Combing Through the Artifacts

While Lisa Bright and I were accessioning artifacts from the West Circle Drive privy excavation, we noticed that one of the short combs had some lettering. Faint, tiny print spelled out, “IRC CO. G YEARS” with a few other letters (or numbers) that we could not read. Some quick Googling brought up the India Rubber Company based out of New York City, one of the first two hard rubber companies to sell products made through the process of vulcanization.

India Rubber Company Ad - Image Source

India Rubber Company Ad – Image Source

India Rubber Company Ad for Unbreakable Combs - Image Source

India Rubber Company Ad for Unbreakable Combs – Image Source

Charles and Nelson Goodyear developed the vulcanization process, or applying heat to rubber treated with sulfur, in 1839 which allowed for hard rubber products to be produced in mass quantities. Through experimentation, Charles Goodyear was able to turn raw rubber into a malleable, stable substance, while Nelson Goodyear figured out how to adapt the pliable rubber into vulcanite (hard rubber) that could be used to make a number of personal items including buttons and brushes1. In the mid-1850s, ivory and wooden combs were largely en vogue until the Goodyear brothers utilized vulcanite to manufacture rubber combs of all sizes. Initially, the vulcanite combs cost twenty times as much as the combs previously in use, but (presumably) the superior quality of the rubber combs produced by the Goodyears contributed to their staying power2. Specialists who were originally trained in making each ivory and tortoiseshell by hand were replaced by comb-cutting machines by 18653. Mechanized production eventually allowed for the creation of two combs, whereby one comb was created from the spaces of the teeth of the other comb. Increased production and eventual expiration of hard rubber patents led to significant expansion in comb manufacturing, so India Rubber Company began to stamp each comb with the manufacturing date and a guarantee against breakage for twelve months3.

Indian rubber comb ad

India Rubber Comb Ad – Image Source

So what does vulcanized rubber have to do with Campus Archaeology? Enter: the beard (and mustache?) comb!

Comb from West Circle Privy - Image Source Amy Michael

Comb from West Circle Privy – Image Source Amy Michael

The comb measures approximately 3.5 inches in length and 1.25 inches in width, making it fairly small. Since the comb wound up in the privy, we can only assume that a recently clean shaven man was just done with all facial hair maintenance! Just kidding. It’s likely that the comb ended up in the privy accidentally, as the India Rubber Company was very proud of the durability of their allegedly unbreakable combs. Perhaps one of these guys, or someone similar to them, used the comb:

Photo of Faculty with facial hair, 1888. Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Photo of Faculty with facial hair, 1888. Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Hard rubber combs from the same time period have been found in other archaeological contexts and even wind up in art museums. Check out a fancy 1851 comb manufactured by India Rubber Company that is in the collections at the Met: The excavation of the SS Republic, a famous shipwreck, yielded a number of artifacts produced by the India Rubber Company including combs, a woman’s headband, and even a hygienic douche (check out the artifacts here:

As we go through the rest of the privy materials, we will continue to do historical research on each of the personal items found in the assemblage. Perhaps we will get lucky and find another dateable piece!



2Depew, Chauncey Mitchell, ed. 1795-1895. One Hundred Years of American Commerce…: A History of American Commerce by One Hundred Americans, with a Chronological Table of the Important Events of American Commerce and Invention Within the Past One Hundred Years. DO Haynes & Company, 1895.

3The India-Rubber Journal. The History of a Large Rubber Firm. May 21, 1906.

Excavating behind Old Hort

We had a busy summer here at CAP. We were able to excavate at some interesting and important places such as the Abbott Entrance and Beals first botanical lab. Our last project area for the summer was behind the Old Horticulture building on north campus. IPF was planning to repave part of the Lot #7 parking lot, so we thankfully had time in the schedule to begin investigating in that area to better prepare us for what we might encounter.

