Farewell to Campus Archaeology

Well these last four years have gone by incredibly quickly.  I’ve said it before but after participating in the 2005 Saints Rest Field School I never thought I’d have anything to do with MSU’s archaeology, let alone be the campus archaeologist for the last three years.  But alas, my reign is coming to an end.  The campus archaeologist position is actually only supposed to be a two years position, but circumstances required me to stay on for a third.  I’m also moving back to California at the end of the month (to continue teaching, working in archaeology, and writing my dissertation), so I won’t be continuing on as a CAP fellow next year.  That being said, in the last four years I’ve gotten to participate in some pretty cool things:

  1. Lisa Bright excavates the west circle privy.

    Lisa Bright excavates the west circle privy.

    Excavating the West Circle privy – My first summer working for CAP involved monitoring the final phase of the West Circle Steam Tunnel improvement project. Because the construction was in the oldest part of campus we uncovered a large number of areas of archaeological interest including: part of the Engineering Shops, the corner of Williams Hall, the historic steam tunnels, and the privy associated with Saints Rest (Cap had been wondering where the heck all of the outhouses were and why we hadn’t found one yet!).  The privy contained a large number of unique artifacts that we were able to study and work with for years (like Mabel and the raspberry seeds).  In fact, the larger number of food related items from the privy spurred the historic meal reconstruction project that CAP fellows Susan and Autumn later worked on. 

  1. Work with great interns – One of the responsibilities of the campus archaeologist is to manage and teach the undergraduate interns. I was able to oversee 8 interns during my time here, and each was a pleasure to work with.  It was fun to be able to teach these undergrads more about historic archaeology, lab practices, and research methods.
  2. 2016 Field Crew after finishing the excavation that identified Station Terrace.

    2016 Field Crew after finishing the excavation that identified Station Terrace.

    Manage two CAP field seasons – It was an amazing learning experience to be able to plan and manage two field seasons here on campus. Getting to be part of the process from the initial construction planning phase provided invaluable experience working with both IPF and individual construction companies.  With regards to the CAP crew, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals.  We covered a lot of ground during those two summers including locating Station Terrace, excavating at the Weather Bureau, putting the first 1×1 m units in at the location of Beal’s Lab, digging behind Old Hort (where the ground was some of the most unforgiving I’ve ever encountered but the crew persisted and made it through), and the Wilson Road realignment survey (where even 300+ mostly negative STPs didn’t destroy the crews morale).

  3. Being the TA for the 2017 field school – I must say this was a bit of a surreal experience for me. When I took the Saints Rest field school in 2005, I never imagined that I would one day be the TA for another on campus field school.  Once again, this was a great experience in the planning and logistics that occur with a formal field school versus the CRM style summer activity I had previously managed.
  4. Outreach – Over the past four years we’ve gotten to engage in some pretty unique types of outreach. We started the Apparitions & Archaeology Haunted Tour in collaboration with the undergraduate paranormal society (which has been a huge success with upwards of 150 people attending), the historic meal reconstruction (the partnership with MSU culinary services has been fantastic and looks like it will be continuing beyond Spring 2018), and the middle school activity kits.

CAP really embraces public archaeology, and the ethos of openness has provided a unique experience.  Having to adopt the CAP persona and consistently engage with the public was something that took me a little while to get used to, but it’s been really rewarding to see the interest from campus and the wider public in what we do here at CAP.

It’s truly been my pleasure to have worked with CAP for the past four years.  Being the campus archaeologist has been an invaluable experience, and I know that Autumn Painter (who will be taking over as Campus Archaeologist) will do a great job.

Reflections on Dr. Goldstein’s Impact

With Dr. Goldstein’s official retirement date drawing near the CAP fellows (and one past fellow!) wanted to take some time to reflect on the impact Dr. Goldstein has had on our lives, and the truly unique experience being part of the Campus Archaeology Program has been.

I’ve probably known Dr. Goldstein the longest of any of the fellows. Dr. Goldstein was chair of the Anthropology department when I started at MSU for undergrad in 2003. Because Dr. Goldstein was chair, I didn’t have any classes directly with her. But as a student at the 2005 Saints Rest Field School I got to know Dr. Goldstein, and see her in action in the field. Prior to the field school my focus had been solely physical anthropology; so taking a 6-week archaeology course was slightly outside of my wheelhouse. Dr. Goldstein took the time to encourage me on a particularly frustrating afternoon (I had spent the entire day excavating a tiny, difficult to dig feature that turned out to be a root run) by sharing a personal story from her early days of fieldwork. This moment has always stood out in my mind because not only did Dr. Goldstein recognize that I was having a difficult day, but she specifically took the time to make me feel better about the situation. After completing a master’s program, and spending a few years working and teaching post-grad I decided it was time to pursue a Ph.D. so I contacted Dr. Goldstein again, rather out of the blue, to see if she would be willing to take me on as her student. Thankfully she said yes. So now here I am, wrapping up my third (and final) year as Campus Archaeologist. Dr. Goldstein took a chance on a student with a physical anthropology background not once, but twice. Without the Saints Rest field school I know with 100% certainty that my life, and career, would have taken a very different path.

