Author: Mari Isa

The most interesting artifact from MSU’s historic campus? The “Moor” artifact, 10 years later

The most interesting artifact from MSU’s historic campus? The “Moor” artifact, 10 years later

If you’ve been following CAP for a while you’ve probably seen us post about the “Moor” artifact: a small piece of mortar sporting the letters “Moor” in handwritten cursive script. Despite its unassuming appearance, what makes this artifact so fascinating is the incredible story behind 

Alumni Highlight: Terry Brock

Alumni Highlight: Terry Brock

Dr. Terry Brock is a historical and public archaeologist, and is currently the Assistant Director of Archaeology at the Montpelier Foundation in Orange, Virginia. He served as the first Campus Archaeologist from 2008 to 2010 while a graduate student at MSU. As someone who was 

Introducing the Site of the 2019 CAP Summer Field School

Introducing the Site of the 2019 CAP Summer Field School

Still searching for an archaeology field school for this summer? The Campus Archaeology Program will be offering a field school—right here on MSU’s campus—from May 13 to June 7, 2019.

A field school is one of the best ways to learn what it takes to be an archaeologist, because you learn by actually doing archaeology. CAP summer field school students will earn course credits while gaining hands-on experience and developing key archaeological skills: how to survey, excavate, and map sites, how to identify and interpret artifacts in the lab, how to record and communicate findings, and how to maintain and preserve cultural heritage.

CAP Field School students digging on the banks of the Red Cedar River behind the Admin Building.

Past CAP field schools on MSU’s historic campus have focused on a number of sites across the oldest area of campus known as the “Sacred Space,” a midden associated with construction from Professor Gunson’s house, and Station Terrace, a building that served many uses ranging from housing for bachelor faculty to a post office. 

The 2019 summer field school will focus on the site of a historic homestead, located near present day Shaw Lane and Hagadorn Road on the eastern edge of main campus.

Over the past year, the CAP team has conducted archival research to learn more about the history of this area. Using documents such as U.S. Census records, plat maps, and deeds, we were able to discover how the land was used and who lived there from the mid-1800s to the time it became part of campus in the 1950s.

Peter Toolan and his family owned a strip of land between modern Hagadorn Road and Bogue Street (Plat Book of Ingham County, 1939). From at least 1870 until at least 1920 Peter, and later, his son Peter Jr., farmed land in Meridian Township (U.S. Census 1870-1920). After Peter Jr. died his sister, Mary Rogers, became the head of the household (U.S. Census 1940). Census records from 1940 indicate Mary rented space on the property to John Wesley and Lucy Westrom and Lawrence and Annie Bush (U.S. Census 1940). By 1953, the Westroms must have owned the Toolan property, because warranty deeds show that John Westrom and his son Chester transferred ownership of the land to the Michigan State Board of Agriculture in June of that year.

Plat maps are documents that show divisions of a piece of land. This map from 1939 shows the parcel of land belonging to Peter Toolan. http://www.historicmapworks.com/Atlas/US/31498/Ingham+County+1939c/.

We also consulted historical maps and aerial photographs to learn about any potential buildings associated with these families. Within the investigation area planned for the field school, these documents show evidence of various structures on the Toolan property. A USGS topographic map of the East Lansing area shows that there was a structure on the property by at least 1909 (USGS 1909). However, since the Toolans were in the area since the 1870’s, a cabin or house could have been present there long before the map was made. The first moderately clear aerial photos of the area, from October 1953, show a house and possible outbuildings on the eastern edge of the Toolan property (MSU IPF). All of these structures appear to have been removed by 1965 (MSU IPF), probably to make way for Holmes Hall’s construction. Based on this evidence, we expect that structural remnants or historical artifacts dating from the 1870s to the 1950s are likely associated with the families living on the Toolan homestead.

October 1953 aerial image of the Toolan home lot. Hagadorn Road is just outside of the image to the right. The image shows the main house on the left, as well as one or two smaller outbuildings to the right. https://apps.gis.msu.edu/facilities-information-tool/maps/campus/

CAP first began investigating this area during summer 2018 in response to construction projects taking place near the Shaw and Hagadorn intersection. In May, the CAP team conducted pedestrian and systematic shovel test pit surveys. The team recorded various artifacts including colored glass, milk glass, decorated and undecorated ceramics, bath tile, nails, medicine bottles, and butchered animal bones. In June CAP returned to host an Archaeology STEM camp for IB high school students at the site. Most of the artifacts found in May and June are consistent with dates between the mid to late 1800s and the 1950s, the period it was occupied by the Toolan and later the Westrom and Bush families.

