2017 Anthropology Day Videos

Yesterday was the American Anthropological Associations Anthropology Day.  Campus Archaeology participated by posting a series of short videos showcasing some of the projects and outreach we had conducted over the past week.  Here are the permanent links to those videos:

  1. CAP Fauna with Autumn Beyer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8tmhEvouXY
  2. CAP Ceramics with Jeff Painter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtiS_ijzhkQ
  3. CAP Outreach with Susan Kooiman, MAS talk on prehistoric site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL9tw_5jEJQ
  4. CAP Director – Inside Dr. Goldstein’s Office: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT6tkH0SZb8
  5. CAP – Campus Archaeologist with Lisa Bright: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5AU5XJKGG8


2017 Campus Archaeology Field School

Announcing the 2017 Campus Archaeology Field School!

We are pleased to once again offer our on-campus field school.  This five week field school will take place May 30th – June 30th, 2017.  The class takes places Monday through Friday from 9am – 4pm. Students enroll for 6 credits of ANP 464. This class is open to MSU students and non-MSU students. There is a $150 equipment fee that is used to supply students with excavation tools.  At the end of the field school students will keep this toolkit. Space is limited to 20 students, and applications are due to Dr. Goldstein (lynneg@msu.edu) by March 5th.

Through excavation, lab work, and digital outreach students will examines several unique and interesting places on MSU’s historic campus.  In this course students will get the opportunity to actively engage in archaeological research. You will learn excavation methods, survey techniques, how to map and record an excavation unit, laboratory methods, cultural heritage and digital outreach engagement, as well as an introduction to archival research.

This summer we plan to excavate in two areas: Beal’s Botanial Lab and Station Terrace.

Beals Lab:

Beal in the botanical garden. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Beal in the botanical garden. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Dr. Beal is an important person in early campus history.  Though Beal served as a botany professor at MSU (then MAC) from 1871-1910, he made mark on campus that survives to this day.  The Beal botanical garden (directly east of the MSU main library), established in 1873 is the oldest continuously operated university botanical garden in the U.S.  Beal also started, what is today, one of the longest continuously running experiments in the world!  In 1879 Beal buried 20 bottles containing seeds with the intent to see how long a seed could lay dormant and still germinate.  The next bottle is scheduled to be dug up and opened in 2020.  The location of the experimental bottles is a closely held campus secret.  Beal was known as an incredibly eccentric professor, and the design of his first botanical laboratory was fittingly eccentric as well.

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal's Botanical Lab after the fire - March 1890. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Beal’s Botanical Lab after the fire – March 1890. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Built in 1879 (more detail), this building burned to the ground on March 23rd 1890.  Although specific details about the fire have been lost over time, we do know that lab equipment (such as microscopes) was salvaged from the wreckage and the fire prompted the university to establish a fire brigade. We’ve established that portions of the building foundation still exists, and field school students will have the opportunity to excavate in this location.

Station Terrace

Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace stood at the souther end of what is now the Abbot street entrance.  This building was constructed between 1892-1895 and originally housed visiting scholars from the experimental research stations. It was also later used to house bachelor faculty members, the East Lansing Post Office, and the Flower Pot Tea room (read more). The building was moved off campus in the early 20s but the foundation, as well as many artifacts remain.  After excavations at Beal’s lab it’s expected that the field school will move to this second location.

For more information about the field school, head on over to the field school webpage.

Download the application. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have here, on Twitter, or email Dr. Goldstein directly.






Privy Seed Germination Experiment: Introduction to Intern Becca Albert’s Project

Hi, I’m Becca Albert, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester.  I participated in the 2015 field school, volunteered in the CAP lab last year, and worked on the field crew last summer. My internship project for this semester includes testing to see whether seeds found in the West Circle privy in June 2015 will germinate. These seeds were identified as raspberry seeds (id courtesy of Dr. Katie Egan-Bruhy) it will be difficult to determine what species they are until they grow (if they grow!) The privy is dated to campus’s Phase I (1855-1870), with diagnostic artifacts dating to the 1860’s and 1870’s. University archival records of the Board of Trustee meeting minutes from 1875 indicate that Beal ordered around 300 raspberry bushes to be planted on campus. Whether these were for botanical experiments or for food sources is unknown, however it is unlikely that these weren’t used as a food source, as foraging for berries in the area and farming was a great contributor of food for the students. Financial records from Saint’s Rest also indicate that the boarding hall was purchasing upwards of 130 quarts of berries a week during the summer. Again, no specific species is indicated, but this does provide archival evidence of berry consumption. These seeds were found in association with a flower pot, so although these could have been digested, these could also have been the product of a failed botanical experiment.

