Rounding Up Rubbish

The site where Brody Hall stands today (intersection of Harrison & Michigan Ave) was once used by the city East Lansing as a landfill. There is little historical documentation on the landfill, which made it difficult to find information about the site. What we do know is that it was active from the early 1900s until the 1940s. The artifacts recovered during construction projects and CAP excavations near Brody and the Emmons amphitheater date to the late 1920s and early 1930s. This suggests that this particular portion of the landfill was used during that time period. The most plentiful artifact type is glass bottles. The bottles show us a rare glimpse of the different kinds of products used by people living in East Lansing at the time, from health products to milk and alcohol bottles.

Bottom of bottle with Owens Illinois makers mark, factory and date codes.

Bottom of bottle with Owens Illinois makers mark, factory and date codes.

The process of dating the bottles was not too complicated, mostly due to the guide the Society for Historical Archaeology has that explains the changes of bottle morphology though time. Small markings such as lines or pontiff marks that are caused during the process of glass molding can tell help you narrow down the time frame more. As the methods used for making glass bottles changed, small characteristics of the bottles changed with it. Another way for dating glass bottles are the codes/date stamps or company marks found on the bottom, similar to the way modern day plastic bottles have numbers for the quality of plastic and recycling marks. These bottle marks are a much faster way to identify the company that manufactured the bottle and can even be helpful enough to tell you the time frame it could have been made and even the location it was manufactured.

Owens-Illinois made Steuer wine bottle

Owens-Illinois made Steuer wine bottle.

It has been interesting to learn about how the process for making bottles has changed throughout time because it is something that I normally would not have the opportunity to research. For my research project this semester I have decided to focus on learning what I can about health in East Lansing around that time. By looking at these bottles I have started thinking about the types of products we found and comparing it with the kinds of products we still use today. The similar products were household cleaners, such as bleach or ammonia, and various kinds of alcohol like whiskey and wine, but when looking at the healthcare products we found some things I would not have thought of as being used.

Bromo-Seltzer ad from 1937

Bromo-Seltzer ad from 1937. Image Source.

The products used for cleaning such as Roman Cleanser, the first commercial version of bleach cleansers, and Little Bo beep Ammonia are not new to many people. Some of the kinds of alcohol we found that many have not heard of are Wilkin’s Whiskey and Hiram Walker Whiskey. The healthcare products we found were Wildroot and Vitalis, haircare products that are still around, but have fallen out of common use. There were also a few bottles of Bromo-Seltzer, an early form of antacids. Hair gel and antacids are not new products, but it is easy to see that varieties and companies can be popular at a point in time, but then other companies rise to replace them. There were still some healthcare products that were easily recognizable, such as the Listerine bottle mentioned in a previous post. Another way to be able to see how the culture thought of the product in that time is to look at their advertisements. Looking at these products and their advertisements can show us the differences in ways of life that we normally would not think about. Researching health from this time period has been an eye-opener for how people used to live. I have learned so much about the different kinds of health and how much we have changed over the past hundred years.

Talking Trash: Sustainability & Bottles from the Old East Lansing Landfill

Desiree examines a bottle from the Brody/Emmons complex.

Desiree examines a bottle from the Brody/Emmons complex.

If you’ve been following the blog you may have noticed the many interesting artifacts, mostly bottles, found during the Brody Hall and Emmons Amphitheater area excavations. Since the Brody complex is built above the old East Lansing Landfill, these excavations provided us with an array of items that provide some insight into what life was like during the early 20th century in East Lansing.

As an intern for CAP this past semester, I’ve been given the task of going through these bottles to catalog and re-examine them. These bottles held everything from cosmetics to cleaning products to condiments that reflect everyday life in East Lansing during this the early 20th century. This landfill was active from the late 1910s to the late 1940s, which gave us a general range for a probable date on these bottles, but part of my task as an intern has been trying to get a more specific date. This has been interesting because I had never really thought about bottles in this way before. Researching the various shapes of historic bottles and using clues to find out how the bottle was used and when it was made has been a very educational experience. For some of these bottles, figuring out a date was relatively easy when you know the code they sometimes stamp on the bottle. However, many of the bottles had little to no markings that could be used to determine a date. This meant many hours of researching bottle shapes and looking through catalogs. Since many of the bottles were like this, it has taken us some time to get through all the bottles. Now, of course, I use bottles every day, but historic bottles are much different. I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times while researching to discover a bottle’s intended use.

