Campus Archaeology and the MSU Paranormal Society
Apparitions and Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour
Thursday, Oct. 23rd, 7:00pm
Meet us at
Beaumont Tower for an evening
of history and hauntings
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Meet the summer CAP crew.
As the summer field season begins, I would just like to introduce myself as one of the undergraduate campus archaeologists. I am dual majored in Anthropology and Geography, and am going into my final year here at MSU. While taking summer classes on campus, the CAP program wound up being the perfect fit for me to be able to simultaneously take classes while still being able to stay involved with archaeology (ie. not missing a field season and learning more than I ever thought I could about our campus’ history to boot). Otherwise, I am looking at graduate programs in underwater and Mediterranean archaeology that will ideally land me somewhere off the coast of Southern Europe searching for sunken bronze and iron age shipwrecks in another 4-8 years, but, one step at a time. I have already greatly enjoyed this summer in the field on campus thus far, and look forward to spending the rest of the summer with everyone.
As a recent graduate of MSU, I am happy to say that I will be working with CAP for one last summer before leaving East Lansing. I started working with Campus Archaeology in the summer of 2012 as a volunteer, and the following fall semester I began work as an intern under the direction of Dr. Goldstein and Kay Meyers. My research involved looking at the early years of the Women’s Building (later called Morrill Hall) and gathering information about the first female students who lived in this dorm. I presented this information at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, linking it to Campus Archaeology and what the demolition of Morrill Hall meant to us. I’ll be working with the CAP summer team until July, and ten I’ll be leaving for a six month stay in Mexico, in which I’ll be assisting in an excavation outside of Mexico City. Additionally, I have hopes of someday using what I’ve learned from my experiences to continue my research of the ancient Maya in a bioarchaeology graduate program. Archaeology has always been a passion of mine, and I am lucky to have found this experience with Campus Archaeology, both to broaden my skills as an archaeologist and to do what I love.
I am unusual here in the Campus Archaeology crew in that I am not an anthropology student, or even an MSU student. I am a student in LCC’s paralegal program, but archaeology is a big interest of mine. I also have been doing it since I was a kid because my dad is Dr. Sean Dunham, a recent Ph.D. grad from MSU’s Department of Anthropology. This is my second year of working with CAP; my first was in 2012. I have also worked on numerous Cultural Resource Management (CRM) projects through CCRG. After I get my associates degree, I am considering either law school or an anthropology degree.
I just finished my sophomore year at MSU as an undergraduate Anthropology student with an additional Religious Studies major. I have been working with Campus Archaeology since February of 2013 when I began an internship learning how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software in an archaeological context. This my second summer working as a member of the Campus Archaeology summer team. This past year, I expanded my GIS experience and skills and presented the results of a GIS-based project investigating MSU’s Sacred Space at UURAF in the spring. This summer, we are looking to further expand CAP’s GIS work in a series of map overlays that will enhance our pre-digging research. I eventually want to be a bioarchaeologist working with the ancient Maya. My desire to become an archaeologist was actually fueled by my fascination with the ancient Maya sparked by a freshman year World History class. I am particularly interested in ritual and how it is expressed on the landscape and in power systems with an emphasis on mortuary contexts. I was recently awarded an assistantship next year for a research project under the direction of Dr. Goldstien that will allow me to further investigate these topics. I hope that this summer with CAP will give me another opportunity to further develop my field skills.
By Josh Schnell, Erica Dziedzic, and Kate Frederick
We began this CAP excavation season with an exciting find; on the first day of monitoring the construction work near Agriculture Hall revealed an old foundation! The layer was only about a foot thick and covered with a waterproofing-cement type of covering. Our initial guess was that this was some sort of patio, but it was pretty deep for a patio foundation.We mapped the feature and took plenty of pictures, but since no artifacts were found, we couldn’t do much more.
The construction crew also had found a “few bricks” south of the patio feature, across Auditorium Road, where they were starting to dig the trench for the West Circle Steam Renovation project. Upon further investigation, these “few bricks” turned out to be a foundation layer layer with a substantial amount of brick rubble on top. The foundation was composed of large stones and while most of the bricks were jumbled, and not structured, we soon found an intact corner of the building. Measurements and photos were quickly taken, but with our skeleton crew (just two of us), we didn’t have the manpower for any more excavation.