Seed from the privy under magnification. Image source: Amy Michael

Seed from the privy under magnification. Image source: Amy Michael

The seeds I am using for my experiment were first separated from 10 grams of night soil by hand and then weighed. The total weight of all the seeds was 0.2 grams, so not a very hefty sample size. These seeds were evaluated under a stereomicroscope to make sure what we picked out were actually seeds, and were counted. The total number of seeds from this sample was 174 seeds – that’s about .001 of a gram for each seed. To test whether these seeds germinate, we will be using two experimental methods. The first method is a simpler experiment, like one that you might try as an elementary school experiment – this follows some of the thinking for an experiment I tried with Lima beans in third grade! Several seeds will be placed in between some damp paper towels, which will then be placed on a plate, and sealed into a plastic bag. This bag will then be placed somewhere warm, like on top of a refrigerator, and will be checked periodically to see whether some of the seeds germinate. The sealed plastic bag will allow the moisture and humidity inside the bag to stay constant, however after a week or so, these paper towels will be replaced with new moist paper towels both to prevent mold, germinated seeds from attaching to the paper towel, and to increase the humidity inside the bag periodically. These methods are adapted from this article from the SFGate Home Guides Website, however many modes of basic seed germination follow steps similar to these.

Man digging up seeds for viability experiment, likely H. T. Darlington. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Man digging up seeds for viability experiment, likely H. T. Darlington. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The second method is one that is more scientifically rigorous, and includes following methods that are used in Beal’s famous seed longevity experiment. Beal’s experiment essentially asks the question of how long can a seed lie dormant before it cannot germinate. This experiment is in its 137th year, with the next experiment occurring in 2020. The previous testing year for the Beal seed experiment reported three species as germinating, with around a 46% success rate for one species, a 2% success rate from a second species, and a 4% success rate for the third species (Telewski 2002). CAP is working under the assumption that the privy was likely damaged in the 1876 fire that destroyed Saints Rest, making these seeds 3 years older than the Beal seeds.

My experiment includes placing approximately 50 seeds in a growth chamber for a specified day/night cycle, humidity, and temperature. The seeds themselves are placed in a pre-determined soil mixture and kept in damp soil. The seeds will be checked periodically to see if germination occurred, and to keep the soil damp. Following the methods used for Beal’s experiment will not provide an opportunity to test their methods, but is also an homage to the man who provided a lot MSU’s more interesting early history.

Several scientists around the world have been able to germinate seeds from prehistoric contexts (Sallon 2008, Yashina 2012). Archaeologists in the United States have found seeds in historic privy excavations however, germination experiments have not been attempted because they are generally larger assemblages with a variety of species and a greater importance has been placed on determining the species present (Trigg 2011, Meyers 2011, Beaudry 2010, Dudek 1998). If these seeds germinate, it would be an interesting addition to the germination of seeds well past their prime.

Stay tuned for updates as the experiment progresses!


MSU Archives & Historical Collections:
– Madison Kuhn Collection Volume 82, Folder 11, Box 2531, Collection IA 17.107 (Records for July 1870).
– UA 1 State Board of Agriculture/Board of Trustee Records. Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1875

Meyers, Ciana Faye, 2011. The Marketplace of Boston: Macrobotanical Remains from Faneuil Hall. Thesis.

Beaudry, M. C, 2010. Privy to the feast: eighty to supper tonight. Table Settings: The Material Culture and Social Context of Dining in the Old and New Worlds AD, pp. 1700-1900.

Dudek, Martin G., Lawrence Kaplan, and Marie Mansfield King, 1998. Botanical Remains from a Seventeenth-Century Privy at the Cross Street Back Lot Site. Historical Archaeology, pp. 63-71.