A selection of bottle from the Brody/Emmons complex.

A selection of bottle from the Brody/Emmons complex.

Researching these bottles has also got me thinking a lot about trash and how we treat trash. Reading literature on the history of garbage and waste management was surprisingly very interesting and made me realize why archaeologists love trash so much. When I take the trash out, I don’t see where it goes. All I know is that someone picks it up and it’s not my problem anymore. Although I try to be eco-friendly and recycle, it’s the same deal. I put my recycling or trash in bin and someone takes it far away from me. No one wants to see trash, but we throw away everything. During the time that this landfill was active, municipal trash pick-up was a relatively new thing but since then, not much has changed in terms of how we deal with garbage after we throw it away. Realizing this got me thinking about sustainability on campus and if anything has changed. While the fact that these complete bottles are still here after 70 years has been helpful for our research, it’s daunting to think about how much of our trash will long out live us.

In the past, CAP has used archaeology to investigate how sustainable practices were used on campus. Many of these sustainable practices can be traced back to events like war or recession – being sustainable because it is necessary for survival. Building from the previous research on MSU’s sustainable past, I’m using these artifacts to assess how sustainable practices in waste management have changed and examine if we are truly more sustainable today. Although these bottles are made of glass which is not considered to be “eco-friendly” when thrown away, examining how they were used could be helpful in assessing sustainable practices at that time.

Welcome to the Jungle… of Nails

During this past summer’s field school, our six-person team excavated the remains of a building known as Station Terrace, which once stood on Abbot Road, just a stone’s throw from where the MSU Union currently stands. Following the field school, all of the artifacts we had discovered were washed and placed into bags that identify the unit, and the level of said unit, each artifact had been recovered. As a result, CAP now has over sixty bags of unsorted artifacts collected from both this summer’s field school and the shovel test pits (STPs) conducted at Station Terrace in 2016. Now, as an intern for CAP, my primary responsibility is to go through each of the six units and additional STPs – one by one, level by level – and sort through and catalogue all of these artifacts.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

Ask anyone involved in the excavations at Station Terrace, and they will assure you the most commonly found artifacts at the site were corroded construction nails. Seeing as how the building experienced fire damage and was subsequently remodeled, plus an expansion in 1910, our discovery of an overwhelming number of nails is not completely surprising. As a result, after all the artifacts have been sorted based on material type – i.e. ceramic vs. bone vs. glass vs. metal – the nails are then further categorized based on their typology. This means that I am sorting the nails based on their length, whether they are square cut nails vs. wire nails, and whether they are common flat head nails vs. brad or any other type of specialized nail. Each of the six excavated units contained a significant number of nails, but Unit A’s Feature 1 and Unit B’s ‘Layer o’ Nails’ by far contain the most. Needless to say, sorting through and categorizing the hundreds of excavated nails is proving to be an extremely time-consuming task. For example, it has taken me an entire month –working three hours a week in the lab– to sort through Unit A in its entirety. Furthermore, at the time of this publication, I have been sorting through Unit B’s Layer o’ Nails for three weeks now, and expect to finish this level during my next scheduled lab day.

Kaleigh Perry sorts nails from Station Terrace.

Kaleigh Perry sorts nails from Station Terrace.

The nails we recovered from Station Terrace are being given an unusually large amount of attention. At historic sites  nails are typically found in large quantities, and are used for diagnostic dating  but typically they are not the focus of larger research questions. As a result, they are usually placed in a single bag and simply counted and weighted. However, since nails were the primary artifact discovered during the field school, and thus practically the only material we have in our possession to further study Station Terrace, they require a detailed analysis.

Nail profiles can be immensely informative in determining the general timeframe in which a structure has been built or remodeled. Given this fact, I have decided to conduct a research project on these nails in which I will attempt to use nail typology to focus on modifications made to Station Terrace over the building’s lifetime. In addition to examining nail typology, I am planning to use portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) on a handful of nails to determine which type of metal – iron, steel, or perhaps something else – these nails are composed of. Through combining these methods, I am hoping to test the plausibility of determining which nails were likely used in the original construction of the building and which ones were likely used during the renovations following the 1903 fire. However, the experiments using the pXRF are not likely to occur for another few weeks, which means I have some more time to continue sorting through the nails and selecting samples I believe will be the most informative in my analysis of the building’s construction.

