MSU Campus Archaeology Receives 2017 Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation

Members of the Michigan Legislature present Dan Bollman (MSU Infrastructure Planning & Facilities), Jodie O'Gorman (MSU Dept. of Anthropology), and Lynne Goldstein ( CAP Director) with the award.

Members of the Michigan Legislature present Dan Bollman (MSU Infrastructure Planning & Facilities), Jodie O’Gorman (MSU Dept. of Anthropology), and Lynne Goldstein ( CAP Director) with the award.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, MSU’s Department of Anthropology, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, and the Office of the President received the Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation and a special tribute from the State of Michigan Legislature on behalf of MSU Campus Archaeology. The award was given for their combined efforts to preserve the cultural resources found on Michigan State University’s campus. This award, sponsored by Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office and State Historic Preservation Review Board, recognizes individuals, companies, and institutions that strive to protect, preserve, and study the many historic resources within the state of Michigan (For a complete list of those who received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation this year, click here).

Poster highlighting CAP's work on display at the award ceremony.

Poster highlighting CAP’s work on display at the award ceremony.

Since 2005, MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program has worked to excavate and recover the material remains of MSU’s history, as well as the history of those who lived here prior to the university.  Combining salvage archaeology, field schools, and archival research, CAP has contributed greatly to our understanding of MSU’s past, while also training numerous students in archaeological methods and the importance of cultural resource management and preservation. Not only focused on excavation and research, CAP also works to communicate this history and the importance of archaeology to members of the community through outreach events like MSU’s Science Festival, MSU Grandparents University, the CAP MSU Haunted Campus tour, and participation in other local events. As Governor Snyder reminds us, these preservation and research efforts have impacts beyond just the MSU community, contributing to “our sense of place, and our identity as Michiganders.”

Special Tribute from State of Michigan

Special Tribute from State of Michigan

2017 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation

2017 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation










In the future, Campus Archaeology will continue to work toward preserving and understanding the history of our small slice of the state of Michigan, despite a political climate that is increasingly antagonistic toward cultural and natural resource management and preservation. Preservation, when done properly, helps to build a stronger sense of self and identity for neighborhoods, regions, and even nations, which can act as guiding principles for future action. The preservation of buildings and archaeological sites also provides stark physical reminders of who we are, where we came from, and what we strive to become in the future.  They remind us of how much we have achieved, but also how far we have left to go. Further, monuments and other preserved sites allow us to interact with and experience our heritage, or the heritage of others, in a way that cannot be reproduced through other means. Beyond this cultural and social value, preservation efforts also generate economic opportunities by creating jobs, increasing tourism, increasing property values, and attracting businesses who want to benefit from this improved traffic. Most importantly, these resources are non-renewable; they cannot be reclaimed once they are gone, so we must work to preserve them now before they are lost forever. We congratulate all of the current and previous winners of the Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation for their great work, and we hope they continue this work far into the future.

A Taste of History: Our 1860s MSU Meal Reconstruction Event

So what does history really taste like? As you can read from Susan’s event preview blog post, this past week we hosted a 1860s MSU-inspired meal based on archival and archaeological research. This event took place through the collaboration of Campus Archaeology and the MSU Culinary Service, specifically Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski, Chef Jay Makowski, and MSU Baker Cindy Baswell.

Our menu included codfish ball appetizers; main dishes of walleye, spiced beef, turkey with oyster dressing, and beef tongue; sides of chow-chow, graham bread, and potato croquettes; and desserts of ginger cake and raspberry charlotte russe. We also had ginger beer (non-alcoholic) as a beverage option. This was included because Campus Archaeology uncovered a ginger beer bottle during the excavation of Saint’s Rest dormitory in 2005 (read more about ginger beer here. About 25 guests attended the event, ranging from anthropology graduate students and faculty to college administrators.

A little bit of everything from the nicely prepared meal.

A little bit of everything from the nicely prepared meal.

It was a wonderful meal recreation and I have created several videos below that give a view into what was put into the event, as well as the food that was created and some reactions to beef tongue!


As the meal was finishing, we asked the other guests what dish was their favorite; it ranged from the codfish balls and potato croquettes (with a side of chow-chow!) to a surprising enjoyment of the beef tongue! Personally, I really enjoyed every dish but I was most surprised with how much I actually enjoyed the beef tongue (as long as I didn’t think about what I was eating too much!).

Susan Kooiman and I are extremely proud of how this event came to fruition, and hope to continue researching the early foodways of MSU with Campus Archaeology! Later this week the website I have been building through MSU’s Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Fellowship will be launched, which will detail the information that led us to create this event, an interactive map with interest points from historic MSU, and a designated page about the meal itself! Look for the announcement of the webpage on the CHI blog.

Thirsty Throwback Thursday: A History of Ginger Beer

Today is the day! Campus Archaeology is throwing it wayy back with an 1860’s-inspired three-course meal. For my blog post this week, I thought I’d get into the spirit of historic food and drink with a little history—and some of my own, highly professional market research—on ginger beer.