Although this area is a green (at the right time of year) field popular for tailgating this space has had many different identities. CAP had done some investigations in this general area before, when we surveyed the Old Botany greenhouse before its demolition, however we had never surveyed the area directly south of Old Horticulture. Since the opening of campus this area served three main purposes: 1. Farm/barn area, 2. Detention Hospitals, and 3. Experimental Greenhouse.

View of farm area and barns taken from atop the Dairy Building - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

View of farm area and barns taken from atop the Dairy Building – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Prior to the early 1900s this area contained a horse barn, dairy/cattle barn, grain barn, horticultural barn, miscellaneous small buildings, grazing/animal pen areas, as well as at least two residential buildings for farm employees.  Some of these buildings were demolished or moved to make way to the building of the Dairy and other buildings.

Detention Hospitals with Horticultural Barn visible in right corner - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Detention Hospitals with Horticultural Barn visible in right corner – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Showing Detention Hospitals (52-55) and the Horticulture Barn (57) - Images Source: MSU Map Library

1915 Campus Map Showing Detention Hospitals (52-55) and the Horticulture Barn (57) – Images Source: MSU Map Library

In 1908, to better meet the public health needs of the growing university, four Detention (aka Quarantine) Hospitals were built.  These cottages were demolished in 1923 to make room for the Horticulture building.  At that same time a large greenhouse was erected that was used for experimental work on flowers and vegetables.

View of Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

View of Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Old Horticulture and the Greenhouse were built in 1925.  Though Old Horticulture remains today, the Greenhouse was demolished in the late 1990s since it had fallen in disrepair.

We started a series of shovel test pits in the area, wondering if we would be able to find evidence for the past uses of this area. Unfortunately we were quickly faced with obstacles as the soil was dry and incredibly compact, slowing our progress. However, we soon found ample evidence from the campus greenhouse. We are still working on washing and cataloging everything, but we uncovered terra-cotta pot fragments, water pipes, plant tags, and plant material.

STPs behind Old Hort - Image Source Lisa Bright

STPs behind Old Hort – Image Source Lisa Bright

Jack Biggs uses a mattock to dig in the compact soil. Image Source Lisa Bright

Jack Biggs uses a mattock to dig in the compact soil. Image Source Lisa Bright

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs remove a large piece of water pipe - Image Source Lisa Bright

Becca Albert and Jack Biggs remove a large piece of water pipe – Image Source Lisa Bright

Artifacts including a salt glazed brick, plant tag, flower pot fragment, and snickers wrapper.

Artifacts including a salt glazed brick, plant tag, flower pot fragment, and snickers wrapper.

The extreme compactness of the dirt, as well as the overall depth of the material, which required unit expansion, meant we only completed a few rows of stps/units.  Perhaps in the future we will be able to return and continue to look for evidence of the detention hospitals and farm buildings.

Let Them Eat Paste: Sanford’s Library Paste Jar

While I myself have never experienced the Wiggum-ian urge to consume paste, I’ve encountered an unnamed few who, at one time or another, failed to resist sneaking a sweet, illicit taste of the stuff. In defense of our paste-loving friend Ralph, eating paste isn’t all that different from eating pasta: the basic formula of paste is water, vegetable flour, and starch. In fact, the words “paste” and “pasta” share a common Greek etymology. As used in thirteenth century English, “paste” meant something akin to “dough.” It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that the word “paste” was first used to reference to the glue mixture we know and eat today.

Death from paste! Image source

Death from paste! Image source

This is not to say that paste eating is without hazards. A hand-painted marker in Esmeralda County, Nevada, marks the grave of an unknown man—a “starving vagrant”—who expired in 1908 after eating a jar of library paste foraged from the trash. The paste contained alum, a common additive in adhesives that serves the purpose of 1) preventing mold by keeping excess moisture out and 2) whitening the mixture for improved aesthetics. As our hungry vagrant discovered too late, alum is also toxic in large doses.