Dr. Goldstein has been a one of a kind mentor who’s managed to figure out how to be kind, stern, supportive, demanding, flexible, and genuinely concerned with the well being of students (and not just those whose she is chair for or on their committee) all at the same time. I know that I have benefited in invaluable and innumerable ways from her guidance. So thank you Dr. Goldstein, for taking a chance on me and for providing me with so many wonderful experiences. – Lisa Bright

It is difficult to sum up Dr. Goldstein with mere adjectives. I could say she’s brilliant, funny, and kind, that she’s tough and fiercely loyal to her students. These words fall flat. If I had to choose a snapshot to capture her, I would recall the early hours of a brisk October morning when three graduate students and a load of equipment folded into her Subaru and headed to northern Michigan to investigate a potential archaeological site. Only one of us was formally a student of Midwest archaeology—the other two primarily biological anthropologists—but all of us wanted to learn how to differentiate burial mounds from geological formations. Others might have baulked at the idea of taking us on such a venture, but not Dr. Goldstein. Since I have known her—and by all accounts, long before then—she has never hesitated to take chances on interested students, to believe in their capabilities, to provide them with opportunities to learn new skills, and to have faith that these skills would serve them well as anthropologists, regardless of their chosen sub-disciplines.

Once at the site, Dr. Goldstein never complained as we navigated uneven and slippery terrain, though her refurbished joints must have protested. This came as no surprise from a woman who once showed up to a CAP meeting after breaking a rib earlier that morning. At the site, she navigated many roles at once: expert, mentor, confidant. She explained the archaeological process to the landowner clearly and professionally. She directed students what to look for, how, and why. She listened with interest to the landowner’s hypotheses about the site and, even after determining there were no mounds present, stayed to hear stories of his family’s history on the land. On the long drive home she shared her own stories – some hilarious, some inspiring, some infuriating. She recalled how, as a young archaeologist she fought to be paid the same as a less experienced male colleague, even if it meant taking on the responsibility of meal preparation for an entire field school. This story left us not with a sense of bitterness but with awe over her ability to blaze trails with skill, grit, and remarkably, grace. Dr. Goldstein has always been adept at finding paths forward and never hesitates to help students to find theirs. Though she might be the busiest woman alive, she has always made time to listen to my and my fellow students’ concerns, provide advice, and help us discover solutions we never knew possible.

It has been an honor and a privilege to get the chance to work with such a brilliant mind, talented archaeologist, and overall incredible human being. Thank you Dr. Goldstein, and enjoy your well-deserved retirement!   – Mari Isa

The first time I came to MSU was for the 2012 Midwest Archaeology Conference, which was held in East Lansing that year. I had recently received a masters in archaeology and was doing CRM work in Illinois, and I had begun questioning whether I really wanted a career in cultural resource management or if I should pursue a future in academia and apply to Ph.D. programs. Dr. Goldstein was the primary coordinator of the conference, and despite being incredibly busy, she was kind enough to take the time to sit down with me and discuss my opportunities as MSU. The personal attention she provided a timid, uncertain student she had never heard of before really made an impression on me.

I ultimately ended up coming to MSU for my doctoral program, and although Dr. Goldstein is not on my committee, she has always welcomed me to her door to ask for advice. One of the primary reasons I joined Campus Archaeology was to benefit more from Dr. Goldstein’s mentorship, and her support of my research during my tenure as a CAP fellow has resulted in an incredibly successful project exploring historic foodways on campus. She has made a huge impact on my understanding of and approach to public outreach and creative collaborations with diverse programs and scholars to increase the visibility of cultural heritage in a campus setting. Her vision for projects and tenacity in advocating for our program and for the cultural heritage of MSU has set an example that I will take with me as I move forward in my career.

Thank you, Dr. Goldstein. Michigan State University has benefitted from you bringing its own history to the attention of the public and demonstrating how and why campus archaeology is important and necessary. And all CAP fellows, past and present, have benefitted from your mentorship and the example you have set as an advocate for the cultural heritage. You will be missed here at MSU, although you will never be fully gone. – Dr. Susan Kooiman

It’s hard for me to describe the impact that Dr. Goldstein has had on me and my scholarship without descending into hyperbole! I came to MSU thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to study in anthropology, but I was fortunate enough to take Dr. Goldstein’s mortuary analysis class and then be hired as a CAP fellow. Through her encouragement and with her assistance, I was able to expand my anthropological interests and knowledge. Between the meetings, the advice, the writing help, the job search strategizing, and the laughs, I am honored to say that Dr. Goldstein has been one of my greatest mentors. She showed me how to be a scholar and a colleague, and she always reminded us when to not take ourselves and our work too seriously. I remember telling her that I *had* to do something once and she said, “…no. You don’t.” It sounds so silly and simple, but her reaction was what I needed to pull myself out of my academic slump and focus on what I was truly interested in pursuing. I credit Dr. Goldstein with helping me pay my bills (thanks!), get a job, keep a job, and most of all, with teaching me that anthropology is so much more than what I thought it would be for me. Happy retirement! – Dr. Amy Michael (and honorary CAP fellow)

Getting to work for Dr. Goldstein in CAP has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a graduate student at MSU so far. It is absolutely incredible how much knowledge she has about the campus, but not for its own sake, but because she really cares about MSU, its history, and its students, past, present, and future. She has taught me how to conduct meaningful historical research (my personal research is with the Pre Columbian Maya), but also how to just how to be a better researcher in general. This includes how to interact with and incorporate the public into the research, how to deal with the bureaucracy, and most importantly how to advocate for someone or for myself. What is very apparent when having any kind of conversation with Dr. Goldstein is that she advocates for her students and will help them achieve what they need to conduct meaningful research. She goes to bat for her students more than anyone I’ve ever met and it is so inspiring to see not only how much she cares for people and their success, but also for their research even if it is only tangentially connected to her own. She is the epitome of a collaborative researcher, or even a researcher in general, and the determination she has to get things done is absolutely awe-inspiring. I hope that one day I’ll be even half as good of a researcher and a person as Dr. Goldstein has been her entire life. Thank you so much for everything you have done not only for me, but also for archaeology, anthropology, MSU, and the countless people and institutions who have been truly lucky to have come into contact with you. – Jack Biggs