IB STEM camp students screen dirt to look for artifacts.

We are excited to learn more about this site because it is one of the few known homesteads in the area that may have been in operation around the same time the university was founded and throughout its expansion. Investigation of this homestead can give us insight into the growth of campus and the surrounding city of East Lansing. As we continue work this summer we hope to find more artifacts and potentially locate structural remnants from the house associated with the Toolan, Westrom, and Bush families.  

If you’re interested in joining the team for the 2019 field school, you can find more information and the application form here. Applications are due to CAP Director Dr. Stacey Camp (campstac@msu.edu) by March 1, 2019.  


References

Michigan. Ingham County, Town of Meridian. 1870 U.S. Census, page 18.

Michigan. Ingham County, Meridian Township. 1920 U.S. Census, Sheet No. 9A.

Michigan. Ingham County, Meridian Township. 1940 U.S. Census, Sheet No. 20A.

United States Geological Survey. Michigan (Ingham County), Mason Quadrangle. Map. U.S. Department of the Interior. 1909. Accessed: http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/

Plat book of Ingham County, Michigan. Meridian Township. Map. W.W. Hixon & Co. 1939. Accessed: http://www.historicmapworks.com/Atlas/US/31498/Ingham+County+1939c/

MSU Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities (IPF) Public GIS. Accessed: https://apps.gis.msu.edu/facilities-information-tool/maps/campus/

  • Aerial image, October 15th 1953
  • Aerial image, 1965
Alumni Highlight: Amy Michael

Alumni Highlight: Amy Michael

Dr. Amy Michael is a biological anthropologist whose research examines the microstructure of human bones and teeth in order to address questions ranging from health and social identity in the ancient Maya to the effect of lifestyle factors on skeletal age. She is currently a 

Creating a New Outreach Activity

Creating a New Outreach Activity

Those who follow us know that outreach is a big part of what we do in the Campus Archaeology Program. Every year, CAP participates in several public outreach events including Michigan Archaeology Day, Grandparents University, ScienceFest, and more. These events are important because it gives 

A sweet discovery: a Bavarian sugar bowl in the East Lansing dump

A sweet discovery: a Bavarian sugar bowl in the East Lansing dump

Tea has a long tradition as both a beverage and a social event (1). In turn of the 20th century America, tea was enjoyed both at home and in public tearooms, by men and by women (1, 2). At a time when women were typically excluded from other public dining rooms, it was considered acceptable for women to go to tearooms with or without male escorts (1). Whether taken at home or in public, teatime was an event requiring several pieces of equipment. For a respectable tea, etiquette and cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th centuries list non-negotiable items as a teapot, teacups and saucers, a jug for cream, and a bowl for sugar (2). Tea services were often beautiful objects made of fine china or silver, intended to be displayed and admired by guests.

Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.
Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

CAP archaeologists recovered one of these beautiful objects, a flowery porcelain sugar bowl, during excavations at Brody/Emmons complex, the former site of the East Lansing city dump. Luckily for us, the bowl is nearly intact and displays a backstamp on its base reading “MIGNON Z.S.& Co. BAVARIA.” This stamp provides several key pieces of information about the item, starting with the name of the manufacturer. Z.S. & Co refers to Porzellanfabrik Zeh, Scherzer & Co., a German company that produced porcelain tableware, coffee and tea sets, and other decorative items from the time it was founded in 1880 until 1992 (3). The backstamp also gives us a clue as to a date. Manufacturers often changed the design of their backstamps to reflect new ownership or updates. Z.S. & Co. used the plain green mark with the name of the company and place of manufacture divided by a wavy line between 1880 and 1918 (3).