We decided instead, to turn our attention to figuring out what the building could have been. Unfortunately, MSU Archives was closed last week, so we had to rely on only the resources CAP had. Our research revealed that the first foundation feature by Ag Hall (the patio feature) was most likely the remnants of the original Ag Hall, which burned in 1916. We also discovered that the brick jumble and foundation to the south of Ag Hall may be the remains of the Veterinary Lab, which was built in 1885 or possibly the old carpentry shop.
Using old campus maps, we had we were able to overlay those maps onto our GIS map of campus. Based on the overlay and the GPS coordinate taken at the site, we determined that the building was most likely the “Old Veterinary Lab” as it was labeled on the 1927 campus map. Additionally, the artifacts we recovered (animal bones and a metal tag) also pointed us in the direction of the Old Vet Lab.
Luckily, we were able to test our hypothesis further because the following day we found even more of the brick rubble when the steam trench was being expanded. The newly exposed debris show heavy signs of burning, evidenced by huge charred beams along with melted window glass.
We really wanted to know the extant of the building, so we dug a trench to the west, in an effort to find the wall. The wall was discovered at the end of the day, so we asked the construction crew to halt digging of the trench for another day.
The following day, with a much larger crew, we continued to chase the wall in hopes of finding a corner. Further to the north of the construction trench we could see a corner of the building (which was not going to be excavated further) so we knew we were on the right track. Finally, with the help of a mini-excavator removing the overburden, we found the southwest corner of the Old Vet Lab.
Now that the MSU Archives are open this week, we will continue to research the history of this building; when is was destroyed/burned is our biggest question. So expect another blog post soon with some more answers.
This year my CAP work focused on completing the typology project and volunteering with community events.
The typology project which began with Bethany and I Fall 2012 was aimed at compiling a collection of artifacts that typified the kinds of things we would find on campus excavations. Given the wide range of activities that go on through the course of 100 years on a site like MSU, organizing a collection of 20th century school yard artifacts is sure to be a contribution to the field of historic archaeology among others. The final collection included over 100 artifacts that ranged from daily use; such as combs and medicinal bottles, to construction materials, railway materials, and of course tons bricks! After much work from all of us, the collection is now complete and is accessible to future CAP researchers.
Another staple of this year’s activities is that I volunteered at several of the CAP community events. These are always my favorite because no matter how smart I get, if I can’t explain my research to 5 year olds, I know that I need to get back to work! These events included MI Archaeology Day last October through MSU Science Festival activities with the Museum in April, I maximized these opportunities to get to know what are Mid-MI folks are interested in when it comes to archaeology and how to meet there needs.
My final project was a presentation at the El Shabazz Academy in Lansing, MI. The Shabazz Academy is a K-6 charter school of roughly 95% African American students. The goal of the school is to provide a curriculum that centers around developing a strong African American consciousness. This was a great project for me because my target archaeological audience is mainly people of color who have very little knowledge about or access to the digital world. I am interested in connecting these populations to the world of archaeology and how it can contribute to our communities and our sense of ourselves through face to face interactions.
One interesting element about the Shabazz Academy is that the students recite an affirmation that keeps them focused on becoming successful contributors to their society; while maintaining respect for their ancestors and their struggles of the past. Therefore while some basic archaeological concepts were foreign to them, they were able to define words like “ancestors” and discuss how ancestors are important to them. This part of their affirmation was a brilliant segue into the significance of archaeology. I believe that these are the minds that are most ripe for the strength that African American archaeology can provide to communities. This strength is not only the focus of my dual degree, but my own understanding of myself as an African American woman in the field. This presentation was a great way to end this year’s CAP activities because it reminded me of the importance of this type of work and renewed my strength and commitment to it!
From writing for public consumption to translating artifacts into an engaging story, my first year as a CAP fellow has taught me several new and useful skills.
My main project for the Spring semester was creating an exhibit for Chittenden Hall, which is undergoing renovations and will soon be home to the Graduate School. We wanted a way to disseminate our research and findings to the larger public, so we decided on an exhibit showcasing the University’s history through our artifacts.
