Continuing Preparations for Summer Construction on Campus

Continuing Preparations for Summer Construction on Campus

As the weather warms and summer gets closer, the Campus Archaeology Program is gearing up for yet another busy season.

While our excavations occur primarily in the summer, months of planning and preparation take place before the first trowel is stuck in the dirt. Many different factors come into play when planning for an archaeological field season, particularly in Michigan during the Spring. Some of these are logistical. One of our first concerns is the frost line, which represents the depth to which the groundwater in the soil is expected to freeze. If the ground is still frozen, it makes excavating very difficult, and in some cases impossible. This is especially true for shovel tests, which are dug a meter into the ground. While the top 10-20 centimeters of soil may be thawed, soil may still be frozen at deeper depths. We also need to ensure that all of our equipment is ready for a busy field season. This means that we will be sharpening all of our shovels and trowels and making sure that our screens are in working shape. Aside from field equipment, we make sure that our field crew is prepared with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury. In construction zones, CAP crew members are always equipped with the proper protective clothing, as well a safety vest, helmet, and goggles!

Survey during sidewalk construction
Survey during sidewalk construction.

Strategic planning is also critical. The Campus Archaeology Program is preparing for many projects taking place across campus this summer. During our latest meeting with Matt Fehrenbach, a Project Manager/Supervisor at Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF), we learned more about several projects taking place, including work near the Kellogg Center, the Henry Center, the Communication Arts Building, the Music Building, and Cowles House. Our great working relationship with IPF allows us to learn about these projects before they begin so we can plan the best way to mitigate any risk to archaeological deposits.

One of our initial steps, once we know a project’s area of impact, is to decide if the area warrants pre-construction shovel test survey and subsequent monitoring or just monitoring once the project begins. Typically, when construction is slated to take place in north and central campus, CAP will conduct a shovel test survey before construction begins in order to determine the presence and extent of any archaeological remains within the area of impact. This lets us work with the construction crews to mitigate the archaeological resources, and in some cases, the time to excavate and recover as much data as possible before the project continues.

Shovel test survey in construction zone.
Shovel test survey in construction zone.

Keep a look out for us this summer, as we are surveying and monitoring throughout campus in our yellow CAP vests!

Author: Autumn Painter

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