Dr. Goldstein has been a wonderful mentor throughout my time at Michigan State University; however, her mentoring began before I even applied. When I was looking for undergraduate programs during high school, she agreed to meet with me and took time out of her day to give me advice about archaeology programs. From then on, I have been able to turn to her for guidance through my undergraduate and graduate career and I will be forever grateful. Thank you Dr. Goldstein for all of your assistance and mentorship over the years and I hope you enjoy your retirement. – Autumn Painter

Thank you Dr. Goldstein for all of your help! During all of the CAP meetings, committee meetings, and road trips, you have always been a source for good advice and a positive role model. Over the years, I have learned an immense amount through the stories and life experiences that you have shared with us, and have grown as a scholar because of them.  Thank you again for everything and I hope you enjoy retirement! – Jeff Painter

So thank you Dr. Goldstein, for everything that you have done and continue to do for all of us.


This week two major anthropology annual conferences are overlapping: The Society for American Archaeology and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.  Because of the overlap (and presenters being split between the conferences) we present here for your handy dandy quick reference a list of current MSU professors and students presenting their research at both conferences:


Wednesday Evening, April 11th, 2018

Opening Session – What Have We Learned?
6:30PM – 8:30PM
Lynne Goldstein – Discussant
Thursday Evening April 12th, 2018

Symposium: Chasing Hunter-Gatherers and Early Farmers in the Great Lakes and Beyond – 45 Years of Research Dedicated to Understanding The Dynamics Between People, Environment, and Behavior: Papers in Honor of William A. Lovis.
6:00PM – 10:00PM
6:00 Susan Kooiman – Foodways and Technological Transformation in the Upper Great Lakes: A Multidimensional Analysis of Woodland Pottery from the Cloudman Site (20CH6)
6:30 Kathryn Frederick – Identifying Subterranean Storage Features: A Cautionary Tale
9:00 Lynne Goldstein – discussant

Poster Session: A Beer in the Hand is Better with an Oculus Rift On the Face: A Multimedia “Posters After-Hours” Session Featuring Hands-On Interactive Stations and Immersive Virtual Reality Technologies
Time 5pm-7pm
101-a Gabriel Wrobel – The Maya Cranial Photogrammetry Project

Friday Morning, April 13th, 2018

Session: Lightning Rounds – Engaging “Alternative Archaeology” in Three Minutes or Less!
Time: 8:00am-10:00AM
Ethan Watrall – Discussant

Friday Afternoon, April 13th, 2018

Symposium: Celebrating Lynne Goldstein’s Contributions to Archaeology of the Past, Present, and Future
Time: 1PM -4:30 PM
1:00 William Lovis – Landscape Marking, the Creation of Meaning, and the Construction of Sacred and Secular Spaces: Rethinking the Birney “Mound” in the City of Bay City.
1:30 Jodie O’Gorman – Migration, Ritual and the Dead
2:30 Joseph Hefner and Michael Heilen – Establishing Cultural Affinity through Multiple Lines of Evidence
3:45 Ethan Watrall – Towards an Approach to Building Mobile Digital Experiences for Campus Heritage & Archaeology

Symposium: Beyond Engagement: Archaeologists At The Intersection of Power
Time: 1pm-3:30 PM
2:15PM – Stacey Camp – Public Archaeology in Remote Places


Thursday Morning

Session 10: Thinking computationally about Forensics: Anthropological Perspectives on Advancements in Technologies, Data, and Algorithms
Time: 8:30am – 12:00PM
Poster Presentation: Kelly Kamnikar, Nick Herrmann, Amber Plemons – New approaches to juvenile age estimation in forensics: Application of transition analysis via the Shackelford et al. method to a diverse modern subadult sample

Thursday Afternoon

Session 15: Going Beyond the “Biocultural Synthesis”: Bridging Theory and Practice in Bioarchaeology
Time: 2:30-6:00
2:45 Lisa Bright and Joseph Hefner – Structural Violence and Disease: Epistemological Considerations for Bioarchaeology

Session 24: Human Skeletal Biology: Forensic Anthropology
Time: 1:30-2:30 and 6:00-7:00PM
Poster Presentation: Amber Plemons, Joseph Hefner, and Kelly Kamnikar – Refining Asian Ancestry Classifications via Cranial Macromorphoscopic Traits

Friday Morning

Session 31: A Community of Care: Expanding Bioarchaeology of Care to Population Level Analyses
Time: 8:00AM-12:00PM

Poster Presentation: Colleen Milligan and Lisa Bright – Population level approaches to differential caregiving at a historic hospital

Saturday Morning

Session 61: Human Reproduction
Time: 7:00AM-8:00AM and 12PM – 1:00PM
Poster Presentation: Masiko Fujita, Nerli Paredes Ruvalcaba, M. Corbitt – The evolutionary ecology of breast milk folate among Ariaal agro-pastoralists in Kenya




Archaeology Post-Natural Disaster

Flooding at the baseball stadium

Flooding at the baseball stadium. Image Source

Flooding over Red Cedar Road with Spartan Stadium in the background. Image Source

Flooding over Red Cedar Road with Spartan Stadium in the background. Image Source

Water levels nearly reaching the bottom of the pedestrian bridge to the library. Image source.

Water levels nearly reaching the bottom of the pedestrian bridge to the library. Image source.