Historic nail typology. Image source.

Historic nail typology. Image source.

Despite how long it is taking me to categorize these artifacts, I find myself enjoying the work. Since nails are such a common commodity that is so often overlooked, reading literature on how this technology has evolved over time is rather interesting. By combing through said publications, I am becoming proficient in identifying different types of nails, in addition to learning what kinds of tasks these different types were typically used for – whether it is to mount siding to the exterior of a building, installing roof shingles, or securing floorboards. I will admit that out of all the archaeological topics to become well-versed in, or even in which to develop a fleeting interest, construction nails may seem like an odd subject matter. However, society’s oversight of this simple, yet indispensable, piece of technology has sparked my curiosity about how nails can be productively used to interpret archaeological sites. Thus, as strange as it may sound, the research I am conducting on the Station Terrace nails is turning out to be rather fascinating and informative.

 

Meet the 2017 CAP Fellows and Undergraduate Interns

The 2017-2018 school year has just begun here at MSU.  Several large changes are in store at CAP this year, including the pending retirement of CAP director Lynne Goldstein and the addition of associate professor Stacey Camp. We’re excited to continue working on several ongoing projects and begin new and exciting research projects. So please meet the 2017-2018 CAP graduate fellows and undergraduate interns!

CAP Graduate Fellows

Lisa Bright

Lisa Bright

Lisa Bright: Lisa is a 4th year Anthropology Ph.D. student.  This year Lisa will continue as Campus Archaeologist for her third, and final year.  Her dissertation research focuses on focuses on the paleopathology and nutritional status of a historic paupers cemetery in San Jose, California. This year Lisa will be working with other fellows on their projects, supervising three undergraduate internships, and working to complete reports and process artifacts from this summer.

 

Susan Kooiman

Susan Kooiman

Susan Kooiman:  Susan is a 5th year Anthropology Ph.D. student, returning for her third year as a CAP fellow. Her dissertation research focuses on pottery use, cooking practices, and diet of precontact Indigenous groups in the Upper Great Lakes of North America. This year, she and Autumn Beyer will be continuing their project documenting foodways on campus during the Early Period (1855-1870) of MSU’s history. This includes expanding their research and disseminating the results of the project through publication, conference presentations, and other outreach opportunities.

Autumn Painter

Autumn Painter

Autumn (Beyer) Painter: Autumn is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology. Her research focuses on prehistoric foodways through the analysis of animal bones in the Midwestern United States. This is her second year as a CAP fellow, and she and Susan Kooiman will be continue to work together on their project researching food on MSU’s historic campus.

 

Jeff Painter

Jeff Painter

Jeff Painter: Jeff Painter is a fourth year Ph.D. student at Michigan State University who is returning for his second year as a Campus Archaeology Fellow. He is a prehistoric archaeologist focused on foodways, ceramics, and migration in the late prehistoric Midwest. For CAP, he continues his focus on foodways and ceramics, investigating the diversity of dining patterns through time on MSU’s historic campus.

 

Mari Isa

Mari Isa

Mari Isa: Mari is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Anthropology. For her dissertation research, she studies the biological and biomechanical factors that contribute to bone fractures. Her other research interests include the potential social and biological impacts of malaria in Late Roman/Early Medieval Tuscany. Mari is returning for her second year as a CAP fellow. This year she is excited to be working on various projects including creating new digital media for msu.seum to highlight recent projects by CAP fellows and interns on topics such as sustainability, foodways, and gender.

Jack Biggs

Jack Biggs

Jack Biggs: Jack is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology with a focus in bioarchaeology of the ancient Maya of Mesoamerica.  Specifically, he is interested in human growth and development and how infants, children, and adolescents interacted within society and how social constructions of age affected their experience of the physical and social world around them.  He conducted some summer field work for CAP in 2016 putting in test units at various locations across campus, including Station Terrace and Beal’s Laboratory.  This is his first year as a full CAP fellow and is very excited to be a part of the team.

Undergraduate Interns

Kaleigh Perry

Kaleigh Perry

Kaleigh Perry: My name is Kaleigh Perry, and I am a senior at MSU this year. This past summer, I participated in the CAP Field School and now I have been blessed with the opportunity to be an intern for CAP for the school year. Whereas my interests mostly lie in Forensics, specifically taphonomy – the science of understanding what happens to an organism as it decomposes – the Field School has peaked my interest in Archaeology. Now that I have some field experience, I am excited to get more experience working in a lab and doing research.