Meyers, Ciana Faye, 2011. The Marketplace of Boston: Macrobotanical Remains from Faneuil Hall. Thesis.

Sallon, Sarah, Elaine Solowey, Yuval Cohen, Raia Korchinsky, Markus Egli, Ivan Woodhatch, Orit Simchoni, and Modechai Kislev, 2008. Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed. Science 5882(320), pp. 1464.

Telewski, FW and JAD Zeevaart, 2002. The 120-yr period for Dr. Beal’s seed viability experiment. American Journal of Botany, 89(8), pp. 1285-1288.

Trigg, Heather, Susan Jacobucci, and Marisa D. Patalano, 2011. Parasitological and Macrobotanical Analyses of a Late 18th Century Privy, Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Yashina, Svetlana, Stanislav Gubin, Stanislav Maksimovich, Alexandra Yashina, Edith Gakhova, and David Gilichinsky, 2012. Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000 y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109(10) pp. 4008-4013.

How to Germinate with Paper Towels. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/germinate-paper-towels-22813.html


MSU Campus Archaeology & Day of Archaeology

Today is officially Day of Archaeology (#dayofarch). http://www.dayofarchaeology.com
Here at Michigan State, we have finished the field school, completed most construction-related projects, and are cleaning artifacts, organizing things and preparing for the new school year. I (Lynne Goldstein) am personally doing conference calls and trying to catch up on a variety of things that are due.

The field school was in a great location this year – along the river and right behind the Administration Building. The location was not only lovely and prime territory for duck and goose watching, but it is also a high traffic area, with lots of people – including administrators – walking by daily. Here is a shot I took from the Provost’s office: IMG_1788

And here is our end-of-dig crew shot: IMG_2092

Archaeological work outside the field may sound dull, but it really is not always the case, as I noted yesterday on Facebook:
“Sometimes meetings are very enjoyable. Just returned from a meeting about new campus historical markers, focusing on the “Sleepy Hollow” area. MSU wants to include info on the prehistoric site we found at the edge of the hollow, as well as info the MSU Campus Archaeology Program has on historic sites and events in the area.
After the meeting, we went and inspected a couple of sites, then I visited the Beal Botanical Garden because all of the Eastern Agricultural Complex domesticates were blooming – goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), marshelder (Iva annua), and squash (Cucurbita pepo).”

The Lansing State Journal ran an article this week on archaeology in Michigan, and we are very pleased that we are featured, along with Fort Michilimackinac and others.

The field school excavated a really interesting historic site that was apparently a single dump episode – in 1924, the head of grounds for the campus (also a Professor of Horticulture) remodeled and modernized his house and used the construction debris as fill for a low spot along the river, not far from the house. Everything we found dates from 1890s-1925. Field school students blogged about the work and what they found, and you can find those posts here:

Our regular CAP posts continue, and this link tells you about the outhouse we found which is probably linked to Saints Rest, the very first dormitory on campus. We are very excited about this find because we have been searching for an outhouse associated with the dorm for a long time. Archaeologists like outhouses (well, old ones that don’t smell anymore) because no one goes after anything they dropped into one, and people also often used them as a dump for debris.

We do have some sidewalk work to do on campus, and this often yields really interesting things. The University replaces sidewalks with some regularity (they are now trying to install “green” sidewalks everywhere), and there is often undisturbed stuff beneath the old sidewalks.

CAP- Year in Review

As the final week of the semester winds down, CAP wanted to look back at all we’ve accomplished this year. In addition to our public outreach projects, which included Michigan Archaeology Day, Science Fair at Bennett Woods Elementary, Science Fest at East Olive, and the Haunted Campus Tour, our CAP fellows have been hard at work on their own projects and papers.

Katy Meyers-Emery

This semester, I’ve been working on a number of projects. The first is research into the history, archaeology and perceptions of the Sacred Space. This work will be presented at the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values Conference as part of the SAA sponsored session. The second is preparing for the summer Campus Archaeology field school. I will be the Teaching Assistant for the field school, which is an exciting opportunity for me to learn to teach in this unique manner. In addition to these two projects, I also helped with the creation of a game for Science Fest and other kid’s archaeological events. The game involves a mock stratigraphy with different types of soil based on what they think the artifact is and how old they think it is. I helped develop a proposal for a sustainability grant, and also tested out some new digital methods of recording in the field. As usual, I have blogged throughout the semester on a variety of topics, helped to maintain and update the website and aided in Science Fest.