A few weeks ago, at the end of February, areas surrounding the Red Cedar River flooded causing substantial damage to many homes, businesses, and areas of MSU. The combination of unseasonably warm weather (which melted the prior weeks heavy snow) and heavy rains resulted in the Lansing area experiencing some of its heaviest flooding in 40 years (the Red Cedar River was nearly 4 feet over flood stage). Roads were closed, states of emergency were declared, and on campus IPF worked to mitigate the flood impact to critical buildings on north campus. No structures on campus were critically damaged, but the floodwaters did leave a substantial amount of damage. At least 4 inches of additional silt along the riverbanks was deposited and unfortunately due to the contaminated nature of flood water (from drainage overflow and system purges from upriver) the debris has the potential for some biological contamination. I was out of town at a conference so when I heard about the flooding my first thought was “is my house ok?”, and the second was “what is this flood going to do to archaeological sites in the area?”.

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time the Red Cedar River floods. Floods and storms can add to the areas ground surface (like the silt deposition did along the Red Cedar) or can erode away river banks and cliff sides.  This can expose new parts of previously known sites, uncover unknown archaeological resources (like this historic canoe that washed up after Hurricane Irma, or the skeleton found under a tree knocked over by Hurricane Ophelia), or the alluvial deposition can bury sites.

The river floods in 1904. Old Wells Hall can be seen in the background. Image Source.

The river floods in 1904. Old Wells Hall can be seen in the background. Image Source.

Students play baseball in canoes during the 1948 flood. Image source.

Students play baseball in canoes during the 1948 flood. Image source.

Manzanita covered hillside cleared of green vegetation after the American Fire. Photo credit: Kristina Crawford

Manzanita covered hillside cleared of green vegetation after the American Fire. Photo credit: Kristina Crawford

Although we thankfully haven’t had to deal with this on campus, wildfires are a common occurrence in the Western United States. Wildfires can damage archaeological sites by physically damaging the artifacts or features, or by exposing sites to the elements and erosion. Fires are also known to expose undocumented sites and expose new portions of previously recorded sites. With the increase in wildfires across the western United States, many archaeologists are finding themselves studying fire archaeology (archaeologicalconservancy.org). It’s important for archaeologists to survey areas of fire damage to record and sometimes recover artifacts before looters arrive, or animals, people, or the elements further damage the objects/site. The recovered artifacts also help to establish the boundaries of a site.

Fire also clears areas that may have previously been too densely covered by vegetation to survey. For example the American Fire in August of 2013 (located in Northern California) burned away Manzanita (an incredibly dense brush that is absolutely horrible to survey through) allowing for the documentation of the late 19th century trash scatter and gold mining prospectors pits (as seen in the photo). The fire also exposed this historic cabin (seen below and also from the 1800s), but the fire didn’t burn the foundation timbers because they were covered in a thick layer of vegetation. Additionally the fire was fast moving and cool in this area. The fire also uncovered a large trash scatter around the cabin that was previously unobservable.

Foundation of a historic cabin that was further revealed by the fire. Photo Credit: Kristina Crawford

Foundation of a historic cabin that was further revealed by the fire. Photo Credit: Kristina Crawford

This picture shows the tea cup and saucer as well as two complete bottles found at the cabin site that would never have been found except the fire burned off the brush and overburden debris.

This picture shows the tea cup and saucer as well as two complete bottles found at the cabin site that would never have been found except the fire burned off the brush and overburden debris. Photo credit: Kristina Crawford

Sunken ferry boat exposed by record low river levels in 2008. Photo credit: Kristina Crawford

Sunken ferry boat exposed by record low river levels in 2008. Photo credit: Kristina Crawford

Archaeologists have also been working to document the impact of climate change on archaeological resources.  Changing water levels due to drought can expose objects previously covered by water, like this ferry boat in California.  The poles and brush in a row at the toe of the levee (where the vegetation ends) was where normal water flow levels hit.  Conversely the rising sea levels are putting costal sites in danger of destruction.  Archaeologists are racing to document and salvage these important resources, such as this commission in California. Thawing permafrost is also exposing and damaging sites caught in the melt.

Here at CAP much of our work focuses on planned campus construction, so this flood serves to remind us to always be prepared for the unexpected.  Stay turned to the blog and our social media pages as we conduct a pedestrian survey of the flooded area later this month.








Bagwell, Margaret 2009 After the Storm, Destruction and Reconstruction: The Potential for an  Archaeology of Hurricane Katrina. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 5(1):280-292.



Are you ready to Par-T?

Nehi Cola bottle recovered from Brody/Emmons complex.

Nehi Cola bottle recovered from Brody/Emmons complex.

Today we think of soda, or as we say in these parts pop, as coming in a few standard sizes: 12 oz cans, 20 ounce bottles and 2-liter’s to name a few. But as I’m sure you’re aware, sizes have changed substantially over the last century or so. That’s why this large, quart size bottle from the Brody/Emmons complex (the East Lansing dump) stands out. The first two-liter bottle was produced by Pepsi-Cola in 1970 (http://www.pepsico.com/About/Our-History). In fact the two-liter bottle is the only standard soda bottle in American that comes in a metric serving. With the exception of a few liquor and cleaning bottles this is the largest food related bottle recovered.

Close up of "Nehi Bottling Company" embossed on bottle heel.

Close up of “Nehi Bottling Company” embossed on bottle heel.

"32 OZ Capacity" embossed on bottle of bottle.

“32 OZ Capacity” embossed on bottle of bottle.








The embossed marks “Nehi Bottling Company”, “32 OZ Capacity” provided the first clue in identifying this bottle – it’s from the Nehi Cola Company Par-T-Pak line. Nehi Cola first appeared in 1924 as a addition to the Chero-Cola companies line of products. Nehi Cola offered a wider variety of flavors including orange, grape, root beer, peach and others. Nehi was so successful it outsold Chero-Cola and the company changed its name to Nehi in 1928. In a slightly ironic twist of fate, once the company reformulated Chero-Cola and rebranded it Royal Crown Cola (or RC Cola), the new cola outsold Nehi and the company eventually changed it’s name to Royal Crown (SHA / Wikipedia).