Ginger beer bottle found at Saints’ Rest

Ginger beer bottle found at Saints’ Rest

Archaeology provides a unique opportunity to look at the physical evidence of past consumption. At MSU, archival documents tell us the official records of what the school bought for students and faculty to eat and drink. However, we can learn about what people were actually consuming on campus by looking at the archaeological record of things they threw away. This is how we learned that at least one thing people drank was ginger beer, as evidenced by a stone ginger beer bottle excavated from Saints’ Rest dormitory in 2005.

Ginger beer was a popular drink in Britain and North America from the 18th century until Prohibition. Technically speaking, ginger beer is not a beer. Whereas the production of beer involves the fermentation of a grain (typically barley or wheat) malted to turn its starch into sugar, ginger beer involves the fermentation of ginger and added sugar, typically molasses or cane sugar. Ginger beer is more likely related to the ‘small beers’ popular in Europe from Medieval times until Industrialization. Before the advent of sodas and modern soft drinks, these weakly alcoholic, fermented beverages were typically brewed at home and provided a safer alternative to often-contaminated water.

Ginger beer plant, the SCOBY responsible for fermenting ginger beer.

Ginger beer plant, the SCOBY responsible for fermenting ginger beer. Image source.

Why make a ginger drink? Humans have been drinking ginger beverages for thousands of years, often for medicinal purposes. However, the history of ginger beer is tied to the cultural and economic importance of its two main ingredients, ginger and sugar. Ginger and sugarcane, crops native to tropical regions of South Asia, were introduced to Europe via the spice trade. Europeans brought these crops and others to the New World, where they flourished in the tropical climates of the Caribbean. Powered by the labor of enslaved Africans, French- and English-controlled Caribbean plantations became the world’s biggest sugarcane producers. By 1655, England also controlled Jamaica, the Caribbean’s most prolific producer of ginger, with over two million pounds exported to Europe each year. Jamaican ginger was considered especially flavorful and was a prized ingredient in ginger beer.

Apart from ginger and sugar, ginger beer has two other traditional ingredients: lemon, and a special microorganism that aids in fermentation. The microorganisms responsible for the fermentation in ginger beer are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (a SCOBY) known by the more innocuous name of “ginger beer plant.” A culture of ginger beer plant is added to sugar water flavored with ginger. These microorganisms ingest the sugars and produce carbon dioxide and low levels of alcohol as waste products. While today’s ginger beers are typically non-alcoholic, prior to the mid-19th century, ginger beer was up to 11% alcohol by volume. In 1855, British Parliament passed an act that imposed export taxes on beverages with an alcohol content above 2%. After this, most ginger beer brewers reduced the alcohol content in their products (via reduction of the fermentation time) in order to keep them affordable.

An example of a plain, early stoneware ginger beer bottle. From

An example of a plain, early stoneware ginger beer bottle. Image source.

After it was brewed, ginger beer was corked inside stoneware bottles, like the one found at Saints’ Rest. Early stoneware bottles and those brewed locally in North America at were usually fairly plain, brown in color, and etched with the bottler’s name or city. The Saints’ Rest bottle seems to fit into this category. Beginning in the 1880s, however, sleeker gray bottles with colorful shoulder slips and stamped logos designed to attract consumer attention became more popular.

Part of the reason for packaging in stone rather than glass bottles was cosmetic: ginger beer was usually unattractively cloudy in appearance. However, packaging was also functionally important in the export of ginger beer. England shipped large amounts of ginger beer to the U.S. and Canada beginning in the 1790s through the 19th century. Though ginger beer was brewed regionally, England maintained market dominance in North America because English breweries used superior quality stoneware bottles that better maintained ginger beer’s effervescence and kept it cold. The bottles were sealed with liquid- and gas-tight Bristol Glaze and wired and corked shut to maintain carbon dioxide in solution.

Examples of later, more decorative stone ginger beer bottles

Examples of later, more decorative stone ginger beer bottles. Image source

During Prohibition, ginger beer dipped in popularity in favor of its cousin, ginger ale, and other soft drinks. Unlike traditional ginger beer, ginger ale is made by adding ginger flavoring and sweetener to carbonated water and does not involve the addition of a microorganism. Today, the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale is much less clear. Many modern manufacturers use this abiotic process to make or enhance ginger beer, adding flavoring and carbonation without the use of a microorganism. For this reason, modern ginger beers differ from ginger ales primarily in flavor; they are typically spicier and less sweet than ginger ales.

All this research got me excited to try some ginger beers. Naturally, Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright and I had to do our own taste test, you know, for science. We picked four brands of ginger beer that I hadn’t yet tried at stores near us: Regatta, Barritt’s, Q, and Bundaberg. We tasted each ginger beer alone and for science—and because #gradschool—we added vodka and lime to make some Moscow Mules.

Modern ginger beer bottles from our taste test.

Modern ginger beer bottles from our taste test.

In no particular order, the first brand we tried was Regatta. It was spicy with a strong ginger flavor and made an enjoyable cocktail. Barritt’s was up next. This one was much less flavorful so it seemed disproportionally sweet, like a ginger ale. Third, we tried the Bundaberg. This was spicy and sweet and definitely enjoyable alone. Last, we tried Q ginger beer: spicy, very fizzy, but not at all sweet. According to the Q website, it is made with chili pepper and is specifically intended to be used as a mixer. Our highly scientific and definitive ranking put the Bundaberg in first place, Regatta in second, Q in close third, and Barritt’s in fourth.