I worked with Amy Michael, a fellow CAP Fellow, to research the history of Chittenden and the buildings of Laboratory Row. This research was conducted at the University Archives and consisted of documents and photographs pertaining to the area. We decided to focus our exhibit around the theme of “Origins of a Research University.” Using artifacts found on Laboratory Row (Chittenden, Cook, and Old Botany) we can supplement the archival research with CAP’s research. The exhibit will feature photographs and artifacts, as well as summaries of the history of these buildings.
Chittenden renovations are slated to be done by the end of the year, so be sure to stop by and learn a little more about CAP and the history of MSU.
My third year as a Campus Archaeology fellow was spent on various projects that allowed me to work in tandem with the University Archives. I continued my search for historical documentation of Michigan State University’s sustainable past, finding many items and photos of interest that will be incorporated into a larger research project for publication.
The connection with the University Archives also proved fruitful in other ways this year. I came across a numbers of memoirs and drawings kept by female students in the late 1800s and early 1900s that allowed a window into gender role and experiences on the early campus. Through discussions at weekly Campus Archaeology meetings, we formed an idea to use these historical documents as a case examples for building a predictive model for future excavations. It is exceedingly difficult to understand gendered space on campus through the excavations we have conducted this far due to the nature of the projects )i.e. excavations are guided often by construction schedules of the university at large). Creating a predictive model will allow for greater control and more nuanced research questions wherein CAP can contribute to the understanding of past experience on campus.
Finally, I was involved with the creation of an exhibit for Chittenden Hall. The exhibit, again drawing heavily on the University Archives and the materials excavated by CAP in previous years, focuses on the original buildings on Laboratory Row. We looked at the origins of a major research university through a historical and material lens to better understand the roots of Michigan State.
My first few months as Campus Archaeologist have been a very enlightening and rewarding experience. This position has given me the opportunity to understand archaeology from the other side, that of project manager. Unlike my previous experience, being Campus Archaeologist requires me to keep in constant contact with MSU Infrastructure and Planning (and several other subsets) to keep ahead of all projects, coordinate with the construction companies in charge of each project and justify to them why CAP is important, organize a crew to aid in our survey/excavation/monitoring (because we rely on grad students and undergrads, the crew is constantly changing due to class and research schedules), and finally to collect and organize the data for public consumption. While the learning curve for this position was quite steep, every newly learned aspect of the job will pay-out tenfold in its applicability.
Beyond the day-to-day communications and coordinations, the public outreach that is entailed has been very rewarding. CAP participated in Michigan Archaeology Day at the Michigan Historical Museum where hundreds of people stopped by our booth to inquire about our program. Additionally, we created activities for the MSU Science Fest school day, where six school groups learned excavation techniques and artifact identification. Finally, I organized a Campus Archaeology Coffee Hour during the Society for American Archaeology Conference, where a handful of other campus archaeology programs and aspiring programs discussed how best to coordinate such a program.
And now we are gearing up for summer construction season. There are several construction projects taking place throughout the summer, so follow our blog and keep up with what we’re finding.
I am in the midst of writing up the final report for Dig the Past, and I am pleased to share that at final count, our seven monthly workshops reached over 500 museum visitors. 500! (That’s not even counting all the people who participated in Michigan Archaeology Day on October 12 at the State Historical Museum – while about 625 visitors in total attended that event, we don’t know exactly how many visited our activities in the children’s room, but it’s likely we had at least 100 participants that day.)
I am so pleased overall with how the program ran. At times I felt like a ringmaster or a conductor (or even a plate-spinner), trying to keep on top of several activities at once, but because of the excellent and reliable work from the student facilitators, and the cooperation between the MSU Museum and CAP, I knew I could focus on my part and trust that the rest was in good hands. Dependable collaborators are absolutely worth their weight in gold.
Moving forward, I am applying the lessons I gained from this project towards a new (albeit related) program, born of the partnership between Campus Archaeology and the MSU Museum, that we are calling C.A.M.P. : the Campus Archaeology Museum Program. This will be a 5-day summer day camp for middle-school-aged children this August, held at the MSU Museum. I am currently working on the curriculum for C.A.M.P. with Erica, Katy, and Blair (all of CAP affiliation). Our intent is to provide the day campers a series of activities that go far more in-depth with the ins and outs of archaeological investigation than what we were able to offer with Dig the Past. I am excited to continue this line of work!