1940s Nehi Par-T-Pak ad. Image source.

1940s Nehi Par-T-Pak ad. Image source.

Nehi Cola Par-T-Pak advertisement. Life Magazine March 27th, 1950.

Nehi Cola Par-T-Pak advertisement. Life Magazine March 27th, 1950. Image source.

The large bottle Par-T-Pak line included cola, ginger ale, sparkling water/club soda, black cherry, lemon lime, orange, grape, strawberry, root beer, and Tom Collins mixer. The Par-T-Pak line was first introduced by Nehi in 1933 (Lockhart) and was likely offered until the mid 60s. The tag line was “When you celebrate … Enjoy America’s Party Drink!” This size bottle was specifically marketed as drink mixers with the larger size noted as being economical for parties (since it was meant to serve six). It is perhaps not a coincidence that these “party size” bottles went on the market right at the end of Prohibition.

Marketing from the 1950s was pushing the benefits of the bottle size specifically as an alcoholic drink mixer: “There’s extra sparkle at parties whenever Par-T-Pak is served! For Par-T-Pak “mixers” are so sparkling they stir as they pour! No longer do highballs have to be swizzled or stirred!” (Life Magazine March 27th, 1950).  This full color advertisement suggests that the bottle we have is likely ginger ale, as it is the only notable dark green bottles.  Although our bottle predates these advertisements (the East Lansing dump was used from 1907 to the late 1930s), the bottling coloring and flavor options appeared to have been stable.

Another advertisement from the 1950s. Image source

Another advertisement from the 1950s. Image source.

It’s easy to focus on alcohol bottles and overlook their best friend – the mixer!  Many of the cocktails we know and love today have their origins in pre-prohibition (drinks like the daiquiri, the Manhattan, the martini, or the mojito).  The 13 year legal draught caused by prohibition, and the long lasting impact of the Great Depression, certainly put somewhat of damper on American cocktail culture.  The introduction of Nehi Par-T-Pak’s in the 1930s fit right in with America’s budget friendly mindset, and the welcome legal re-introduction of alcohol.







Lice Lice Baby

For my personal research I study issues related to health and disease, so whenever I see something health related in the CAP collection I jump at the opportunity to do a blog post about it. That happened recently when I came across this seemingly simple comb recovered from excavations at Saints Rest in 2012, but I knew immediately that this was more than an average comb, this is a lice comb.

Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.

Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.

Now I’ll give you a moment to stop your skin from crawling when you think about lice. While lice aren’t something we tend to think about regularly today (unless you have young children), that wasn’t always the case.  Dealing with pesky varmints in the home and on your body was just a part of life.

Lice have been bothering humans for a long time. Humans are parasitized by two genera of lice: one shared with chimpanzees and the other shared with gorillas. By using DNA to figure out when the lice diverged between the species, scientists are working to piece together part of our evolutionary history (Reed et al. 2007). Researchers have also looked at clothing lice to reveal when they may have diverged from head lice, giving us a better idea of when clothing when first used by anatomically modern Homo sapiens (Toups et al. 2011).

Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.

Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.

Archaeologically lice have been found in Greenland, Iceland, on Dutch combs, Egyptian mummies, and in Israeli cave deposits (Bain 2004). The oldest direct archaeological evidence of head lice are from a human louse egg recovered in Brazil dating to over 10,000 years (Araujo et al 2000). Lice combs (and the lice that come with them!) have been recovered all over the world, in including from sites in Egypt (c. fifth-sixth century AD (Palma 1991)) and Israel (c. first century B.C. – eighth century A.D. (Zias 1988)). They are also routinely recovered at historic archaeological sites.

Today to get rid of lice you wash all of your linens in hot water, apply a medicated shampoo to the unlucky individual, and use a very fine-toothed comb to remove any bugs/eggs from the scalp. This comb style is the epitome of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as the general form has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source

1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source

Our double sided fine tooth comb was produced by the India Rubber Company. “I R Co Goodyear 1851” can be seen stamped on one side of the comb. A similar version is found in the 1895 advertisement seen to the right. 1851 is not a production date, but rather is the patent year for the Goodyear hard rubber vulcanization process (see Amy’s blog post on the comb from the outhouse for more info!). Combs were some of the earliest products made of hard rubber that were produced on a large scale (Fox 1899).

Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb - lower image enhanced by author

Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb – lower image enhanced by author

This tiny comb provides a glimpse into the health and hygiene routines of MSU’s earliest students.  Campus records and diaries/correspondences in the archives discuss larger health related issues on campus (like diphtheria, measles, or typhoid fever outbreaks), the minutia of everyday hygiene habits tends to go unrecorded, but of course, this is where archaeology comes in.



Reed, David with Jessica Light, Julie Allen and Jeremy Kirchman
2007 Pair of lice lost or parasites regained: the evolutionary history of anthropoid primate lice. BCM Biology 5(7) – https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7007-5-7

Melissa Toups with Andrew Kitchen, Jessica Light and David Reed
2011 Origin of Clothing Lice Indicates Early clothing Use by Anatomically Modern Humans in Africa. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(1):29-32.


Palma, Ricardo
1991 Ancient Head Lice on a Wooden Comb from Antinoe, Egypt. The Journal of          Egyptian Archaeology 77:194.

Zias, Joseph
Head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae) from hair combs excavated in Israel and dated from the first century B.C. to the eighth century. Journal of Medical Entomology 25(6):545-547.


