Author: Lisa Bright

Farewell to Campus Archaeology

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 

Reflections on Dr. Goldstein’s Impact

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 



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

Archaeology Post-Natural Disaster

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 

Are you ready to Par-T?

Are you ready to Par-T?

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 

Lice Lice Baby

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) –

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

Fox, Irvine (editor)
1899 The Spatula Volume 6 (


Creating Outreach Site Kits

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 

2017 Year in Review

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 

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

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

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

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.