Cooper Duda

Cooper Duda

Cooper Duda: My name is Cooper Duda andI’m starting my junior year here at MSU.  I have a twin brother, Devin, who just transferred here for Criminal Justice.  I participated in the CAP Field School this summer, which helped me become more interested in archaeology.  Although I do enjoy archaeology and Cultural Resource Management, I plan on going into Forensic Anthropology for graduate school.

Desiree Quinn

Desiree Quinn

Desiree Quinn: Hi, my name is Desiree Quinn and I’m a junior Anthropology major. I’m interested in studying bioarchaeology and environmental anthropology/archaeology. After attending the CAP field school this summer, I became certain that archaeology is the field for me and I am excited to learn more about the research side of archaeology this year!

 

Privy Seed Germination Experiment: Introduction to Intern Becca Albert’s Project

Hi, I’m Becca Albert, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester.  I participated in the 2015 field school, volunteered in the CAP lab last year, and worked on the field crew last summer. My internship project for this semester includes testing to see whether seeds found in the West Circle privy in June 2015 will germinate. These seeds were identified as raspberry seeds (id courtesy of Dr. Katie Egan-Bruhy) it will be difficult to determine what species they are until they grow (if they grow!) The privy is dated to campus’s Phase I (1855-1870), with diagnostic artifacts dating to the 1860’s and 1870’s. University archival records of the Board of Trustee meeting minutes from 1875 indicate that Beal ordered around 300 raspberry bushes to be planted on campus. Whether these were for botanical experiments or for food sources is unknown, however it is unlikely that these weren’t used as a food source, as foraging for berries in the area and farming was a great contributor of food for the students. Financial records from Saint’s Rest also indicate that the boarding hall was purchasing upwards of 130 quarts of berries a week during the summer. Again, no specific species is indicated, but this does provide archival evidence of berry consumption. These seeds were found in association with a flower pot, so although these could have been digested, these could also have been the product of a failed botanical experiment.

Seed from the privy under magnification. Image source: Amy Michael

Seed from the privy under magnification. Image source: Amy Michael

The seeds I am using for my experiment were first separated from 10 grams of night soil by hand and then weighed. The total weight of all the seeds was 0.2 grams, so not a very hefty sample size. These seeds were evaluated under a stereomicroscope to make sure what we picked out were actually seeds, and were counted. The total number of seeds from this sample was 174 seeds – that’s about .001 of a gram for each seed. To test whether these seeds germinate, we will be using two experimental methods. The first method is a simpler experiment, like one that you might try as an elementary school experiment – this follows some of the thinking for an experiment I tried with Lima beans in third grade! Several seeds will be placed in between some damp paper towels, which will then be placed on a plate, and sealed into a plastic bag. This bag will then be placed somewhere warm, like on top of a refrigerator, and will be checked periodically to see whether some of the seeds germinate. The sealed plastic bag will allow the moisture and humidity inside the bag to stay constant, however after a week or so, these paper towels will be replaced with new moist paper towels both to prevent mold, germinated seeds from attaching to the paper towel, and to increase the humidity inside the bag periodically. These methods are adapted from this article from the SFGate Home Guides Website, however many modes of basic seed germination follow steps similar to these.

Man digging up seeds for viability experiment, likely H. T. Darlington. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Man digging up seeds for viability experiment, likely H. T. Darlington. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The second method is one that is more scientifically rigorous, and includes following methods that are used in Beal’s famous seed longevity experiment. Beal’s experiment essentially asks the question of how long can a seed lie dormant before it cannot germinate. This experiment is in its 137th year, with the next experiment occurring in 2020. The previous testing year for the Beal seed experiment reported three species as germinating, with around a 46% success rate for one species, a 2% success rate from a second species, and a 4% success rate for the third species (Telewski 2002). CAP is working under the assumption that the privy was likely damaged in the 1876 fire that destroyed Saints Rest, making these seeds 3 years older than the Beal seeds.

My experiment includes placing approximately 50 seeds in a growth chamber for a specified day/night cycle, humidity, and temperature. The seeds themselves are placed in a pre-determined soil mixture and kept in damp soil. The seeds will be checked periodically to see if germination occurred, and to keep the soil damp. Following the methods used for Beal’s experiment will not provide an opportunity to test their methods, but is also an homage to the man who provided a lot MSU’s more interesting early history.