If you have a favorite ginger beer, please tell us about it! We hope you open one up and think about early MSU students who might have enjoyed a ginger beer in their dorm after a long day of classes and farm work (although this was probably enjoyed in secret as alcohol was banned on campus).


Eating Our Way Through History: A Preview of CAP’s Historic MSU Meal Recreation

As I’m sure any of our regular readers are aware, CAP has been looking into the foodways of the early MSU campus this year.  Our ultimate goals for the project were to create a website documenting early foodways on campus, and to recreate an 1860’s MSU-inspired meal based on archaeological and archival research. Autumn is almost ready to launch our website, and our meal recreation is this Thursday, April 27!

​MSU Culinary Services will be preparing the lovely meal for us.

​MSU Culinary Services will be preparing the lovely meal for us.

We have worked closely with Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski and Chef Jay Makowski of MSU Culinary Services and Cindy Baswell of MSU Bakers to create a historic menu fit for a king… or maybe just a nineteenth-century college student. In any case, I believe this will be a delightful treat.

Here is the menu, with explanations as to why each dish was chosen:

Appetizer: Codfish Balls

Codfish balls closeup!

Codfish balls closeup! Image source

​Historic cookbook from Port Huron, MI. Image source: MSU Special Collections

​Historic cookbook from Port Huron, MI. Image source: MSU Special Collections

While we have no evidence that anyone ever made codfish balls on the early college campus, codfish was purchased by the boarding halls in the 1860s. A church cookbook from Port Huron, MI, lists this appetizing recipe:

“Parboil fish, pick it up; mash a few potatoes, mix well with the fish; add a little butter, enough sweet cream to moisten, then make in small cakes, dip into corn meal and fry in pork gravy.”

Basically, it is a fancy fish stick that will clog your arteries faster than you can say “I love Midwestern cuisine!” So naturally, we had to include it as our appetizer.

Main Dishes: Walleye; Spiced Beef; Turkey with Oyster Dressing; Beef Tongue

What initially inspired our meal recreation was the food remains found in a privy excavated on campus in 2015. Many fish bones were encountered, including walleye, a quintessential Midwestern fish. There is no mention of walleye in the boarding house account books, so this fish may have been caught locally rather than purchased.

Beef was purchased by the early college boarding halls and undoubtedly was a common item on their menu. A menu from 1884 (for the Class of ’86) lists both “pressed beef” and “beef tongue, spiced” on the menu. Both pressed beef and spiced beef are brined and cooked slowly, then pressed and served cold. Spiced beef has, well, more spices and presumably more flavor, and it is common in nineteenth-century cookbooks, so we selected that as our primary beef dish. Beef tongue is also frequently featured in historic cookbooks, and we threw it in there just to have a more oddball option that we can dare our guests (and ourselves) to try!

​Beef tongue - you know you want to try it!

​Beef tongue – you know you want to try it! Image source

Turkey was a special dish served at the Agricultural College. It was purchased seasonally for Thanksgiving and early students took part in hunting and feasting on wild turkeys as well. We have written much about oysters on our blog in the past, and so we felt we had to include them in our dinner. Since we felt we should adhere to the historic habit of consuming canned oysters, which sound wholly unappealing, we decided to incorporate them into a stuffing for the turkey. Together, the turkey and stuffing represent the “special occasion” dish for this meal.

Sides: Chow-Chow; Potato Croquettes

​Chow-chow. Evidently still popular in Tennessee

​Chow-chow. Evidently still popular in Tennessee. Image Source

Chow-chow is a popular vegetable relish in the nineteenth century, and it is still popular in parts of the South. Made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, as well as with other vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower, it consists of foods that would have been easily grown in the college gardens. Chow-chow is also featured on the 1884 banquet menu, suggesting it was an important and common side on historic tables.

Potato croquettes are basically deep-fried mashed potato balls, so naturally we wanted to eat them. A cookbook from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Lansing (ca. 1890) had a whole section devoted to croquettes, suggesting their local popularity. Early campus boarding halls did sometimes purchase potatoes, but also grew their own, as student work logs record them “working in potatoes” and “hoeing potatoes and peas” in 1869.

Desserts: Ginger Cake; Charlotte Russe with Raspberries

Is this what we mean by "ginger cake"?

Is this what we mean by “ginger cake”? Image source

It is apparent from nineteenth century cookbooks and banquet menus that cake was a popular dessert. And can you blame them? Cake is amazing. There is nothing in the MSU records specifically mentioning ginger cake, since specific recipes weren’t written down and specific spices were never recorded in the account books. In his diary, Edward Granger mentions stealing cakes from “downstairs” (presumably the kitchens) and eating ginger snaps at Christmas in 1859. Recipes for gingerbreads and cakes are abundant in historic cookbooks, meaning it was likely a common dessert at the time.

Our final dish will be Charlotte Russe. Nowhere is this fancy molded dessert of custard, gelatin, and cake mentioned in the MSU records but it is heavily featured in historic cookbooks, as are molded and gelatin desserts in general. Furthermore, an abundance of raspberry seeds were found in the historic privy on campus, so the raspberries will be incorporated into the meal in the Charlotte Russe.