In January I joined Adrainne Daggett, creator of Dig the Past workshop series, and helped in the planning of its hands-on and family-oriented activities. Together, we expanded the workshop to include an activity and informational displays geared towards our adults visitors, such as an excavation activity, a poster display of key archaeological terms, and a small poster exhibit that explained the process of archaeological research and how it relates to the scientific method. We added these displays to coincide with existing workshop activities, such as simple digging and screening area, mapping, artifact investigation, and working with clay.
The popularity of the Dig the Past workshops have led to the development of a summer camp for children in the 4th through 6th grades. Sponsored by the Campus Archaeology Program and the MSU Museum, this camp will take place during the first week of August and will focus on hands-on activities that teach students about what archaeology is and its key concepts and processes such as, artifact identification, data collection and hypothesis development, surface survey, and excavation techniques.
Being a part of Campus Archaeology this past year has given me the opportunity to learn a new facet of archaeology work, maintain my GIS skills, and participate in some wonderful evens. First, my major project this year was getting archaeological site numbers for the various campus areas that we have surveyed and excavated. The process required that I write up an argument for why each archaeological site was worthy of getting an official state number – basically why the sites are important archaeologically. It was an interesting project that helped me learn a different side of archaeology- the administrative side.
Second, I was able to continue to hone my skills in geographic information systems, as well as my mentorship of an undergraduate in this tool. Knowing GIS requires constant practice and updating of skills with new iterations of the program and changes with software updates. By continuing my role in updating the Campus Archaeology GIS, I assure that my skills are up to date. Further, by having an undergraduate to teach, it requires that I need to be able to explain it in an understandable way as well as demonstrate proper use.
Finally, I was able to participate in a lot of cool events. I ran a Campus Archaeology sponsored workshop for graduate students on Digital Learning Day, and participated in the Day of DH. I also got the chance to help with Science Fest by volunteering for Adrianne’s amazing project, Dig the Past. As a Campus Archaeology graduate researcher, I get the chance to work with some great people on really interesting projects that truly have an effect on Michigan State University’s campus. I’m excited to continue my work on accessioning our artifacts now that we have site numbers, and continuing to participate in campus events!
Continuing on our “learning by doing” theme, find out how the first field school experience can change your perspectives on archaeology.
Dr. Lynne Goldstein
I had two field school experiences as a student. The first was when I was in high school. I was a member of an NSF-funded program in Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. We met at the Museum every day for 8 weeks, and had an amazing range of professional anthropologists come and talk to us and work with us. The last week was an archaeological field school at one of the Chicago-area Forest Preserves, and was directed by Stuart Struever. It was a great experience (especially traveling on the commuter train during rush hour while filthy from the field), and my “pit partner” was a young woman who had recently been named “Junior Miss Illinois.” She was quite attractive, but she was also very nice and a hard worker. What drove be crazy, however, was the fact that she never got dirty! I would look like Schultz’s
“Pig Pen” and she would have a bit of dust on her shorts – she even wore white shorts!
My other field school experience was the other extreme. I was an undergrad at Beloit College, and we excavated at the Cahokia site, near St. Louis. In this case, the field school was 15 weeks long! We lived in 2 huge tents (women in one, men in the other) left over from the 1930s Beloit expeditions to Egypt. The conditions were pretty primitive. But, it was also a great experience because we spent so much time in the field and in the lab. We really got to know each other and the Cahokia data. Even after 15 weeks, I stayed on after the field school was over and spent several days alone in a pit in the middle of a field, mapping a complex profile. Both of these field school experiences were key to my subsequent career, and were some of the best experiences I have had. From that point on, I have either supervised and/or directed around 30 archaeological field schools. The best thing about field schools now is that it is MUCH easier to be a woman on a field school than it was at that time. The Field Museum experience was pretty egalitarian, but the Beloit experience was less so – I was told that I probably could never be a field archaeologist because women cannot lead field crews.