Makers mark on base of Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.
Makers mark on base of Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

The backstamp also tells us where the bowl was made: the German state of Bavaria. Until the 1700s, the best quality china was made in, well, China (4). In the early 18th century, German manufacturers in Saxony discovered the secret to producing high quality porcelain using a combination of kaolin and alabaster. The Meissen porcelain factory near Dresden was the first European company to successfully manufacture and market hard paste porcelain. By the height of china production in the late 1800s, there were hundreds of porcelain factories and workshops in Germany. German china gained a formidable reputation for its quality and beauty. Starting in 1887, many companies began stamping their wares with the label “made in Germany” to differentiate them from competitors, primarily the English workshops in Staffordshire. The inclusion of this phrase served as a proxy for quality (4). Some German porcelain simply includes the region of manufacture, such as Saxony, Bavaria, or Prussia (3). Until the 20th century, many porcelain items were imported from Germany. However, anti-German sentiment at the beginning of World War I reduced demand for many German goods in America.

Mignon style sugar bowl.
Mignon style sugar bowl. Image source.

Finally, the word “Mignon” on the backstamp refers to the name of the series. Z.S. & Co. produced various styles of dishes including the Mignon, Orleans, and Punch series (3). Dishes in the same series had the same shapes, but were available in a wide variety of patterns. The Mignon sugar bowl recovered from the Brody dump has the same shape as a Mignon sugar bowl I found on Ebay, but it is painted in a different pattern. The CAP sugar bowl is decorated with pink and white flowers and green leaves and flowery gold fleur-de-lis near the rim. The pattern itself actually tells us about how the piece was made. The flowers are crisp, multi-colored and multi-dimensional in that they exhibit shading. This indicates the use of ceramic decals, a technique involving the transfer of an image printed on special paper onto a ceramic object (5). This process is much faster and requires less skill than hand painting. The advent of this technique in the 19th century allowed for mass production of affordable china (5).

It is impossible to say for sure why the sugar bowl ended up in the East Lansing dump, but a likely explanation is that it was broken. Delicate pieces of a tea service get picked up and passed around quite a bit, leaving ample opportunity to drop, chip, or smash them. The sugar bowl recovered from the dump is mostly intact, though it is missing two handles and is chipped in several places around the base. It is possible some of this damage came from being buried in a landfill. However, it is easy imagine that its owner decided to discard it after a few too many exuberant tea parties rendered it no longer fit for display.

References

  1. Smith AF. 2013. Tea. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199734962.001.0001/acref-9780199734962.
  2. http://www.foodtimeline.org/teatime.html#americantea
  3. http://www.porcelainmarksandmore.com/germany/bavaria/rehau-01/index.php
  4. https://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Antique_China_Made_in_Germany
  5. http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Post-Colonial%20Ceramics/Less%20Commonly%20Found/DecalDecoratedWares/index-DecalDecoratedWares.html
Archaeology and the Age of Plastics: Bakelite in the Brody Dump

Archaeology and the Age of Plastics: Bakelite in the Brody Dump

Take a moment to think about what kinds of materials you’d expect to find in a garbage dump from 2018. Did plastic immediately spring to mind? About 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, only about 10% of which is recycled (1). 

Not Ready for this Jelly Juice Glass

Not Ready for this Jelly Juice Glass

Mason jars are having a moment. If you’ve attended a wedding (particularly the barn variety) or eaten at a brunch establishment in the last decade, chances are you’ve consumed a beverage out of a Mason jar. What the youngest among us may not realize is 

Campus as Museum: A Campus Archaeology Mobile Experience

Campus as Museum: A Campus Archaeology Mobile Experience

Here at CAP we think a lot about different ways of sharing our research. We can—and do—present at conferences, give public lectures, and publish site reports and journal articles. While these avenues are great for communicating our work to other experts, they are probably not the most effective ways of engaging the MSU community and the public. This blog is one way we communicate with the public about the campus heritage we uncover through our work. But how can we take this one step further and make the connection between campus heritage and campus space? One idea is to create an experience that turns MSU’s campus into a museum anyone can visit, with exhibits that not only showcase what we’ve discovered through archival and archaeological research, but also the processes involved in uncovering this knowledge.

The first iteration of this idea of campus as museum was msu.seum, a free mobile app that uses geopositioning to identify a user’s location on campus, point them to the nearest site of interest, and provide information on the history and archaeology of the site. Msu.seum was the outcome of collaboration between the Campus Archaeology Program, the Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Initiative, and MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science. The app was first designed and developed as part of the 2011 CHI Field School led by CHI director and MATRIX associate director Dr. Ethan Watrall. Content for msu.seum was developed by Dr. Goldstein and former Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock.