Bread: Graham Bread

Graham bread is just a fancy term for whole wheat bread. While today we consider whole wheat to be the healthiest and premium flour, in the past it was not considered as refined as bleached white flour. The early boarding halls purchased graham flour and undoubtedly made much of their bread and rolls using it. It may sound like a healthy component of our meal, but historic recipes often incorporate molasses into the bread.

​We will eat many grams of graham bread

​We will eat many grams of graham bread. Image source.


We are very much looking forward to our lovely meal on Thursday. Invitations have been sent out and we hope to have a wonderful time with guests from across the campus. Autumn will be writing a summary of the event, so look for that next week!



What the Baptist Brethren Eat, and How the Sisters Serve It, a variety of useful and reliable recipes compiled by the Ladies of the first Baptist Church, Port Huron, Mich. Times Company, Port Huron, 1876.

Michigan State University Archives:

Edward Granger Papers, UA10.3.56
Diary of E.G. Granger, 1859

Peter H. Felker Papers, UA10.3.44, Folder 2, Box F.D.
Peter Felker Diary, 1869

Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Vol. 32,
“Accounts 1867-1873”.

The Final Countdown (again)

One year ago I wrote what I thought was my final CAP blog. In the post, I summarized my top experiences working with the program over the past six years. Well, it turned out I wasn’t quite done with CAP and I have spent the 2016-2017 year working on still more new projects! I thought I would re-CAP (sorry…) my year and, more importantly, how I plan to use the skills I gained through working on with the program in the next phase of my professional career.

I have been on the job market for the past year and have written many, MANY cover letters. Even though I am a physical anthropologist, I have included information about my experience with CAP in every letter. In all of the job interviews I have had, I have been asked about CAP. I am grateful to have worked with CAP for many reasons, but it has become increasingly clear this past semester how many skills I have gained through CAP and how transferable these skills are post-graduation.


Amy explains artifacts to an elementary school student.

Amy explains artifacts to an elementary school student.

I believe that public outreach is one of the most important things that we pursue at CAP. Because we speak to groups of multiple age ranges and interest levels, it has been useful for me to learn how to speak about artifacts (and their significance) to children and adults. I will absolutely seek public outreach experiences at my next job. Working with CAP has reaffirmed to me that sharing archaeological knowledge with the public is essential to our jobs as anthropologists.


While I was trained how to excavate in many different prehistoric contexts, the CAP experience has been quite different and highly practical. In my prehistoric work, I have never dug shovel test pits or worked collaboratively with people doing construction of course. Because CAP works like a cultural resource management project at times, it has been great for me to pick up more practical skills and to understand how archaeological projects work on a time crunch.

Artifact analysis

Throughout my time with CAP, I have been exposed to many different artifact types. While I celebrate the small victories of recognizing laboratory glass vs. window glass (I’m definitely still more comfortable identifying bones than historic artifacts!), I believe that my ability to work through a question about a particular artifact is much improved. No longer will I think a plate is just a plate or a glass fragment is just a glass fragment – I have learned how to use historical documents to zero in on each artifact and tell a better, more accurate story of the past. I never considered that a nail polish topper would lead me down a path toward learning about one of the first female-owned businesses or that researching a ceramic pattern would guide me toward reading about differential use of plates in the red light districts of Australia.

Archival work

Cover of scrapbook. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Cover of scrapbook. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

A mainstay of my CAP work has been integration with the University Archives. There is definitely a strategy to doing archival research and I have had to learn how to get the most out of each visit to the archives. The historical documents available to us here at MSU have greatly improved my understanding of the artifacts we observe in the lab. Looking through student scrapbooks has fulfilled my innate nosiness (hey, why not be honest in my final blog!), but also taught me to think more deeply about what people save and why. It has been quite fun to see if what is between the pages of these scrapbooks has any correlated archaeological imprint during our excavations.

In a real sense, the combination of excavation, artifact analysis, outreach, and archival work has made the campus come alive for me. The sense of knowing (or at least having some semblance of) a historical precedent, especially as it relates to early female students, has enriched my time at MSU immeasurably. It’s very easy to get caught up in our own specific research niche, but CAP has always allowed me to take a break from my primary research and remember that, over 150 years ago, there were students on these grounds that were struggling with the same questions we all have: What am I doing here? What should I study? How will I apply my knowledge in the future? What job will I do?

The last question is answered for me now as I have been hired at Idaho State University. I am sad to leave CAP but I will take the skills I have gained with me to my next position and continue to engage critically and responsibly with the past.



Military at MAC: Decoding Ammunition from Campus

Recently a supervisor from landscape services contacted us after they uncovered an artifact. During the last big wind storm approximately 20 tree were badly damaged. One of the uprooted trees was located on the east side of Cowles House, and the crew discovered an old ammunition casing under the tree’s root ball. So what can this ammunition casing tell us?

Ammunition casing recovered near Cowle's House

Ammunition casing recovered near Cowles House

There are several ways to identify the size of ammunition from the cartridge case. Each type of ammunition has a unique:

  • case length (the longest measurement of the cartridge case)
Casing case length. Image Source.

Casing case length. Image Source.

  • neck diameter (front portion of cartridge case where bullet is seated. Neck diameter is the external measure of this feature)
Cartridge neck. Image source.

Cartridge neck. Image source.