Several scientists around the world have been able to germinate seeds from prehistoric contexts (Sallon 2008, Yashina 2012). Archaeologists in the United States have found seeds in historic privy excavations however, germination experiments have not been attempted because they are generally larger assemblages with a variety of species and a greater importance has been placed on determining the species present (Trigg 2011, Meyers 2011, Beaudry 2010, Dudek 1998). If these seeds germinate, it would be an interesting addition to the germination of seeds well past their prime.

Stay tuned for updates as the experiment progresses!

Resources:

MSU Archives & Historical Collections:
– Madison Kuhn Collection Volume 82, Folder 11, Box 2531, Collection IA 17.107 (Records for July 1870).
– UA 1 State Board of Agriculture/Board of Trustee Records. Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1875

Meyers, Ciana Faye, 2011. The Marketplace of Boston: Macrobotanical Remains from Faneuil Hall. Thesis.

Beaudry, M. C, 2010. Privy to the feast: eighty to supper tonight. Table Settings: The Material Culture and Social Context of Dining in the Old and New Worlds AD, pp. 1700-1900.

Dudek, Martin G., Lawrence Kaplan, and Marie Mansfield King, 1998. Botanical Remains from a Seventeenth-Century Privy at the Cross Street Back Lot Site. Historical Archaeology, pp. 63-71.

Meyers, Ciana Faye, 2011. The Marketplace of Boston: Macrobotanical Remains from Faneuil Hall. Thesis.

Sallon, Sarah, Elaine Solowey, Yuval Cohen, Raia Korchinsky, Markus Egli, Ivan Woodhatch, Orit Simchoni, and Modechai Kislev, 2008. Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed. Science 5882(320), pp. 1464.

Telewski, FW and JAD Zeevaart, 2002. The 120-yr period for Dr. Beal’s seed viability experiment. American Journal of Botany, 89(8), pp. 1285-1288.

Trigg, Heather, Susan Jacobucci, and Marisa D. Patalano, 2011. Parasitological and Macrobotanical Analyses of a Late 18th Century Privy, Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Yashina, Svetlana, Stanislav Gubin, Stanislav Maksimovich, Alexandra Yashina, Edith Gakhova, and David Gilichinsky, 2012. Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000 y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109(10) pp. 4008-4013.

How to Germinate with Paper Towels. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/germinate-paper-towels-22813.html

 

Contextualizing CAP’s GIS: Introduction to Intern Jasmine Smiths Project

Hi, I’m Jasmine Smith, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester. I’ve been working with CAP since I participated in the Summer 2015 field school.  I also did an internship during Fall 2015 where I examined the laboratory glass found at the Gunson site.  I was also able to work as part of the CAP field crew this summer. My project for CAP this semester involves working with a geographic information system to create a map showing where CAP has found artifacts from different time periods. The four historical periods CAP focuses on are separated into phases: phase 1 (1855-1870), phase 2 (1870-1900) and phase 3 (1900-1925) and phase 4 (1925-1955). Using GIS will allow us to visualize the distribution of artifacts we have found from each of these phases.

This past Tuesday I was able to go into the lab and look at artifacts from past excavations to get an idea of what time periods the artifacts come from. We can usually give an estimate of how old an assemblage of artifacts is depending on what we know about the site from archival research and what types of artifacts were found. Now that I have an idea of what artifacts are from each phase, I can figure out how I want to display this in the GIS.

An aerial photograph of MSU’s Campus. Every dot represents a excavation unit or test pit CAP has dug during archaeological surveys. This image does not show all of the excavations completed.

An aerial photograph of MSU’s Campus. Every dot represents a excavation unit or test pit CAP has dug during archaeological surveys. This image does not show all of the excavations completed.

CAP has used ArcMap for several years to do a number of projects. One of the things I use the most is a map that show’s every single place CAP has dug on campus. This map is basically an aerial photograph of MSU’s campus with different layers for each of the sites we’ve excavated. Each layer includes either point data that represents individual shovel test pits or polygons that represent trenches/pits. Each layer also consists of a detailed description of the site and what was found there. We also have a layer that shows historical buildings that are no longer standing. This is very helpful for giving us an idea of where we should dig on campus.