The unnamed vagrant may have been tempted by the sweet smell of library paste, but not all historical adhesives were so appetizing. In the past, glue-making and using was often a smelly, messy affair. Prior to the 20th century, many adhesives were derived from animal products including bones, cartilage, skin, or—as I learned traumatically from a childhood reading of Black Beauty—horse hooves. Animal-based adhesives often required cooking or melting before use, at great inconvenience to the user.

Enter: Sanford’s Library Paste.

Sanford's Library Paste Jar discovered at Station Terrace - Image Source: Lisa Bright

Sanford’s Library Paste Jar discovered at Station Terrace – Image Source: Lisa Bright

This summer, an intact jar of Sanford’s Utopian Library Paste was uncovered during the excavation of Station Terrace. As Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright discussed in a previous blog post, Station Terrace was built in the early 1890s and used as housing for visiting researchers and faculty. The discovery of the paste jar begs the question, what place might such an object have on the campus of Michigan Agricultural College?

Sanford's Library Paste Utopian Jar Ad - Image Source

Sanford’s Library Paste Utopian Jar Ad – Image Source

The Sanford Ink Company was founded in 1857 by Frederick W. Redington and William H. Sanford, Jr. Today, Sanford L.P. is one of the largest writing products manufacturers in the world. Its products include PaperMate, Sharpie, and Uni-Ball. In its early days, Sanford was better known for quality ink, paste, and mucilage products. Sanford patented its library paste formula in 1892. The company proudly contrasted its potato-based “clean, sweet smelling” paste with the stinking, cumbersome hoof glues of old in a series of advertisements that ran in magazines such as the American Stationer, The Magazine of Office Equipment, and The Coach during the early twentieth century.

Sanford’s library paste was sold in collapsible tubes and quart or pint jars to meet its customers’ various adhesive needs. Seeking total library paste domination, the Sanford Ink Company patented its special “Utopian” paste jar in 1898. The jar was designed with a small air space under the cover and a central water well that kept the brush and paste from drying inside. It was called “Utopian” presumably because its design beckoned a futuristic paradise in which paste flows freely and brushes stay eternally moist. As a bonus, the paste was “snowy white” and dried quickly—in less than ten seconds—to prevent paper from puckering. Sanford’s library paste became enough an industry standard that it even appeared in the 1906 Report of the Clerk of the House of Representatives’ as part of the contingent fund for stationery.

According to Sanford’s own advertising, its library paste had a variety of office, home, and commercial uses including “mounting photographs, paper flowers, scrap book and general use.” As much as I like to imagine early Spartans dècoupaging paper flowers, the mention of scrapbooking is especially intriguing. The MSU Archives houses an impressive and fascinating collection of student and faculty scrapbooks. Before the advent of social media, scrapbooking served as a means of compiling treasured memories and carefully curating one’s personal identity for posterity.

Scrapbooks contained material evidence of memories such as ticket stubs to football games or social events, newspaper clippings, personal letters, and photographs. These range from the serious—librarian Linda Landon’s cyanotype photograph of herself working in the library in the 1890s—to the personal—Forest Akers’ scrapbook pages commemorating his marriage to Alice Rockwell—to the silly—an unidentified student’s scrapbook page with a 1902 newspaper article detailing the common prank of “room stacking”.

Room Stacking scrapbook image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Room Stacking scrapbook image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Scrapbooks encapsulated students’ unique experiences and perspectives. Chinese student Onn Mann Liang was one of twenty international students who studied at Michigan State College in the 1920s. His scrapbook contains photographs of his travels around Michigan, his registration as a Civil Engineer, and portraits of himself as he wished to remember himself and how he wished to be remembered during his time in Michigan—graduating from MSC, canoeing down the Red Cedar, and posing with other students. Read more about Onn Mann Liang and view his scrapbook in the MSU Archives exhibit on pioneers in international education here.

We may never know exactly what Michigan State students and faculty were doing with library paste—apart from, of course, snacking on it. However, the discovery of this artifact connects us to early Spartans’ methods of self-expression, memory making, and construction of personal identity.