  • diameter at base of case
  • rim diameter (not all cartridges are rimmed, a cartridge with a rim has a base rim that is larger in diameter than the rest of the head).

This particular bullet is a .30-06. This .30 caliber bullet was introduced in 1906, hence to 06 ending. The .30-06 was the U.S. Army’s primary rifle cartridge for nearly 50 years.

So now we’ve figured out the caliber of the ammunition, but who made the bullet? Thankfully, similar to ceramic makers marks or registered designs, ammunition cartridges have identifying marks on the headstamp.

Headstamp example. Image source.

Headstamp example. Image source.

These markings usually contain information on the caliber and manufacturer of the cartridge, and if it’s military ammunition the date of manufacture. This headstamp reads “F A 7 11”.

Headstamp of Cowels House ammunition casing.

Headstamp of Cowels House ammunition casing.

The F A stands for Frankford Arsenal. This ammunition plant opened in 1816 and was the main U.S. military small-arms ammunition producer until 1977. Ammunition produced prior to World War I at this plant was dated with a numerical month-year, so the 7 11 indicates a production date of July 1911.

CAP has found ammo casings and shells at various locations across north campus, so the find didn’t surprise us. But you might be thinking, why do we commonly find evidence of ammunition, specifically military ammunition, on campus? The answer is fairly straightforward; historically there was a military presence on campus.

MAC training detachment c. 1910. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

MAC training detachment c. 1910. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

In the 1800s there were military training classes offered (in 1863 a Military Department was organized and many Michigan State students and faculty served in the Civil War), and small arms & artillery were stored on campus. By the 20th century there was also an active R.O.T.C. contingent, and during WWI a student army training corp in addition to enlisted soldiers training on campus.

Student Army Training Corps (SATC) c. 1918. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Student Army Training Corps (SATC) c. 1918. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

After the collapse of College Hall in 1918 the surviving corner of the building was incorporated into an artillery shed/garage. The artillery shed was used to house military vehicles and ammunition. Beaumont Tower now occupies this space (and the money was donated by Beaumont to build this after he visited campus and was angered by the artillery garage replacing what was College Hall) and this location is not far from Cowles House, where the casing was recovered.

Artillery Shed/Garage. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Artillery Shed/Garage. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The ammunition was likely used within 10-15 years of the production date. Modern factory produced ammunition, when stored properly, is good for approximately 10 years. We will never know under what specific circumstances this rifle was fired on campus, but it’s presence is part of a long military connection.



The Archaeology of Shopping: Variations in Consumerism in the Past

So far this year, I have been examining the ceramics from various assemblages associated with early Michigan State.  While I have looked at what types of dishes were present and how they were used, I have not looked at how these assemblages compare to other sites in the Midwest.  Comparative analyses are one of the most powerful tools that archaeologists use to learn about the past.  Not only are they great for looking at similarities and differences between sites and people, but they can also be used to look at larger social and economic processes, such as the intersection of class and wealth, that go into the choices made by people.  Here, I will compare the tableware assemblages from historic MSU with those from various contemporary sites in the Midwest as a way to better understand the different choices made in terms of purchasing and the rationale behind them.

At MSU, the majority of the dishes that we find from MSU are inexpensive plain or embossed/molded whitewares and plain or simply decorated industrial wares.  These are typically associated with dorms and student life on campus, and were purchased by the university for everyday student use in dining halls.  Much more elaborate and expensive ceramics, decorated in many patterns and colors, are associated with faculty houses on campus, which were likely purchased by the faculty using their own funds.

Whiteware from West Circle Privy.

Whiteware from West Circle Privy.

Various decorated ceramics from the Gunson assemblage.

Various decorated ceramics from the Gunson assemblage.

Ceramic assemblages are somewhat similar at other sites.  At the Woodhams site, an urban farmstead in Plainwell, MI owned by families of modest means, there were about twice as many undecorated whitewares as decorated whitewares.  While not common, decorated vessels were relatively expensive transfer printed and decalomania dishes (Rotman and Nassaney 1997).  In the former Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, the home of working class immigrant families, people relied heavily on mass-produced whiteware vessels that were cheap and easily accessible through local merchants.  Despite this, some more expensive wares were also present, such as porcelain teaware, English transfer printed dishes, and other imported decorated vessels.  Interestingly, the homes in the area all differed in the types of dishes, wares, and styles that they bought, highlighting the greater selection available to those dwelling in a growing city and consequently the greater ability to differentiate oneself through decorative style (Ryzewski 2015).  At the Clemens farmstead in Darke County, Ohio, the home of wealthy free African Americans, 81% of the tableware were plain whitewares, while the rest of the assemblage was made up of a small number of hand painted or transfer printed vessels.  While this family had enough money to buy expensive dishware, they chose to be conservative with consumer goods while broadcasting their wealth through architecture and improvements to their land (Groover and Wolford 2013).  For those who lived in the Moore-Youse House in Muncie, Indiana, a middle-class family influenced by Victorian ideals and class consciousness, the possession of decorated and expensive tableware was more important.  Out of all of the tableware recovered, most was whiteware and ironstone, and 48% of it was hand painted.  Out of the other decorated vessels, 44% were transfer printed ceramics.  While porcelain was not present, the high number of decorated ceramics suggest that this family spent a considerable amount of money in order to have fashionable tablewares that demonstrated their social class (Groover and Hogue 2014).