Bain, Allison
2004 Irritating Intimates: The Archaeoentomology of Lice, Fleas, and Bedbugs.   Northeast Historical Archaeology 33:81-90.

Araujo, A. with F Ferreira, N Guidon, N Serra Freire, Karl Reinhard, and K Dittmar
2000 Ten Thousand Years of Head Lice Infection. Parasitology Today 16:269.


Mumcuoglu, Kosta
The louse comb: past and present https://watermark.silverchair.com/ae54-0164.pdf?token=AQECAHi208BE49Ooan9kkhW_Ercy7Dm3ZL_9Cf3qfKAc485ysgAAAbswggG3BgkqhkiG9w0BBwagggGoMIIBpAIBADCCAZ0GCSqGSIb3DQEHATAeBglghkgBZQMEAS4wEQQM_PXl7w2JzGNcRujgAgEQgIIBblHIP7oC0UV__MYXk1ngxxH_mfI1Om7WjPa2ymveG4sEef7kE8KxycNlII2jRePwEKddbmMNzviLhWvWL5a_AckqfWODGLegXbp5VJ9csuSjkMmeFSUJkQJPp6NO45y_UhAKhlv-Q7Q351kBnnhhYBj_YzPmlcGMmnwZ_HEy1Px_REs4M4992RVH-c6oaXUghJ-rOC5YghpM-NzaYto9E-BurLp516x5-1fzFQu-t_bl_AHKy-TNwAoDCgR-nhPIgplNJqvAkWJbGU23oEgpfgzNtZf9KXInccVoYYxmX3ZCq0KXhnLrTzA5vUrPSAwWmqO5HHxU5pSYpaKZMHl1FLpNHVksDRxntJFucPgz5NfoBJ1y_z-6JD901x2c7xarbsEoR9pRXULxLTZClop8wO1q3vQ8EJQtF__r0J2xU2j6usWZGuCID54C3i94JCbwaHUpJSaKCr5pdtA00DSNjW4x4IjoPX9cBX3yqCWBnA

Fox, Irvine (editor)
1899 The Spatula Volume 6 (https://books.google.com/books?id=FhhOAAAAMAAJ)


Creating Outreach Site Kits

Outreach isn’t something out of the ordinary for CAP to do. We routinely participate in a wide variety of outreach events ranging from small groups to hundreds of people at large events like Sciencefest.

CAP was recently contacted by a group of Middle School teachers here in Michigan and asked if we would be interested in collaborating. This district had recently changed some of the social science curriculum to include more anthropology/archaeology and study of the ancient past. The teachers asked if we would be willing to come in and conduct an event that would allow their students to interact with archaeologists and to have the opportunity for hands on engagement.

So we were faced with a few new challenges – most hands on events we’ve done in the past are geared towards elementary school students and smaller groups. This event would need to cover 300 7th graders. Thankfully we would be covering individual classes with no more than 30 students per class and a maximum of 3 classes running at once.

We decided to create a “site in a box” activity.  We selected sites that would provide a wide range of time periods, site types, and locations.  The students will be provided with a worksheet that asks them to identify the artifacts, consider who the people that used them were, what time frame these objects are from, and where in the world the site may be.  Each site box has 10-11 artifacts, and a series of additional clues like maps or site photos.

Site A – Alameda-Stone Cemetery

The Alameda-Stone cemetery is located in Tucson, Arizona.  It was used by local community members from the early 1860s through 1881.

Site A - "Alameda-Stone Cemetery" artifacts

Site A – “Alameda-Stone Cemetery” artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Bone
  2. Rosary
  3. Part of a shoe
  4. Coffin nails
  5. Coffin hardware
  6. Buckle
  7. Earring
  8. Coffin Wood
  9. Buttons
  10. Cloth


The box also includes a map of the entire cemetery, a close up of an individual burial, and an artifact image.

Overview of the excavated cemetery. Image from the excavation report.

Overview of the excavated cemetery. Image from the excavation report.

Image of  burial from Alameda-Stone cemetery. Image from excavation report.

Image of a shoe recovered from an excavated burial. Image from the excavation report.

Shoe recovered from an burial. Image from the excavation report.

Site B – Historic Privy on MSU’s Campus

The west circle privy was excavated in 2015.  The artifacts in the structure date to the 1850s and 1860s.  This is the only privy that has been located on campus.

Site B - MSU Historic Privy artifacts

Site B – MSU Historic Privy artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Raspberry seeds
  2. Plate
  3. Fish bones
  4. Glass cup
  5. Egg shell
  6. Doll fragments
  7. Plate
  8. Violin flask bottle picture
  9. Comb
  10. Ceramic tea/coffee cup
  11. Buttons


Site B - West Circle Privy during excavation

Site B – West Circle Privy during excavation

Sketch map of the west circle privy

Site C – Aztalan

We wanted to include a prehistoric site in the Midwest to be able to provide a local connection for the students.  With Dr. Goldstein’s extensive experience at Aztalan it was an easy choice.  The site of Aztalan is located in present day southern Wisconsin and was occupied between 1050 and 1200 AD.

Site C - Aztalan artifacts

Site C – Aztalan artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Shell beads
  2. Arrowhead
  3. Pot fragment
  4. *artifact photo
  5. Duck bones
  6. Photograph of mounds
  7. Photograph of stratigraphy
  8. Daub
  9. Stone tool flakes
  10. Shells



Site D – Mayan Cave Burial 

The cave burial site of Actun Kabul was selected for site D. Actun Kabul (Actun is the word for cave in the Mayan language) is a cave deep within the jungles of Belize in Central America.