During the semester I will be adding new layers to this map for the sites we excavated the past two summers, as well as entering metadata missing for sites excavated in previous years. Other ideas that might be interesting to explore using GIS would be creating a map of the most interesting artifacts CAP has found. This would include artifacts we mention often such as the doll head from the historic privy, the men’s shoes from station terrace, etc. Another thing that might be interesting to do in the future would be to create a map showing the distribution of different artifact types around campus.

Working with GIS is something that is very new to me. I never thought much about it until this past spring semester when I took GEO 221, Intro to Geographic Information. After talking to people in the Anthropology department, I learned that GIS is a very sought after skill in Archaeology. This summer Lisa Bright, the campus archaeologist, suggested I do an internship working with CAP’s GIS. I thought this would be an awesome opportunity and so far I’ve learned a lot. I am definitely seeing how GIS can benefit archaeology.

 

Maker’s Marks from the Gunson Assemblage

My project involves examining where, what company, and the timeframe the different marker’s mark, collecting from the excavation from the Admin/Gunson site, came from. As we wrapped up with Unit A on Monday, I finished taking and collecting pictures of the marker’s mark found from each level. After sorting them out into groups, I came to the conclusion that the majority of the dishware was from K. T. & K Co. (Knowles Taylor & Knowles), Johnson Bros, and the Homer Laughlin China Company. I am still in the processing of determining where and what company the other marker’s marks are from. It’s difficult when only parts of the marker’s mark is present or has been damaged.

Marks & Library has been an excellent resource that I have turned to. They have images of different kinds of maker’s mark and can help with determining the timeframe of which they were used to and from. I have also looked at a few books in the arts and humanities part of MSU main library. They have several books about ceramic, dishware, and marker’s mark.

I think the most different and interesting piece of marker’s mark from Unit A would have to be C. Ahrenfeldt Limoges from level 10. Limoges style porcelain was produced near the city of Limoge, France beginning in the late 18th century and continues to this day. It does not refer to a specific manufacturer, but rather the style of ceramic. This piece appears to have two marker’s mark printed together. C. Ahrenfeldt Limoges comes from the company Charles Ahrenfeldt and the second marker’s mark comes from the company Charles Ahrenfeldt & Son. On the other side includes some flower decoration. This is helpful because having one piece of decoration can help determine what the complete dish would have looked like and can possibly help determine the timeframe of the marker’s mark.

Unit A Level 10 Limoge

Unit A Level 10 Limoge Front view

 

Unit A Level 10 Limoge

Unit A Level 10 Limoge Back View

 

Not all of the marker’s mark has decoration present on the opposite side. Since my project focuses on determining the company and timeframe of the maker’s mark, not having the decoration doesn’t hurt my research but can only help it.

I am very excited to start the next unit. I would like to compare the different marker’s mark from Unit A to the other units to see if there are more fragments of maker’s mark that possibly could be are from the same company but a different timeframe or even a different company.

Looking for Lab Glass

As we continue to sort and catalogue artifacts from the Admin/Gunson assemblage we’ve come across a lot of lab equipment, mainly glass. My project involves examining lab glass we found at this site and trying to figure out what it is.

Bleb Test Tubes - Unit A

Bleb Test Tubes – Unit A

The main type of equipment we have found while cataloguing unit A are hollow glass tubes. Some of these tubes have a rounded end like a regular test tube, while others have a strange bubble-like end. After looking through books on laboratory glass blowing I was able to identify these bubble-like ends as a “bleb” or bleb test tube. We’ve found these tubes in a number of different sizes.

 

 

Other interesting lab equipment we’ve found includes parts of beakers, a microscope slide, and a syringe stopper.

Syringe Stopper - Unit A

Syringe Stopper – Unit A

Glass Stir Stick

Glass Stir Stick – Unit A

We’ve also found pieces of bottles that have chemical formulas (possibly ammonium hydroxide) labeled on them. We identified them as coming from the Wheaton glass company.

Wheaton Lab Glass - Ammonium Hydroxide

Wheaton Lab Glass – Ammonium Hydroxide

Insurance Document - Image used with Permission from University Archives

Insurance Document – Image used with Permission from University Archives

During our trip to the MSU archives I didn’t find much that helped me identify the lab glass or what it was used for. However, from looking through insurance papers I found that laboratory glass equipment was specifically listed as not insurable. This tells us that maybe lab glass was inexpensive and easily replaceable or that lab equipment was too expensive and dangerous.

As the semester comes to a close I hope to gain more information by visiting the glass blower on campus that blows glass specifically for the chemistry department. Hopefully they can tell us more about what we have found and what this glass was used for.

