, because of the lack of space.

Deemer runs the museum with the help of other faculty members. He said they have helped with their support and research. “They help with ideas, and if I have questions I can go to them,” he said.

Deemer has not gone on expeditions but he would like to go to Southern Asia. Because his main interest is museums, Deemer said if he were to go on an expedition he would spend most of his time in museums rather than in the field.

The cave exhibit and the entire museum can be seen in the Stevens Building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.