The summer “A Team” and some tantalizing beginnings

Excavating a shovel test pit
Excavating a shovel test pit

Campus Archaeology, like Santa Claus and your 4-year-old, never sleeps. Nor does work take a summer vacation, even when Campus Archaeologist Katy Meyers and Program Director Lynne Goldstein leave the country to pursue other research (you can read about Katy here).
In these trying times, a crack team of archaeologists are called in to pool their considerable collective experience: excavation experience from four different continents, 23 seasons of combined field research in historic and prehistoric periods, and seemingly endless hours of laboratory analysis are their core credentials.

Continuing to excavate
Continuing to excavate

It’s a good thing they’re here, too. The summer is construction season. For Campus Archaeology this means a long list of opportunities to look beneath the surface of MSU’s lovely green space, manicured grounds, and physical infrastructure to learn how, how much, and where campus has changed. Our favorite place to study this? Right in the middle of the dizzying construction labyrinth on North campus, in the Sacred Space. This week we’ve been investigating the space between Linton Hall and the Union. “Investigations” have included poring over campus maps and speaking with construction crews, shovel test pits (“STPs“) at regular intervals and even a 2m x 2m test excavation. The excavations are on temporary hiatus while we follow newly-removed walkways, so tune in next week to learn more about the cinder-laid walkways – repurposing MSU’s coal byproducts – that preceded today’s cement versions. And below those? Our STP survey of that area leads us to suspect there may be an ancient trash pit, predating the cinder walking paths.
Towards the end of the week we stumbled across the perfect justification for the STP survey : after 9 “sterile” (no archaeological material found) test pits, we suddenly started finding dense layers of broken and complete bricks and square nails (pre-1880s) across several adjacent test pits.

nails
Nails
Brick rubble at the bottom of a test pit
Brick rubble at the bottom of a test pit

So what’s going on? Is this fill from an ancient “low spot” that, long ago, MSU tried to even out so that foot traffic on the center of campus was made easier? Or is it something more complicated? Tune in next week, when we’ll be opening a test unit in the middle of it all….



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