For my CAP project I have been working to update and help build a Campus Archaeology mobile experience on a new and improved platform that alleviates technical issues with the original msu.seum app and offers exciting new features. The new platform we are using is mbira, an open-source tool specifically designed for building and managing location-based and mobile cultural heritage experiences designed by MATRIX. The site we are building in mbira can be accessed as an app for Android and Apple devices, on mobile web browsers, and as a browser-based web app.

A screenshot of the editor view of the interactive map showing five location points organized within the permanent exhibit "Beginnings." This exhibit covers the first era of MSU's history from 1855 to 1870.
A screenshot of the editor view of the interactive map showing five location points organized within the permanent exhibit “Beginnings.” This exhibit covers the first era of MSU’s history from 1855 to 1870.

So, what exactly will the new Campus Archaeology mobile experience look like? The site has three major levels of organization: locations, exhibits, and explorations. Locations are the most basic level of organization. They appear as pins on an interactive map and are tied to real locations, including past and present campus buildings and sites CAP has excavated. When a user selects a location pin, they are provided with a description of the site’s history, similar to an artifact label in a traditional museum. Unlike traditional museums, locations also include a “Dig Deeper” section exposing the archaeological research that helped generate knowledge about that location, as well as a comment section. Our hope is that eventually users will be able to participate in conversations with us and other users to ask questions, share reactions, and contribute to our knowledge of campus sites.

A historic photo of College Hall, the first building erected on campus and one of the locations users can explore on the Campus Archaeology Mobile Experience. It held classrooms, labs, a museum, a chapel, and administration. This photo taken in 1857 shows the landscape of felled trees that had to be cleared to build campus. (Photo courtesy of MSU Archives, A000157.jpg).
A historic photo of College Hall, the first building erected on campus and one of the locations users can explore on the Campus Archaeology Mobile Experience. It held classrooms, labs, a museum, a chapel, and administration. This photo taken in 1857 shows the landscape of felled trees that had to be cleared to build campus. (Photo courtesy of MSU Archives)

Exhibits provide one option for users to experience locations. Exhibits connect several locations together based on an underlying theme. To date, we have created five permanent exhibits for the mobile experience. Four of these correspond to eras in campus history including Beginnings (1855-1870), Foundation (1870-1900), Expansion (1900-1925), and Legacy (1925-1955). Our fifth permanent exhibit, Discovery, includes locations associated with CAP’s archaeological investigations from 2005 to the present. Explorations provide another way for users to experience locations. Unlike exhibits, explorations join together locations intended to be experienced in a particular sequence. This feature could be used to create a self-guided tour.

A photo of the foundations of College Hall, excavated in 2009 during sidewalk replacement around Beaumont Tower.
A photo of the foundations of College Hall, excavated in 2009 during sidewalk replacement around Beaumont Tower.

So far, my work on this project has primarily focused on building the permanent exhibits. Last semester I updated content previously featured on msu.seum with findings from new investigations. I have also created new content that reflects more recent field schools and sites excavated since 2011. I am now putting the finishing touches on the permanent exhibits including attaching historical photos from MSU Archives and photos of artifacts and archaeological investigations to each of the 27 locations currently added to the site.

As we develop this Campus Archaeology mobile experience, we are continuing to think of new ways to build and expand. We hope to create temporary thematic exhibits and explorations that can be featured at different times throughout the year. One idea is to highlight and connect current CAP research—including research on sustainability, food, and gender—to locations on campus. Another idea is to create a Halloween exploration to coincide with the Haunted Tour Campus Archaeology cohosts with the MSU Paranormal Society.

While this project is still in development, we are looking forward to launching the site soon. In March, Dr. Watrall will be presenting a beta version at the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries conference in a paper titled “Towards an Approach to Building Mobile Digital Experiences for University Campus Heritage and Archaeology.” He will also be presenting on building mobile experiences for heritage and archaeology in this invited lecture. Stay tuned for the full launch of the CAP mobile experience later this year!

 

Think Like an Archaeologist: Reflections on Outreach Using Site Kits

Think Like an Archaeologist: Reflections on Outreach Using Site Kits

Given one hour, how do you teach 300 7th graders to think like archaeologists? This was the challenge presented to us when a group of teachers contacted CAP about doing an interactive event to introduce their 7th grade social studies students to archaeology. Although CAP