Some of the questions I hope to answer going forward with this project are: What lab did this equipment belong to? Why was it mixed in with the various other types of things we found at this site such as dishes and perfume bottles? Was it tossed out as garbage? If so, why?

Examining Gendered Glass Bottles

Perfume bottle from Admin/Gunson Assemblage

Perfume bottle from Admin/Gunson Assemblage

My project looks into examining gendered artifacts, and there isn’t much pertinent material readily available on the subject. Specifically, I am looking into glass objects, such as the perfume bottles, found at the Admin/Gunson assemblage to gain more insight into the historical women of MSU. The research process thus far has included searching through a lot of admittedly interesting but ultimately unhelpful information hoping to find a gem. Sadly, finding good information is much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Despite the wealth of information online, I so far have only found a few sites or scholarly articles that could help me. Books about perfume are surprisingly hard to come by. This makes it easy to feel discouraged, but I came to the realization that I may be too narrow in what I am looking for. I found a book that looks into gender and culture of the twentieth century, Gender and Consumption, which I hope will lead to more research avenues. In hindsight, I should have been looking into material such as this much sooner than I did, but I boxed myself into looking at very specific artifact types and so only found repetitive and irrelevant information for my project.

Vintage Perfume Ad 1920s - Source

Vintage Perfume Ad 1920s – Source

I did find a few interesting websites. I found many bottle-collecting websites that have a good number of perfume and scent bottles (yes, there is a difference between the two!) along with some information about them. These sites will become more useful as we sort through the artifacts and find all of the perfume bottles. I found a couple of research articles on gendered artifacts found in other parts and times of the United States, some on whether artifacts can have gender and even one paper detailing the history of a glass company.

Besides the fact that I have been spending a great deal of time not finding anything because I have been too locked into one way of thinking, I need to expand the scope of my research. We found a lot of interesting and decorated glass which needs to be looked into; a comparison with the Admin/Gunson site and others on campus would be helpful in discerning what may be unique to students and faculty or to men and women. Regardless of the quantity of my research, though, it has been a learning experience and has already begun developing the way I am tackling this project.

Dating a Site (With Milk Bottles)

With only one week until the CAP 2015 Field School begins, where we’ll be digging behind the Hannah Admin Building, we came across one more means in which to narrow down the date of the Admin Assemblage. Getting an idea of how old a site is can be tricky, especially when all that remains of it is rubble, which, is exactly what we stumbled across in our survey of the river trail sidewalks last summer. What began as just another shovel test pit in the lawn behind the Hannah Administration building quickly turned into a full scale excavation unit as we started pulling handfuls of window glass, ceramics, and metal out of the ground.

In situations like this we try to document and recover as much of the feature as possible, preserving artifacts and structures before either covering the feature back up or allowing construction crews to continue working. Finding this refuse pit on the last day of our field season however meant we could only recover so much before the end of the day, leaving the mystery of this feature still largely unresolved. As such, the question still remains: what is it?

Due to the array of artifacts from fine china to lab equipment, there were two buildings that we hypothesized for the origins of the assemblage, the Engineering building and the Gunson House/Home Management program. After intense archival research this past semester, we began to think the the Admin assemblage had its origins in the Gunson House/Home Management program.

Milk Bottle labeled MSC Creamery, found at Brody.

Milk Bottle labeled MSC Creamery, found at Brody.

Working with this in mind, the recovery of several milk bottle fragments allowed us to place the feature within a relatively precise time frame. Now, it is important to note that MSU’s name has changed several times over the course of its history, with one such change occurring in 1925 from the Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C) to the Michigan State College (M.S.C.). So the fact that we found milk bottles stamped with “M.A.C. Dairy” instead of ‘M.S.C Creamery‘  shows us that the rubble belongs to a source that was buried prior to the name change in 1925. Knowing further that the MSU dairy program started in 1895, we arrive at a probable time frame for the feature between 1895 and 1925, which potentially negates our hypothesis for the Bayha House since it was not established until the 1940s.

Before the Bayha house was used for the Home Management program, it was the private residence for Prof. Gunson and his wife from 1892-1940. The date range on the milk bottles in the Admin assemblage fit the time frame for the Gunson house, but the range of material still leaves us with questions.

Hopefully, field school excavations of the area will lead us to more answers about the Admin Assemblage.