Moore-Youse Home Museum, Muncie, IN. Image source.

Moore-Youse Home Museum, Muncie, IN. Image source.

While these different homes are similar to MSU in the types of ceramics that are found, they represent very different choices and needs.  For individuals and families, their decisions in what tablewares to purchase are often based on cost, personal style, and the ways in which they wished to demonstrate their social standing within the Victorian world.  For example, the Clemens family chose to use simple ceramics while improving their home and the grounds, making it one of the few examples of expensive Victorian architecture in the region and a clear statement of their social standing to all who passed by.  At the Moore-Youse house, the family chose to purchase more expensive and fashionable tableware, which would have displayed their standing to those who were invited into the home.  Some of these same concerns are reflected at MSU, such as in the delicate and expensive tablewares sometimes purchased and used by faculty living on campus, but we also must consider the institutional context that is much different than the homes discussed above.  At early MSU, the university needed a large number of dishes to supply their student body, as well as dishes that were durable and would survive abuse by students on a daily basis.  Faculty may have needed more dishware as well, as some of them often entertained groups of students and visitors during the academic year.  On campus, one needed to consider such factors as durability, the economics of supplying and entertaining a lot of people daily, and having dish sets that were similar so as not to alienate certain divisions of the student body.  Both MSU and different homes in the Midwest had access to similar ceramics, but made choices based on different needs, so we must take this into account and interpret ceramics from campus using a different mindset and theoretical base. Only using economic scaling models, as is often done with ceramic assemblages from homes, misses many of the more nuanced aspects of ceramic selection that takes place at an institution such as Michigan State.


Groover, Mark D., and S. Homes Hogue
2014   Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Midwest Foodways: Ceramic and Zooarchaeological Information from the Moore-Youse House and Huddleston Farmstead. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 39(2):130-144.

Groover, Mark D., and Tyler J. Wolford
2013   The Archaeology of Rural Affluence and Landscape Change at the Clemens Farmstead.

Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage 2(2):131-150.

Rotman, Deborah L, and Michael S. Nassaney

1997   Class, Gender, and the Built Environment: Deriving Social Relations from Cultural Landscapes in Southwest Michigan.  Historical Archaeology 31(2):42-62.

Ryzewski, Krysta
2015   No Home for the “Ordinary Gamut”: A Historical Archaeology of Community Displacement and the Creation of Detroit, City Beautiful.  Journal of Social Archaeology 15(3):408-431.

CAP at MSU Science Fest 2017

This month, Campus Archaeology is participating in MSU’s fifth annual Science Festival. Science Fest celebrates STEAM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics—by bringing exploration and discovery out of the laboratory and into the public eye. From April 7-23, MSU is hosting a series of free events for people of all ages including demonstrations, panel discussions, tours, open houses, hands-on activities, and science cafes aimed at connecting campus researchers with curious members of the community.

This past Saturday, April 8, CAP participated in the Science Fest Expo Zone Day event. For the Expo Zone, STEAM researchers from all over campus developed hands-on activities with the goal of “sharing the science that inspires them” with aspiring young scientists and their families.

CAP fellows Susan Kooiman, Jeff Painter, and Autumn Beyer help young archaeologists use real screens to sift through buckets of sand for artifacts.

CAP fellows Susan Kooiman, Jeff Painter, and Autumn Beyer help young archaeologists use real screens to sift through buckets of sand for artifacts.

CAP has participated in Science Fest since it began in 2013. Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, we brought two hands-on activities to the Expo Zone that we knew would spark the interest of kids and parents alike. On Saturday, our screening station activity drew big crowds and lots of curious onlookers. CAP volunteers “excavated” buckets of sand and asked visitors to help sift the sand through screens to look for “artifacts.”

We selected a variety of objects to keep things interesting and to represent the types of artifacts we expect to find when excavating on campus: toy plates and cups stood in for dinnerware found across campus; plastic combs represented personal hygiene items, like the privy beard comb; and bone-shaped dog biscuits represented butchered animal bones like the ones CAP Fellow Autumn Beyer is working on analyzing. We also included some fun items for kids to find, like matchbox cars and plastic turtles.

Dr. Heather Walder and undergraduate archaeology student SarahJane Potter explain that archaeologists are interested in people, not dinosaurs.

Dr. Heather Walder and undergraduate archaeology student SarahJane Potter explain that archaeologists are interested in people, not dinosaurs.

After they sifted through all the sand in their buckets, we asked visitors to describe, count, and sort artifacts for us. Finally, they collected them into a box to “take to the lab” for additional analysis. Even though this was a fun activity, we wanted to make sure it resembled real-life archaeology, not “treasure hunting.” At the end of the activity, we paid our budding archaeology assistants for their hard work with chocolate coins or temporary tattoos. If we accomplished nothing else, we successfully indoctrinated the youth with the idea that archaeologists should be paid for their work.

Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright prepares Science Fest visitors to play the artifact matching game.

Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright prepares Science Fest visitors to play the artifact matching game.