Paste etymology

Paste ingredients

Sanford Ink bottles

Sanford Ink Company

Advertisement in The Coach magazine (January 1917, Vol. 4-6)

Advertisement in The Magazine of Office Equipment (March 1917, Vol. 25)

Advertisement in The American Stationer (March 28, 1908)

Annual Report of the 59th Congress, 2nd Session of the House of Representatives (1907)

Sanford Manufacturing Company Pamphlet (year unknown-courtesy of University of Chicago)


Unknown Vagrant

Utopian Jar Ad

Photos from the MSU Archives

 Room Stacking

Forest Akers Scrapbook

Institutional Wares: What Are They Good For?

On university campuses, all sorts of different items are present.  One type of item that is commonly found but under-utilized are industrial ceramics.  Also known as hotel wares, hotel china, or restaurant china, these ceramics are designed to be extremely tough and cheap, perfect for enterprises feeding a large number of people every day.  Besides aspects of technology, these seemingly simple objects can provide archaeologists with an impressive amount of information, especially on a university campus with a deep history, such as Michigan State’s.

K.T.&K Bowl from Gunson/Admin Assemblage - Image Source Lisa Bright

K.T.&K Bowl from Gunson/Admin Assemblage – Image Source Lisa Bright

Developed sometime around the 1870’s and 1880’s in the United States, institutional wares are a vitrified and improved white stoneware, meaning that this type of ceramic is fired at a very high temperature, making it more glass-like or porcelain-like.  Despite its glassier nature, these ceramics are extremely durable and do not break easily.  Since they act more like glass, they are also less porous and do not absorb as many tiny food particles or oils, making them ideal for repeated and frequent use.

While some may see the presence of these wares on MSU’s campus as only signaling that, yes indeed, MSU fed lots of people every day, they can actually tell us much more.  Archaeologically, hotel wares contain a number of small but time sensitive aspects, such as the development of a rolled rim in 1896, which can make them useful time markers that are helpful in dating archaeological assemblages found on campus.  Beyond this simple application, they can also help inform us about changes in how students were provisioned on campus, and about the balancing act that is a university economy.

Students on campus have not always been supplied with everything food-related that they would need.  They also did not always live in massive dorms full of hundreds of people.  At the beginning of MSU, when the university was small and hotel wares were only an idea, student labor ruled as a way for the university to remain self-sufficient and also under-budget.  Students also provided many of their own living items as they came to the university.  At what point then, and why, did it become more economical to begin buying these ceramics to provision a growing student body?  This is one question that these ceramics can aid in answering.

Institutional wares can also help us to recreate the student and faculty experience thru time at MSU.  What was meal-time like for these students before giant cafeterias full of different restaurants became the locations for students to eat, socialize, or occasionally do some school work?  For faculty as well, who could afford more refined tastes in dishware, did all faculty have the same access to nicer dinnerware or did some also make use of institutional wares as a way to stay under-budget themselves?

These items also do not remain undecorated, but are instead found with specific designs in specific colors.  After 1908, when a method for decoration was adapted that did not weaken the glaze of these ceramics, institutional wares became increasingly customizable.  This turned them not only into a utensil for eating, but a tool for branding as well.  At MSU, we commonly see white dishes with bands of green near the rim, matching the university colors.  As students would have interacted with these dishes almost every day, this may have been a subtle attempt to unify the student body behind a university brand that was, and still is, symbolized by those colors, green and white.

Onondaga plate fragment with three green stripes - Image Source Lisa Bright

Onondaga plate fragment with three green stripes – Image Source Lisa Bright

All of these are topics that institutional ceramics can help us to explore, topics that are critical for understanding how large institutions, such as a university, evolve through time, and how the experiences of those involved evolved with it.


Meyers, Adrian
2016 The Significance of Hotel-Ware Ceramics in the Twentieth Century” Historical Archaeology Vol. 50 Iss. 2 (2016) p. 110 – 126.