Site D - Actun Kabul artifacts

Site D – Actun Kabul artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Human bone
  2. Jade
  3. Pot Fragment
  4. Figurine Fragment
  5. Shell
  6. Corn
  7. Pepper seeds
  8. Human teeth
  9. Stingray spine
  10. Glyph carving
  11. Obsidian


We also provide the students with a map of the cave.

Map of Site D - Actun Kabul

Map of Site D – Actun Kabul


Site E – Professor Gunson’s Trash Pit

For our final site we selected the site the 2015 CAP field school excavated – Professor Gunson’s trash deposit.

Site E - Professor Gunson's Trash Pit artifacts

Site E – Professor Gunson’s Trash Pit artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Laboratory equipment
  2. Vaseline Glass
  3. Window Glass
  4. Ketchup Bottle
  5. Ceramic plate
  6. Nails
  7. Decorated ceramic
  8. Bottle
  9. Flower pot frag
  10. Brick


Since we needed to make 15 total kits, there was no way we could include actual artifacts.  The objects in the kits are a combination of online purchases, hunting at the University Surplus Store, donations from CAP fellows/faculty, and some creative saving (this week I boiled a chicken carcass for the bones, saved all of my egg shells, and picked out seeds from bell peppers). Each kit also contains an envelope with an answer key that identifies each of the artifacts, and provides a narrative of the site.  The envelope also contains more details maps and photos of the archaeological site.

Today we’re putting these kits to the test!  We’ll be posting throughout the day on social media, and stay tuned for a follow up post about the event later this month.


2017 Year in Review

I know what you’re thinking.  “But Lisa, it’s only December 18th, 2017 isn’t over yet!”  And while that’s true, here at MSU finals week is over and the winter break has begun.  That means CAP fellows are taking much needed break and regular weekly blogging will be on hiatus until Tuesday January 9th.  2017 has been an exceptionally busy year here at CAP and here are a few of the highlights.

Upcoming CAP director change:

As I’m sure you’ve read, our fearless leader Dr. Lynne Goldstein will be retiring this spring.  Fortunately the department was able to hire her replacement, Dr. Stacey Camp with a year of overlap.  Dr. Camp will take over as CAP director in May 2018.

Food Reconstruction Project:

CAP fellows Autumn Painter and Susan Kooiman worked on our 1860s meal reconstruction project – Capturing Campus Cuisine.  This project has helped inform us on early food procurement, cooking choices, and food systems during early campus years.  The first phase of the project culminated in the interactive website and with the help of MSU food services and the MSU bakery, we hosted a meal reconstruction event last April.

Outreach Events:

This year we’ve participated in outreach events including:

2017 CAP Field School:

From May 30th – June 30th CAP hosted it’s biannual on campus field school.  This year students excavated at the site of Station Terrace. Students excavated six 2×2 meter units that included areas outside of the building, and inside of the foundation.  Check out the recap blog post to learn more about each of the units.

Summer field crew excavations:

In anticipation of the Wilson road realignment, the CAP field crew excavated over 300 test pits! Although they excavated in several other locations around campus, the larger area impacted by the upcoming road realignment meant that much of the summer was spent investigating areas surrounding Wilson road.

These are just some of the larger projects we’ve completed over the past year.  This doesn’t include all of the hard work our individual CAP fellows and undergrad interns have put into their ongoing projects.  We’ve got some really exciting projects and events lined up for 2018 so stay tuned!

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Horseshoe from Brody/Emmons Complex site.

Horseshoe from Brody/Emmons Complex site.

No, I’ll stop any speculation; we haven’t uncovered any hand grenades (think of how much paperwork that would be!). But we do have a horseshoe. Now you might be saying, so what? You’ve surely recovered horseshoes before. And yes, that’s true. We have found full and partial horseshoes at a number of locations around campus. However, this horseshoe from the Brody/Emmons Complex (site of East Lansing’s first landfill) never saw a horses hoof. This horseshoe was made specifically for gaming.

Although much of archaeological evidence relates to the more routine portions of life, such as cooking, hunting, or household structure, archaeologists have also found evidence of sports and gaming. Artifacts that are believed to be associated with games have been found all over the world, such as these 5,000 year old gaming tokens from Turkey, or evidence of Pre-Columbian ball courts. CAP, however, has not uncovered many sports or game related artifacts.

Men playing horseshoes circa. 1942. Image source.

Men playing horseshoes circa. 1942. Image source.

Horseshoes is an outdoors game played between two people, or two teams of two people, using four horseshoes and two targets (stakes) set up in a lawn or sandbox area. Players alternate turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground, which as typically 40 feet apart. There are two ways to score: by throwing the horseshoes nearest to the stake, or by throwing “ringers”. A ringer is when the horseshoe has been thrown in a way that makes it completely encircle the stake. Disputes about the authenticity of a ringer is settled by using a straightedge to touch the end points of the horseshoe, called heel caulks. If the straightedge does not touch the stake, the throw is classified as a ringer.

1929 catalog featuring pitching horseshoes. Image source.

1929 catalog featuring pitching horseshoes. Image source.

It’s possible that this horseshoe was homemade/handmade, but they were also being sold in kits during the early 1900s.  Our horseshoe weights approximately 1 1/2 lbs, but rusting has resulted in some loss.  It is interesting to note that the pitching horseshoe catalog entry on the right sells different weights for men’s pitching horseshoes and women’s pitching horseshoes.  Since our horseshoe is close to the 1 3/4 lb weight range, it’s possible that this horseshoe was meant to be used by women.  Additionally it’s also possible that this horseshoe simply did not meet regulation standards for size and weight requirements.

Horseshoes diagram. Image source.

Horseshoes diagram. Image source.

A 1940s beer advertisement showcasing a family playing horseshoes. Image source.

A 1940s beer advertisement showcasing a family playing horseshoes. Image source.

The first formal rules for the game were established in England in 1869. However the first recorded tournament in the United States wasn’t until 1909 in Bronson, Kansas. Though the popularity of horseshoes had faded some, yard games are easy to spot today at MSU, especially on game days and at tailgates. Games like corn hole (aka bag toss, sack toss, baggo, and many other regional variations of the name) and ladder toss are easy to spot, but a  horseshoe pit is slightly more illusive these days.  Although we’ll never know why someone decided to throw away this horseshoe, we’re happy to have found it.  This artifact provides an interesting viewpoint into East Lansing’s past.











In Sickness and Health: Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy Bottle

Dr. Sage's medicine bottle from Saints Rest.

Dr. Sage’s medicine bottle from Saints Rest.

Today the non-prescription medicine we can buy at the drug store is heavily regulated yet readily available. But in the 19th century patent medicine was dominant. Patent medicines are proprietary (i.e. secret formula) mixtures that were unregulated, advertised widely and sold directly to the public. The popularity of the patent medicine industry is tied to issues with the 19th century medical industry. Qualified doctors were sparse and expensive. Medical knowledge was also undergoing profound changes during the 1800s. Prior to the 1880s most people subscribed to the miasmic theory of disease transmission. It held that diseases like cholera or the Black Death were caused by poisonous vapors or mists (called miasmas). According to the theory, illness was not passed between people, but would only impact people that were near a miasma. In the 1870s and 1880s the work of Joseph Lister and Robert Koch were instrumental in moving the germ theory of disease forward (1,2).

A family member relying on home remedies, the recipes for which were often found in cookbooks, generally provided routine health care.  However treating many of the terrible diseases that became widespread during the 19th century (typhoid, yellow fever, cholera) were beyond the skills of the average citizen. The fear of these diseases directly resulted in the incredible success of the patent medicine industry. Medicine became big business and entrepreneurs began selling all manner of completely unregulated medicine. During the 19th century any drug could be included in the formulas (like Heroin cough suppressant or cocaine toothache drops!), and any claim about the benefits and effectiveness of the medicine could be made.

Dr. Sage's Catarrh Remedy ad. Image Source.

Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy ad. Image Source.

Our patent medicine bottle was recovered from the Saints Rest dormitory during excavations in 2012. As a quick reminder, Saints Rest was the first dormitory on campus and it unfortunately burned to the ground in December of 1876. This small square bottle is embossed on four sides and reads: “Dr Sage’s”, “Catarrh Remedy”, “Dr. Pierce Propr”, “Buffalo”. So what’s the story with this bottle you might ask?

Catarrh is an excessive discharge or buildup of mucus in the nose or throat – i.e. a very very stuffy nose with drainage. Today we would think of this condition as a symptom of a cold or allergy. The bottles sold for 50 cents (3). 

Figure 12 from “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, illustrating use of Dr. Pierce's Nasal Douche. Image Source.

Figure 12 from “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, illustrating use of Dr. Pierce’s Nasal Douche. Image Source.

The directions for use were published in newspaper advertisements as well as Dr. Pierce’s immensely popular book “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, which was essentially an advertisement for his various patent medicines. This book sold millions of copies and included patient testimonials touting the near-miraculous cures provided by his medicine. The Catarrh Remedy could be administered in several ways. After the powder was mixed with water, it could be snorted. Or, it is recommended that the best way to ensure that the remedy reaches all impacted areas is via hydrostatic pressure by means of Dr. Pierce’s Nasal Douche. Yes, a nasal douche.  Think of it as the great grandfather of todays neti pot. The nose is first flushed out with a saline solution, and then the Catarrh remedy fluid (4). Dr. Pierce’s remedies dominated the patent medicine market. Pierce was a master of marketing, using newspapers, broadsides, and billboards to saturate the market (5).

Advertisement for Dr. Pierces Family Medicines. Dr. Sage's Catarrh Remedy can be seen. Image Source.

Advertisement for Dr. Pierces Family Medicines. Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy can be seen. Image Source.

By the beginning of the 20th century blind faith in patent medicine was beginning to waiver. A scathing exposé series, “The Great American Fraud“, was published in Colliers Magazine in 1905-1906.  The journalist, Samuel Hopkins Adams, revealed the dubious practices of the patent medicine industry, and highlighted the many shocking ingredients (6).  These articles created an immense public backlash and helped pave the way for the 1906 Pure Food & Drug Act.  The patent medicine industry, spearheaded by Dr. Pierce, fought viscously against the legislation, but eventually lost the battle.  The 1906 act dealt a substantial blow to patent medicine.  While it did not outlaw the use of alcohol or opiates in the products, the new labeling laws meant that consumers were no longer kept in the dark.  Sales of patent medicine declined rapidly (1).

This tiny bottle tells quite an interesting story that provides a glimpse into the everyday life of an early M.A.C. student.  Perhaps he suffered from allergies brought about by the abundant campus plants, or had contracted a severe head cold while out pilfering fruit from the orchard. Either way it’s a fun peek into the medicine cabinets of the past.


  1. http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Patent_Medicine.pdf
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_disease
  3. The Current Publishing Company. July 23, 1887. No. 188: page 128.
  4.  Dr. Pierce “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser” 1895. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18467/18467-h/advise.html
  5. https://www.nyheritage.org/collections/nickell-collection-dr-rv-pierce-medical-artifacts
  6. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44325/44325-h/44325-h.htm