When they were done screening, we sent visitors over to the artifacts table to look at some of the real-life objects we’ve excavated right here on MSU’s campus. Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright showed visitors several interesting items including a jar of library paste, porcelain dolls, and uranium glass that glows under black lights. Visitors were allowed to touch and handle some of the sturdier artifacts like laboratory keys, a protractor, and a pocketknife rusted shut. These examples of campus artifacts tied in with the second activity CAP brought to the Expo Zone: the artifact matching game.

The artifact matching game required visitors to play a 3-dimensional game of memory matching, where they matched four historic artifacts with their modern counterparts. Visitors of all ages enjoyed comparing and contrasting modern objects they see and use every day, like light bulbs and pop bottles, with similar items used by MSU students and faculty decades ago. Since many of the Science Fest visitors work on campus or have family members that do, they were excited to make these kinds of connections with campus history.

Archaeology undergraduate Amy Hair shows Science Fest visitors some examples of archaeological tools and artifacts found on MSU’s campus

Archaeology undergraduate Amy Hair shows Science Fest visitors some examples of archaeological tools and artifacts found on MSU’s campus

The Science Fest Expo was a lot of fun, but it also served an important purpose in that it provided a space for us to bring our work into the public sphere. Now, more than ever, scientists have to think about how we can bridge the gap between the public and the academy and make our work relevant and accessible to everyone. While this is a complicated issue, a good first step is to make sure members of the community are familiar with what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. One visitor said they had worked on campus for years and had no idea we did archaeology here!

These in-person events also give us a chance to address common misconceptions about archaeology. When visitors arrived at our booth, we asked them if they could tell us about what archaeologists do. Before doing the activity and talking to us, most people—kids and parents—thought that archaeologists dig up dinosaur fossils! We were able to have one-on-one conversations and explain that paleontologists study dinosaurs, while archaeologists are interested in learning about past people based on the objects they leave behind.

CAP’s next Scincefest outreach event will be a Campus Archaeology Historical Walking Tour on Saturday, April 15 from 1-2 PM. The first 50 people to arrive at the MSU Union will receive a guided tour of archaeological locations important to MSU’s history, led by CAP Director Dr. Lynne Goldstein and Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright. The tour is free and suitable for all ages!


There is Something Fishy about this Privy

It’s official… the fish skeletal material recovered from the Saint’s Rest privy, the toilet associated with the first dormitory on campus contained walleye!

Walleye. Image source

Walleye. Image source.

Walleye are the largest member of the perch family and can be caught in shallow bays and inland lakes. As there are plenty of inland lakes surrounding East Lansing, it is possible that these fish were caught locally and served on campus. Also, walleye actively feed all year round, they can be caught during any season, however, it is easier to catch them during the early morning and evening, as that is their prime feeding times (MI DNR).

Walleye Teeth image source

Walleye Teeth. Image source.

When the privy was excavated, an immense amount of bone was recovered from the southwest corner. The bones were very densely packed, and excavators were under time constraints so the area was block lifted and screened back at the lab!

West Circle Privy after excavation.

West Circle Privy after excavation.

This privy was a permanent brick structure, a earth-closet type of privy, which means that it would have been cleaned out regularly, which may explain why the fish remains were packed tightly into the back corner, possibly out of reach as a result of the cleaning process.

So how do I know that they are walleye? To determine which species the fish remains were, I began at the MSU Museum, where in the collections is a small fish index. This has many different bone elements separated out and labeled by species. This allowed me to get a preliminary identification of walleye or sauger. However, as the index does not include every single fish bone, I wanted further verification. Luckily for me, Dr. Terrance Martin (Illinois State Museum, emeritus) was visiting MSU and was able to take a few minutes and look at the Saints Rest privy fish remains. He also agreed that they looked like walleye, but suggested that I verify the remainder of the materials against other walleye specimens. Unfortunately, the MSU Museum did not have any other walleye skeletal materials in the collections so I turned to another museum. This past week, a specimen loan from the Field Museum arrived, allowing me to take the material and confirm that it is in fact walleye! Below are some images of the fish remains, in comparison to the walleye specimen.

Walleye Dentary

Walleye Operculum

Walleye Operculum

Now that I have many of the previously identified elements confirmed as walleye, I am going to move forward on identifying the remainder of the fish remains, as I already have them sorted by side, counted, and weighed. In addition to focusing on the fish materials, I will begin looking through the mammal remains that have been uncovered on campus, including cow, pig, and sheep/goat with the goal of determining what type of meat cuts were present, and the proportions of species present within the archaeological contexts. Stay tuned for more updates on the Campus Archaeology animal bone identifications!


DNR Walleye:,4570,7-153-10364_53405-216550–,00.html

The Udderly Legen-dairy History of Dairying at MSU: Part II

You heard me wax poetic about dairy and the history of dairy production in my previous blog. However, as I pointed out then, the importance of dairy at MSU lies not only in the delicious cheese and ice cream produced but also in dairy education and research. The Dairy Department, and now jointly the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and the Department of Animal Science, have carried on a tradition of instruction of students, research, and outreach since the founding of MSU.