My first archaeological dig was in Chillicothe, Ohio at the site of Brown’s Bottom, hosted by SUNY Geneseo and led by Dr. Paul Pacheco. There are many things from this experience I will never forget, but I have one moment in particular that I think has helped me in later digs the most. Dr. Pacheco loved one thing more than anything else – totally flat and level walls and units. I remember vividly that there was one guy who could create a perfectly flat unit with the most readable and perfect profiles and levels, and because of that he was a rockstar. Having to make perfectly level units has served me very well – not only is this important for taking photos and creating maps, but you can see more and take better notes when you’re careful like this. It also taught me the importance of having a variety of trowel sizes to work around different features and do different types of tasks – always have a square trowel, 1 inch pointing trowel, and 3 inch pointing trowel! I prefer WHS over Marshalltown, but that’s probably because that’s what I learned with. Creating ‘pretty’ units when excavating is something you can only learn by doing – there is an art of troweling and digging, and it needs to be learned through experience.
I admit to slightly cheating for this blog post because the “learning by doing” field school experience did not actually happen during the field school. However, I have never excavated in the same place twice, so I argue that this story is admissible because every field experience for me is like a new field school.
It is 2005 and I am participating in an excavation just outside of a small, remote village in the highlands of Bolivia. My job on this project was to excavate burials, but one morning, I diverged from my duties due to the promise of an exciting opportunity. Victor, a Bolivian archaeologist who was part of our excavation team, uncovered a well-constructed hole that he believed to be part of an ancient water canal. Like any thorough and curious archaeologist, Victor wanted to explore this canal – crawl inside, take measurements, find out how deep and how far it went. But, when he asked other team members if they wanted to crawl inside this tiny, dark tunnel with him, everyone politely declined. That is, until Victor talked to me. When I was faced with the questions of “Hey, would you like to climb underground into this tiny, dusty space that hasn’t been opened in over 1500 years and find out just how small it is and how deep it goes?” Like a crazy person, I said, “Let me get my flashlight!”
The tunnel was between five and six feet underground and constructed out of mud bricks. We crawled on our stomachs for at least 60 feet into the tunnel, measuring and taking video of our absurd little adventure. The dust filled the air like a curtain and smelled musty; the darkness was unlike anything I have ever experienced – truly black. The deeper we crawled, the narrower the tunnel became, until we could barely squeeze our bodies in between the ancient bricks. It was at this point that certain questions began to enter my mind: how are we going to get out of here? How stable are these walls? What if the tunnel caves in? Yes, these are important questions that should have been thought of before I climbed into that tunnel, but, like I said, I’m crazy. I decided I had had enough of tunnel life and now my question to Victor was, “Seriously, how do we get out of here?” To get out, first we had to remain on our stomachs and crawl backwards out of the narrow part of the tunnel until we had enough space to do a twist and a somersault in order to continue crawling and emerge head-first out of the tunnel. I had never been so happy to see the sunlight. The next day, Victor asked me if I would go back down into the tunnel, as he wanted to take more measurements. I politely declined and said I was “busy”. What did I learn from this experience? Try anything once, but always make sure you have an escape plan.
I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing field projects (from Aztalan in Wisconsin down to Caranqui in Ecuador), and each has taught me a little more about archaeology. But, even after having experienced several seasons of fieldwork, the season that solidified my passion for archaeology was my original field school in Northern Michigan.
My field school was led by Dr. Meghan Howey (now at University of New Hampshire), and was at the University of Michigan Biological Station. I could easily ramble on about all the “learning by doing” experiences I had while at field school from identifying ceramic types to troweling laser straight walls, but the most influential aspect of my field school was the process of creating the grid for shovel testing.
In order to shovel test we first had to layout hundreds of meters of transects through the dense woods of northern Michigan. This entailed one person trekking into the woods, while the second person stood with a compass making sure the first person stayed in a line. The first person would go as far as they could, then wave frantically so the compass person could spot them in the woods (this was difficult even at 20m sometimes). Then a third person would scramble through the woods with a meter tape, while the compass wielder shouted to go left or right of the giant tree…all in an effort to make the straightest possible grid. This “learning by doing” taught me to master a compass, to bob and weave through thick foliage, and to have extreme patience in the field.