Nicole Geske

I researched the best way to approach our outreach. From seeing what others have done for their archaeological outreach, it was determined that we should instead focus on creating “toolboxes” that could be loaned out to various teachers or educators. These have not been fully completed as of yet, but we have a list of topics and materials that would be included within them. At this point, we just need to create them. It was also determined that there were some instances that were better suited for us to interact with students directly, especially for campus- based events, suh as Science Fest and Grandparents University. For these events,  I developed and modified activities that could be utilized. I also examined sustainability through time on campus for our presentation at the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values Conference in May. Finally, I accessioned and cataloged the collections from previous excavations and field work on campus.

Josh Burbank

This year my projects included completing a panel on the history of students at MSU to be displayed at the new Graduate School location in Chittenden Hall. I’ve been working with Amy on the presentation for the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values Conference. Our paper seeks to understand if “gendered” spaces can be predicted on campus. Throughout the year I conducted research at the University Archives to learn more about MSU’s original Engineering Building, which was destroyed by a fire in 1916, and Wells Hall #2, which was demolished in 1966 to make room for an addition to the Main Library. This research was done in preparation for the upcoming field school.

Amy Michaels

During the fall semester I worked on two different panels for the Chittenden Hall displays. The first panel reviewed the history of the building through time, while the second panel focused on the history of Lab Row. Throughout both semesters, i continued to collect data from the University Archives for the gendered landscape project. A summary of the project will be presented at the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values Conference. Finally, I completed a draft of the gendered landscape paper the I will work on with Dr. Goldstein to submit for publication.

Lisa Bright

This year I focused on the completion of a panel for the Chittenden display. The panel discussed the relationship between CAP and Graduate School. This spring, I spent extensive time in the archives researching the possible origin of the Hannah Admin assemblage. Kate and I were able to locate a possible source for the high quality ceramics, the Ana Bayha Home Management House. Finally, I’ve been working with Nicole and Amy on a presentation for the the Cultural Landscape and Heritage Values Conference on MSU’s sustainability practices through time.

Blair Zaid

I’ve had three major projects this year.  The first was the Sacred Space panel for Chittenden Hall. I integrated the work of previous CAP fellows with what I learned from the cultural heritage course with Dr. Goldstein to create a publicly accessible display of the links between MSU, archaeology, and cultural heritage. My year long project in 3D technology has introduced me to a number of resources and people through twitter, campus, and plain old face-to-face conversations. My ultimate goal was to identify a free and easy way to display 3D pictures of on the CAP website.  This project is still underway and as I’ve teamed up with members of MSU LEADR to bring the project to completion this summer. For my last major project I am working with Kate on a presentation for the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values conference. This paper will explore potential relationships between MSU’s prehistoric site to their cultural heritage initiatives. Ultimately, we are attempting to come up with some meaningful ideas for how to incorporate local Native American pasts into MSU’s present.

Meet CAP’s Fall Fellows

Kate Frederick– Kate is a fourth year PhD student, and is beginning her second year as Campus Archaeologist. Though her dissertation research revolves around hunter-gatherer food storage practices in northern lower Michigan, she has found a true passion in the history of MSU. For her final year as Campus Archaeologist, Kate’s goals are to continue to make CAP a sustainable program by organizing, analyzing, accessioning CAP’s collections and disseminating CAP’s research.


Katy Meyers– Katy is a fifth year PhD candidate studying mortuary archaeology. Her research specifically focuses on examining the spatial relationship between cremation and inhumation burials in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. She enjoys working both in the field and on various projects on the digital side of archaeology. She has been an active member of the Campus Archaeology Program since her first year at MSU and is a proud Spartan. Over the next year, she will be helping CAP to accession their sites, working on a cultural heritage plan for MSU and developing a more enhanced GIS system. You can learn more about her personal research and interests at www.bonesdontlie.com, and follow her on Twitter @bonesdontlie


Lisa Bright– Lisa is a first year PhD student in the Anthropology Department, here at MSU. Her specific research interests include mortuary archaeology, bioarchaeology and paleopathology. Her current research focuses on paleopathology in a late 19th/early 20th century paupers cemetery in Northern California. Although Lisa is new to CAP, she participated in the first Saint’s Rest field school during her undergrad years here, back in 2005. Lisa is very excited to be reconnecting with the program and assisting with the history of MSU exhibit that will be in the newly renovated Chittenden Hall.


Amy Michael– This will be Amy’s fourth year as a CAP Fellow. She primarily studies bioarchaeology of the ancient Maya and her dissertation research focuses on the skeletal remains of individuals buried in peripheral caves and rockshelters. Beyond that work, she enjoys the historical archaeology projects she’s able to work on through CAP, especially those that involve archival research. Amy will be continuing her project this semester using archival documents (memoirs, scrapbooks, diaries, etc…) written by female students to generate a predictive model for women’s space on the historic campus. We know when women were admitted and what they likely studied, but these documents provide clues to where female students would have gathered and experienced college life. Perhaps if we can isolate these spaces, we may be able to piece together a narrative (and a research excavation plan) focusing on gendered use of campus space.

Josh Burbank– Josh is a second year graduate student in the Department of Anthropology and a first year CAP fellow. His interests include the bioarchaeology of violence and warfare. He conducted fieldwork for several years in Belize and most recently in northern Albania. His recent work in Albania will be the focus of his dissertation research. In his first year working with CAP, Josh will assess various areas across campus to determine a suitable location for the upcoming 2015 Campus Archaeology Field school.

Blair Rose Zaid– Blair is a doctoral student in both African American and African Studies and Anthropology here at MSU. Her research focuses on the African Diaspora expansion of the Kongo Kingdom of 15th century west central Africa. Her interests include historic archaeology, community engagement, increasing diversity in archaeology, and raising a toddler. This will be Blair’s third year as a CAP fellow and like her previous project of creating a type collection for CAP, her research this year will continue to revolve around the CAP artifact collections.


CAP Interns: Where are they now Part II

Ryan Jelso

Ryan- holding a door knob he found during a CAP excavation

Ryan- holding a door knob he found during a CAP excavation

To be part of the Campus Archaeology team had been a goal of mine since my very first month on campus. I remember one of my professors taking out class on a walk to one of CAPs excavations and I found it really intriguing. As a busy college student, my time with Campus Archaeology would come four years later. I graduated in the summer of 2013 and was lucky enough to be part of the Summer Survey crew before I left campus. The time I spent with CAP helped me build a perspective on how important cultural heritage and public archaeology are to society.

As a double major, (Environmental Studies/Anthropology), my college years were spent trying to find a way to merge my two passions. After I graduated, this remained the case. I took some time off to organize my thoughts and aspirations, while also exploring career fields where both my interests would be involved. Currently, I will be starting a job as a Research Support Specialist with The Henry Ford. I will be working in the Benson Ford Research Center helping with the maintenance of their collections. My time with CAP definitely helped me obtain this position.

There are some similarities between my CAP experience and my new place of employment. As a museum, The Henry Ford’s collection captures the traditions and lifestyles surrounding American innovation. It explores the evolution of American industry. With CAP, we used the archaeological collection, as well as the archives, to gain a better understanding of the traditions and lifestyles that have taken place on MSU’s ever-evolving campus throughout the years. Also, I think another important CAP experience that has helped me get a job with a museum like The Henry Ford is CAP’s commitment to public outreach. With any major museum, public outreach is an extremely important skill/experience to have.

I am also part of a Graduate Certificate program in Forest Carbon Science at MSU. It looks at the relationship between forest management and climate change. I will hopefully be beginning a dual Master’s program in Fall 2015. I am interested in Natural Resource Management and Public Policy. Overall, my goals are to become a leader in the field of cultural and natural resource conservation. My time with CAP is fundamental to helping me achieve that goal. Lastly, learning about the history and working on the CRM projects through CAP allowed me to build a deeper connection to MSU.

CAP interns where are they now-Part I

Campus Archaeology is proud that we can give undergraduate students at MSU such an intensive, hands-on experience in archaeology. Our interns are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in every aspect of archaeology, from the research, to the lab work, all the way to full-scale excavations. Because of this, our interns continue in their careers/studies with a solid background in archaeology. We always like to keep up with what our previous interns are up to and get their feedback on how well CAP prepared them for their future careers. Kaitlin Scharra and Bethany Slon are two such previous interns, check out what they are up to.

Kaitlin Scharra

Katie Scharra and Katy Meyers working on the West Circle Steam II project

Katie Scharra and Katy Meyers working on the West Circle Steam II project

I graduated from MSU in December 2012.  During the following spring and summer, I was both a Laboratory Intern and Summer Survey Crew Member with Campus Archaeology.  My focus during my time as a Laboratory Intern was on creating a functional classification for the artifacts from Saint’s Rest.  The aim was to create an interpretation of the collection that the public could identify and engage with.  Creating this personal bridge between the artifacts and the public became very important to me at this time and is now my biggest motivation.

After deciding to move to Detroit to be closer to my family, I was encouraged to check out Wayne State University’s program by none other than Kate Frederick.  I was fortunate enough to join the Unearthing Detroit project.  This is a collections-based research project which reanalyzes collections recovered from the salvage digs in the mid-1900s. Our biggest and most researched collection comes from the construction of the Renaissance Center.  Like the collections at Michigan State, these are historic artifacts dating to the 19th Century.  They are the artifacts from family households, hotels, a marketplace, bars, and boarding homes for the working class of trade commerce on the river and the Grand Trunk Railroad.  The area, which is only about the size of  West Circle, tells us the story of a very diverse and continually changing community.  I also have enjoyed being able to compare this urban collection to that of my work in the Campus Archaeology collection.  It really illustrates the differences between urban and rural settings in the 1800s.

My main job on the Unearthing Detroit team is to develop public outreach.  This means I am the one who writes our weekly blog series, develops our face-to-face programs, and is constantly interacting with the public and other programs through social media.

This fall I will be beginning my Master’s in Anthropology here at Wayne State.  I will be exploring the different avenues of public outreach.  I hope to discover what are the advantages and disadvantages of public outreach and work towards creating efficient and useful methods.

You can follow the work of me and the Unearthing Detroit team through our blog, http://unearthdetroit.wordpress.com/, on twitter @UnearthDetroit, and our Facebook.


Bethany Slon

I had the pleasure of working with CAP for two years, but sadly I had to say goodbye to the team last month, in order to pursue my research interests. Right now I am spending five months in Central Mexico, where I am assisting a Ph.D. student from the University of California Riverside with an excavation of a pre-Aztec elite residence.

Bethany working at her new site in Mexico

Bethany working at her new site in Mexico

We’ve only been digging for a couple of weeks, so a lot of what we are going to find is unclear, but I can say for sure that all of my experiences with CAP have really prepared me for what I’ve been here. I’m used to being on the digging side of things, but here I was entrusted to managing my own section of the excavation. This means that I have to use everything I’ve learned with CAP to make sure everything is perfect in regards to correct archaeology. This includes setting up grid units, taking substantial field notes, and directing my crew in ways that will be most efficient to the excavation. Thankfully. Campus Archaeology has taught me everything I need to know, and I will forever be thankful for the time I got to spend with CAP. As for future plans, I’ll be applying to graduate school while in Mexico, and I hope to be entering a graduate program in the fall of 2015.

Day of Archaeology 2014

Day of Archy logo

Day of Archaeology is a worldwide celebration of the diversity of archaeologists and archaeological projects that are out there. It offers a snapshot into the lives and daily work of archaeologists from various subdisciplines and regions. At Campus Archaeology, we have been participating in this event for the past two years (since its beginning), and are excited to once again be a part of it. For this year’s Day of Archaeology Michigan State University Campus Archaeology decided tell the story of our “Aha” moments, those moments when the archaeology comes together perfectly with the other evidence and answers all (well most) of the questions. So we asked our CAP crew to describe one of their CAP “Aha” moments.

Kate Frederick- Moore Artifact

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program helps to mitigate and protect archaeological resources on MSU’s campus, while working with multiple departments to instill a sense of stewardship of the cultural heritage of MSU. The goal of our work on campus, both in research and in archaeological investigations, attempts to make visible a past that has been stored away, forgotten, or pushed aside by progress. We use archival material and historical records to help piece together a history of campus that is accessible to the public. This historical context is used to provide us with a framework for our survey, excavation, and research. Our discovery of the “Moore artifact” is one example of how all these pieces came together.

The first building on MSU’s campus was College Hall, which was built in 1857 by the original MSU students. It was poorly constructed and though repairs were made several times, it actually collapsed during marching band practice in 1918. Generally, that would be the end of the story for a building…but CAP uncovered more life history of College Hall.

In 2009 CAP excavated an area next to the Red Cedar River, which winds through campus. During these excavations we uncovered a large amount of building debris. While the debris was odd, the area was a very low section near the river that historically often flooded, so it made sense that this area would be shored up in order to prevent erosion.

Artifact found during excavations on the Red Cedar R.

Artifact found during excavations on the Red Cedar R.

However, it was the what, not the why that was interesting. A piece of wall plaster with the name “Moore” signed on it, was discovered in the building debris.

We were able to match this artifact to a picture found in MSU Archives of College Hall; students who built College Hall signed their names on the basement wall.

Note on College Hall wall left by MSU students in 1887. Courtesy MSU Archives

Note on College Hall wall left by MSU students in 1887. Courtesy MSU Archives

This led to our “Aha” moment; after College Hall collapsed the debris was hauled a few hundred yards away to a low spot on the river, this act was never recorded in MSU’s history. CAP was able to track the life history of College Hall to its final resting place on the Red Cedar.



Josh Schnell- Veterinary Laboratory 

MSU Campus Archaeology has to work closely with the Infrastructure and Planning Facilities Department and mitigate with construction companies on areas with a high potential for cultural heritage. One of CAP’s “Aha” moments came at the start of our summer field season this year. It started with a phone call from one of the construction foreman’s on campus; he said that they had found a pile of bricks while digging and that we should come check it out. Upon arrival, and after some cleanup, it was clear that we were looking at the foundation of a building. Because of our proximity to the main steam substation, our original hypothesis was that the foundation was an early rendition of MSU’s steam power infrastructure.  However, we kept finding artifacts that we couldn’t quite put a finger to, such as small animal bones, a metal tag, and a group of three keys. After the first day we cleared and mapped a section, and took GPS coordinates of the corner of the structure.

CAP crew excavating the west wall of the Old Vet Lab

CAP crew excavating the west wall of the Old Vet Lab

One huge advantage to our work on campus is that we have easy access to MSU historical documents; therefore, in an effort to figure out what the foundation was associated with, we visited the MSU Archives. Initially, our research left us with no definitive answers, all we could find was the presence of some barns and several more permanent structures, but not much beyond that. The pieces started coming together when, while researching, I remembered that I had done a map overlay and georeferenced an 1899 map of campus with GIS data pertaining to modern campus for a previous CAP project. There was one building that

MSU Veterinary Lab 1885. Courtesy MSU Archives

MSU Veterinary Lab 1885. Courtesy MSU Archives

matched the location of the structure we found, and whose southwest corner coordinates matched the GPS coordinates we’d taken the day before, leading us to the conclusion that we had found the MSU’s first veterinary laboratory. This “Aha” moment was further clarified when we connected the interesting artifacts (i.e. animal bones and metal ID tags) to the original functions of the vet lab. Built in 1885, the Vet Lab was a huge step towards making MSU the leading veterinary research institute it is today.


Ian Harrison- Munn Field

CAP is often required to shovel test around campus, in areas where construction will potentially damage the cultural heritage of historic campus. Recently, we were shovel testing an area known as Munn Field, which has a long history of campus activities, like tailgating.

Ian and Josh excavating metal pit at Munn Field

Ian and Josh excavating metal pit at Munn Field

One of the shovel test pits turned up a large amount of metal wiring. Upon expanding the unit we found bundles of metal wire, 5 horseshoes, a graphing compass, metal ingots, coal, ash, and a Benzedrine inhaler.

Metal wire filled pit at Munn Field

Metal wire filled pit at Munn Field

While the results of the excavation appeared to indicate a waste/trash pit of some sort, we lacked the background information and context necessary to get a more complete understanding. Upon going to the MSU archives however, everything started coming together. By analyzing the make and model of the Benzedrine inhaler. we were then able to search the University’s records for previous uses of the Munn Field area that fell within our timespan. As we found out, there was an army ROTC building, a horse track, as well as a series of Quonset houses (built following the end of WWII) in that area of the field. Further, due to the distinct

One of the horseshoes CAP found at Munn Field

One of the horseshoes CAP found at Munn Field

evidence of burning (slag, ash, and coal) found in the pit, it seemed to be associated with a forge, which rules out its creation due to thee horse track and Quonset houses. As such, we determined that the strange pit was likely associated with a forge in or near the army ROTC in the years surrounding the Second World War.

Adrianne Daggett

Having only worked with CAP thus far a year or so, I haven’t had the privilege of being a part of many major discoveries during excavations on campus. For me, the ‘aha!’ moments have been more incremental, an ongoing realization that in many ways, student life here at MSU has continued to incorporate many of the same elements since the university was founded. No matter what era a young woman or man attended this school, they still had similar goals, hopes, and worries that our students experience today. They also had the same kinds of activities: social events, games, pranks, sports. Examples can be found throughout the archaeological record and historical archives.

For instance, the M.A.C. Record, the student newsletter published from 1896 to 1955, is full of editorials and commentary regarding various student concerns. These range from the price of tuition to the features of the new stadium to life in the dorms.

The 1955 edition of the M.A.C. Record in fact takes a reflective look at student life throughout the years since the university’s founding, highlighting such noteworthy moments as student labor efforts, games and recreation, and the first admission of female students in 1870.

Many of the artifacts that CAP has recovered from sites in the old part of campus likewise strike a familiar note: our collection of student items spans all the way back to the earliest years of campus, and includes ‘everyday’ goods such as dishes and silverware (1870s), to combs, makeup compacts and mirrors (1930s), and even supposedly banned items like liquor bottles.

The archaeology of Michigan State’s campus really brings home what I see as one of the most fundamental lessons from the study of the human past: that people are people, with similar needs and wants to you and I, no matter when they lived.


Lynne Goldstein, Director, MSU Campus Archaeology – Sustainability and Public Archaeology

When I created Michigan State University’s (MSU) Campus Archaeology Program (CAP), one of the critical pieces in the program was public archaeology – we wanted to make sure that the broader public knew about MSU’s past and how archaeology contributes to knowledge about the past. We have participated in Day of Archaeology since its beginning. We developed a social media strategy, and we make sure that the regular print media also know about what we do. We have made a concerted effort to publicize our work across as many different kinds of media and across as many different kinds of communities as possible. Lately, however, we have begun to see that sustainability is a real problem for us (and probably for lots of other public archaeology programs too). This is a different kind of “Aha” moment.

The CAP program itself is now sustainable, but the knowledge about the program is not. At a university, students come and go each year – lots of new students entering, and lots of current students exiting. In addition, faculty, staff, and alums change. If you look at CAP’s short history, we have done well in keeping people up on what we do, but we have not done as well in ensuring that new community members know about us and what we do. We have also discovered that they don’t know about MSU’s past either. This is not an easy problem to fix, since there is not one place or medium that everyone in our broader public uses to be informed about things. Further, CAP does not have a permanent place on campus where people can visit or go for information, beyond our website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc. – they have to know those exist in order to visit. People don’t necessarily read the campus newspaper anymore, they may or may not be on Facebook or Twitter, etc. This is turning out to be a thornier problem than we anticipated. During July, I am teaching a class on Methods in Cultural Heritage Management, and the class is developing a draft cultural heritage plan for the university. One aspect of that plan will have to be communications and sustainability of communications. We will keep people up-to-date on what we are doing, but I think that we may be experiencing a small piece of a larger problem in public archaeology. We’d be interested in hearing about how others are handling these problems.