End of the Summer Wrap Up!

CAP excavating test pits
CAP excavating test pits

It’s been a busy summer for Campus Archaeology. If you were on campus it was hard to miss all the construction thats been going on. West Circle Drive was completely torn up on the northern side, Chestnut Road and Kalamazoo Street were alternatively interrupted, and various smaller projects are continuing to occur across the campus. Campus Archaeology was quite busy bouncing around these projects. We conducted surveys along the entire length of the northern portion of West Circle Drive and along Chestnut Road’s western boundary. We also were actively overseeing and testing areas around the Hannah Admin building, Music Practice building, and Brody-Emmons complex. We conducted a major excavation of a portion of the Morrill Hall boiler building found under East Circle Drive as well!

Overall, we were actively present at 8 different construction or demolition projects on campus, conducted 3 full archaeological surveys, surveyed 11 sweeps, dug 220 survey test pits, opened up 3 excavation units, and conducted one rescue excavation. Our team varied over the year, but in total we had 11 field and lab volunteers including graduate, undergraduate and high school students from a variety of schools. From our field work we recovered approximately 640 artifacts including various nails, pieces of bottle or window glass, ceramic sherds, and unique items like a portion of a plastic comb, a penny from 1897, a porcelain bead, and the great bottles we discussed in the past couple weeks (Read about the Vicks and Whiskey bottle here or the Listerine and Vitalis bottle here). We also found the old boiler building for Morrill Hall that dates from 1900-1904! You can read about the find and excavation on this blog post: Historic Boiler House Uncovered.

West Circle Steam Survey
West Circle Steam Survey

The map above shows all of the shovel test pits (STPs) that we excavated for the West Circle Steam project, with the blue dots representing holes that we didn’t find artifacts and green representing those which did contain artifacts.

So after five months of survey, excavation and lab work, what have we learned about MSU that we didn’t know before?

  1. Morrill Hall had an early boiler building attached to it that fueled the women’s dorm prior to the construction of the larger main utilities facility in 1904. It was a large stone building, and while it was razed to make room for new roads there are still portions of the foundation and walls left underneath West Circle Drive.
  2. The sidewalk pattern currently found within West Circle Drive (also known as the Sacred Space) are not where the historic sidewalks are. We found remnants of the old cinder pathway near Linton hall that travels in a completely different direction than the modern sidewalk. It also matches a historic sidewalk we uncovered last summer during the fieldschool!
  3. The current elevation of campus isn’t what it historically used to be either! Throughout our excavations near Linton Hall, we found layers of old rubble and building material suggesting that when buildings were removed they were placed on the landscape to even out the elevation. As we know from testing near Beal Street, the campus has frequently used collapsed buildings in order to build up the landscape and prevent flooding. Our finds this summer show that it wasn’t limited to the banks of the river.
  4. Our community wants to learn more about our history at MSU! Throughout the project we’ve had numerous people stop by to check out our work including those attending Grandparent’s University, the various construction crews we worked around, and people who were just walking by. We’ve even had people get involved in our work, bringing us historic photos and artifacts that they’ve found on their own.

Thanks for following us throughout the summer. We’re looking forward to the return of students in the next week and the beginning of the new semester!

Author: Katy Meyers Emery

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