Students Attending first Dairy course, ca. 1895. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Students Attending first Dairy course, ca. 1895. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Professor C.D. Smith (Anthony 1929)

Professor C.D. Smith (Anthony 1929)

No official courses on dairying were taught in the earliest days of the College, although its tenets and techniques were incorporated into more general instruction. Professor Peter M. Harwood was first to bear the title of Instructor in Dairying, which he received in 1892, but was succeeded in 1983 by Clinton D. Smith. Smith strongly believed in the potential for Michigan to develop a strong dairy industry and therefore offered the first dairy course at the college in the winter of 1894/1895. These early courses were taught in the basement of the Agricultural Laboratory, which is now known as Cook Hall. A new building, which housed both Dairy and Forestry classes, was built in 1900, modern-day Chittenden Hall. In 1910, courses offered included Elementary Dairying, Creamery Butter Making, Cheese Making, and Market Milk (Anthony 1929).

Agricultural Laboratory (aka Cook Hall – on right) and the Dairy and Forestry Building (aka Chittenden Hall) (left). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Agricultural Laboratory (aka Cook Hall – on right) and the Dairy and Forestry Building (aka Chittenden Hall) (left). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Cheese-making class, 1915. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Cheese-making class, 1915. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

As recounted in my previous post, the first building completely devoted to dairy education and manufacturing, the aptly-named Dairy Building, was constructed in 1913. It was the home of the first Dairy Plant, housed all dairy courses and faculty offices, and contained state-of-the-art laboratories for that time. Graduate courses were added in 1920, and following Dr. Ernest L. Anthony’s appointment as Head of the Dairy Department in 1928, the curriculum had expanded to include Farm Dairying, Dairy Standards and Tests, History of Dairy Cattle, Market Milk, Milk Production, Elements of Dairying, Advanced Dairy Cattle Judging, Advanced Dairy Products Judging, Dairy Farm Management, Butter Making, General Dairy Production, Plant Management, Ice Cream Making, Cheese Making, Concentrated Milk Products, and Dairy Seminar (Anthony 1929:4-5)

Dairy Science Building, no date. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Dairy Science Building, no date. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The Dairy Department (later called the Department of Dairy Science) was ultimately absorbed by the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition and the Dept. of Animal Science. Today among the only courses specific to dairy foods is FSC 432 Food Processing: Dairy Foods, and the general principals of food science are taught in courses such as Food Safety, Food Chemistry, and Food Microbiology, and Food Engineering. Animal Science offers courses in Dairy Farm, Herd, Feed, and Cattle Management; Diary Cattle Judging; Dairy Growth, Health and Lactation in Dairy Cattle; just to name a few.

Research Papers by G. Malcolm Trout (courtesy John Partridge)

Research Papers by G. Malcolm Trout (courtesy John Partridge)

Research has also been important component of the dairy curriculum at MSU. In 1896, Dr. Charles E. Marshall arrived at the college and became a pioneer in the field of bacteriology, all through his research on the bacteriology of milk (Anthony 1929:3-4). Early faculty and students also conducted extensive work in dairy cattle breeding (Anthony 1929:10). Malcolm Trout, a professor at Michigan State between 1928 and 1966, discovered how to homogenize milk by linking it to the process of pasteurization, the combined techniques which are integral to commercial milk sales. C. F. Huffman was a leader in the field of the effects of animal nutrition on production, while research and publications on market milk and ice cream were also spearheaded by the department (Trout 1955).

Dairy Lab Research, date unknown (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Dairy Lab Research, date unknown (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Dairy recruitment brochure, date unknown (UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 9)

Dairy recruitment brochure, date unknown (UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 9).

Much of the current research conducted within the Department of Food Science and Nutrition now focuses to expand the use of underutilized commodities, using by-products of the meat and dairy processing industries; and to determine how the biochemical and physical properties of foods influence their quality and safety. The Animal Science department researches bovine lactation biology, including regulation and manipulation of ruminant lipid metabolism and the impact of milk on human health.

Babcock Test lab kit (courtesy John Partridge)

Babcock Test lab kit (courtesy John Partridge)

Outreach and collaboration with local Michigan farmers has also been a priority of the dairy department. Dissemination of latest developments by researchers both at Michigan State and elsewhere through farmers’ institutes has a history extending back to 1871 (Trout 1955). The Babcock test, a method for testing milk fat content which was developed at the University of Wisconsin, was brought to farmers in 1892 and demonstrated the need for quality control of milk products (Anthony 1929). Also part of the diary extension work has been the development of Michigan’s farm youth through organizations such as 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) (Trout 1955). Today, MSU is active in outreach with the Michigan Dairy Youth Program and 4H, and the Dairy Extension program is still active in engaging with the public and with dairy educators across the state. They have also added online resources, bringing outreach into the modern age.

Instructing students in dairy judging (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Instructing students in dairy judging (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Michigan State University has not only been a center of production for dairy products, but perhaps more importantly has played a central role in scientific innovation for improving food safety standards, food production, and production and manufacturing efficiency. It has also served to utilize this research by educating students in both the practical and scientific aspects of dairying and production and by disseminating new information to farmers across the state.

So next time you sit down and eat your Dairy Store ice cream, take the time to appreciate all that past MSU researchers and educators have done to make it safe and… udderly delicious.



Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections

Madison Kuhn Collection. UA17.107, Folder 3, Box 2411.
L. Anthony, History of Dairy Development at MSC, 1929.

UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 14
Malcolm Trout, Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Michigan Dairying,1955.

Online sources: