The 2018-2019 school year has begun! Dr. Stacey Camp has taken over as director of the program, following Dr. Lynne Goldstein’s retirement from MSU. We will be continuing to work on several ongoing projects, as well as begin several new ones. Please meet our 2018-2019 …
Author: Autumn Painter
Where did the kitchenware at MSU come from during the early years of the school? As it was not economical to purchase dinnerware sets in the same way families purchased dishes for their home, the college most likely turned to catalogue companies, the Costco of …
As the weather warms and summer gets closer, the Campus Archaeology Program is gearing up for yet another busy season.
While our excavations occur primarily in the summer, months of planning and preparation take place before the first trowel is stuck in the dirt. Many different factors come into play when planning for an archaeological field season, particularly in Michigan during the Spring. Some of these are logistical. One of our first concerns is the frost line, which represents the depth to which the groundwater in the soil is expected to freeze. If the ground is still frozen, it makes excavating very difficult, and in some cases impossible. This is especially true for shovel tests, which are dug a meter into the ground. While the top 10-20 centimeters of soil may be thawed, soil may still be frozen at deeper depths. We also need to ensure that all of our equipment is ready for a busy field season. This means that we will be sharpening all of our shovels and trowels and making sure that our screens are in working shape. Aside from field equipment, we make sure that our field crew is prepared with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury. In construction zones, CAP crew members are always equipped with the proper protective clothing, as well a safety vest, helmet, and goggles!
Strategic planning is also critical. The Campus Archaeology Program is preparing for many projects taking place across campus this summer. During our latest meeting with Matt Fehrenbach, a Project Manager/Supervisor at Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF), we learned more about several projects taking place, including work near the Kellogg Center, the Henry Center, the Communication Arts Building, the Music Building, and Cowles House. Our great working relationship with IPF allows us to learn about these projects before they begin so we can plan the best way to mitigate any risk to archaeological deposits.
One of our initial steps, once we know a project’s area of impact, is to decide if the area warrants pre-construction shovel test survey and subsequent monitoring or just monitoring once the project begins. Typically, when construction is slated to take place in north and central campus, CAP will conduct a shovel test survey before construction begins in order to determine the presence and extent of any archaeological remains within the area of impact. This lets us work with the construction crews to mitigate the archaeological resources, and in some cases, the time to excavate and recover as much data as possible before the project continues.
Keep a look out for us this summer, as we are surveying and monitoring throughout campus in our yellow CAP vests!
Author: Autumn Painter
Why are there different colored beer bottles and what does it mean? Today, beer bottles are manufactured in a number of colors, but has that always occurred? These are the questions I have been asking myself as I have been looking through Campus Archaeology artifacts, …
As all MSU students, professors, and staff know, MSU is continually improving their roads, sidewalks, sporting fields, etc. Each spring through fall, MSU’s campus is scattered with constructions sites with the goal of bettering the physical campus environment. While this activity is very visible, there …
As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated in several seasons by CAP near the location where Saints’ Rest once stood. Because of the sites’ use as a small public dumping area, the artifacts recovered are expected to reflect the daily life of those living at and nearby Saints’ Rest dormitory. The end goal of this research project, in conjunction with research by Lisa Bright, Amy Michael, Jeff Painter, and Susan Kooiman, is to better understand the everyday lives of the early MSU students.
This work would not have been possible without a trip to the comparative collection at the Illinois State Museum Research and Collection Center. I was able to finish the identifications, including the trickier bones, thanks to the help of Dr. Terrance Martin! Below are a few photos of the archaeological bones compared to the comparative collection skeletons that confirmed their identification.
Now that I have completed the analysis of the faunal (animal) remains uncovered during the excavation, I can begin to interpret the data. From the trash midden, I analyzed four hundred and eighty eight bones, weighting a total of 6655.53 grams! Out of those, I was able to identify 129 bones to an animal family and/or species level. The most prevalent species, accounting for 63% of all identified bone specimens was Bos taurus, otherwise known as cow. Other identified species include domestic pig (Sus scrofa), sheep/goat (Ovis/Capra), domesticated chicken (Gallus gallus), and sucker fish (Catostomidae), as well as one unidentified shell! The remaining 359 bones were unidentifiable mammal bone fragments.
Below are several diagrams, including cow, pig, and sheep/goat skeletons. Within these diagrams, I have highlighted the elements that are present within the Saints’ Rest Midden. As you can see, there are many more cow skeletal elements than pig or sheep/goat including bones from head to (almost) tail. The pig elements were limited to skull, teeth, and a rib, while the sheep/goat bones include only a portion of an eye orbit and scapula.
Preliminary calculations of the minimum number of individual species indicate that there were at least two cows, one pig, one sheep/goat, one chicken, and one sucker fish. Possible species of sucker fish include a common sucker (Catostomus sp.) or redhorse sucker (Moxostoma sp.). The fish bone comes from a species that would typically be found in freshwater rivers and lakes and could have been found locally near MSU (Michigan DNR; Lucas and Baras 2008). Many cow bones showed evidence for butchering, including saw marks and cut marks (29 bones, 38%). At least four bones within the faunal assemblage were cut very distinctly, creating round-cut steaks (see image of round-cut steak below).
All of this information is beginning to give us a glimpse into the food consumption and deposition patterns of the early MSU students and staff. The next step, besides analyzing bones from more deposits, will be to incorporate my findings with those of other CAP researchers in order to form a more complete understanding of the lives of the first MSU students and staff. Stay tuned to learn what we uncover as we combine all of our lines of evidence!
Author: Autumn Painter
Round-cut Steak Image: https://www.thriftyfun.com/Round-Steak-Recipes.html
Migration of Freshwater Fishes by Martyn Lucas and Etienne Baras. John Wiley & Sons (2008)
Over the past year, I have been working on identifying the animal (faunal) bone material excavated by the Campus Archaeology Program. Currently, I have been working on bones that were recovered during the Saint’s Rest excavation. Saint’s Rest was the first dormitory on campus, and …
Happy Halloween! This past week the Campus Archaeology Program and the MSU Paranormal Society hosted their fourth annual Apparitions and Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour! While it was a little chilly out, we had a record number of attendees, with over 200 people touring! Similar …
This past year, I wrote a blog post detailing several stories of hunting and gathering on campus that I had uncovered while researching food practices on MSU’s early campus. I have continued to explore this aspect of campus and recently discovered some new information that sheds a little more light on these activities!
It is well documented that the first students and faculty on campus supplemented their diet with fruit and game animals from the surrounding area, but the motivation behind this was not completely clear. Within Madison Kuhn’s book Michigan State: The First Hundred Years, there is a passage that discusses the student reactions to the board rate increase from $2.50 per week to $3.15 in the early 1880s. The students were outraged that the raise in rate did not correspond with the quality of food that they were being served. A student committee investigated the university accounts and discovered the university steward “paid excessive prices, that he failed to enter all receipts, and that he bought canned goods while vegetables rotted in the field, and that he charged the boarding-hall for the feed of his personal driving-horse” (Kuhn, p.126). All of these irregularities resulted in the resignation of the steward. This hefty price, plus the less-than desirable taste of the dining hall food, could have been a key factor in the student’s motivation to supplement their diet from the surrounding area.
As Susan mentioned in her blog post last week, students would steal food from different areas around campus including bread, cakes, and fruit from the MSU Orchards (Kains, 1945). In addition to swiping food from around the college, students would also forage across several of the neighboring farms. Using spare clothing as impromptu bags, students would raid nearby fields, coming back to campus with apples, musk melons, and occasionally a stray chicken (Kuhn p. 46).
However, this less than legal practice was not the only way that students added variety to their diet. In the 1870s, a competitive “grand match hunt” was commonly held in October. In 1873, the hunt “bagged seventy-nine squirrels, twelve pigeons, nine quail, six partridges, four turkeys, eight ducks” and the winning team was treated to an oyster dinner by the losers (see Mari’s blog post about Oysters!; Kuhne, p.99). This and other hunting stories are made all the more interesting since, according to the rules and regulations established by the College in 1857, students were not supposed to possess or use firearms on campus (Meeting Minutes 1857, p.32). Because of this rule, students used other means, such as building pens to capture wild turkeys or getting faculty assistance, in order to feast on wild game (Kuhn, p.45). Like smoking and alcohol, the use of firearms was either not strongly enforced or was easily kept secret on a sparsely populated campus. Maybe the promise of a few choice cuts of meat was enough to make faculty members look the other way when it came to hunting on campus.
Author: Autumn Painter
Kains, Maurice G., editor.
1945 Fifty Years out of College: A Composite Memoir of the Class of 1895 Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. New York: Greenberg.
Kuhne, Madison 1910 Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955. Michigan State University Press .
Meeting Minutes, 1857, Offices of Board of Trustees and President, UA 1 http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-1D9/meeting-minutes-1857/
Turkey Photo, date unknown: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-74C/student-with-turkey-presents-to-onlookers-date-unknown/
MAC Gardens and Orchard, date unknown: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-6A2/mac-gardens-and-orchard-date-unknown/
I am excited to announce that Capturing Campus Cuisine, the food project that Susan Kooiman and myself began this past year will continue! Last year, we studied the earliest period of MSU’s campus from 1855-1870, focusing on the production, processing, and consumption on campus. This …