For the Love of Food: Digital Outreach, Animal Bones, and Early Food Habits on Campus

Analyzing and interpreting past food practices has always been one of my passions. This year for CAP, I will be working with Susan Kooiman to explore and recreate the food environment during the Early Period of MSU’s campus (1855-1870), as explained in Susan’s previous blog post. While Susan will take on more of the background research of this period, I am going to delve into the animal bones uncovered through Campus Archaeology excavations. I began my training as a zooarchaeologist while earning my Master’s degree at Illinois State University. Most of my experience has been with prehistoric animal remains and I am very excited to work with the animal bones recovered from Campus to better understand food production, preparation, serving, and consumption at Michigan State!

Women with cows on campus, 1908 - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Women with cows on campus, 1908 – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Standard Cuts of Meat (1908) - Image Source

Standard Cuts of Meat (1908) – Image Source

I will first begin by sorting the animal bones by animal class: mammal, bird, fish, and reptile/amphibian. After this initial sorting I will use a osteological comparative collection to conduct my identifications. From previous initial zooarchaeological analysis, we know that there are many different butchering marks present on many of the mammal remains. This will be one of my focuses during analysis. I hope to be able to determine what types of cuts of meat were being produced on campus, or if there were students learning butchering practices.

In addition to conducting a faunal analysis on the remains from the privy and Saints Rest excavations, I will be working on creating a website for this project. While we are in the initial stages of the project, we are working on formulating how we want to portray this project online. Currently, we would like to highlight the various aspects of food practices at MSU during this period including cooking, sustainability, production, ceramics, animal bone analysis, and food reconstruction. In addition to discussing our results from this project, we will also be documenting each step of our research. Our hope is to create videos showing how we learn about MSU’s history, from searching through archival records, visiting with MSU’s farms, to animal bone analysis. I can’t wait to see where this project takes us!

Animal bones, some butchered, from the West Circle Privy - Image via Lisa Bright

Animal bones, some butchered, from the West Circle Privy – Image via Lisa Bright

Food for Thought: Documenting Early Food Habits at MSU

I love food. Ask anyone. I didn’t begin my archaeological career studying food, but my interest in ancient pottery eventually brought me around to the study of cooking and diet. It is not surprising, then, that my passion for eating ultimately led (albeit indirectly) to research focusing on culinary traditions and behaviors.

I love studying food because its central role in both our biological and social lives makes it an ideal, dynamic, and engaging topic of anthropological inquiry. Our daily schedules are constructed around meals, and food is often the centerpiece of holidays and celebratory events. The consumption of food brings people together, like families at mealtimes or friends meeting up for dinner. Shared food preferences can help bridge gaps and form bonds between strangers—a mutual love of barbeque chicken pizza may serve as the foundation of a new friendship. But regional or ethnic differences in food traditions can also divide—people from Chicago and New York may argue about which style of pizza is the best.

Students eating in their dorm circa 1914 - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Students eating in their dorm circa 1914 – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

When Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright first mentioned her idea, recreating a meal based on archaeological food remains found in a historic privy on campus, my interest was piqued. The brick-lined privy, located near the MSU Museum, was discovered and excavated by CAP in the summer of 2015. It contained a variety of interesting items, from dolls to broken dishes and various bottles. Also in this privy were discarded food remains. Privies were perfect places to throw smelly food leftovers and bones since they are already quite malodorous. And some remains, such as seeds, were probably deposited there…by some other means (you might call it “delivery method #2”).

Women cooking class at school of human ecology 1890-1899 - Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Women cooking class at school of human ecology 1890-1899 – Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

This year, fellow CAP fellow Autumn Beyer and I will be using the food remains from the privy and the Saints Rest excavations to explore and recreate the food environment of the MSU campus during the Early Period (1855-1870). We will be exploring the archives for information about early MSU food production, acquisition, purchasing, preparation, serving, and consumption. Autumn, a trained zooarchaeologist, will conduct in-depth analysis of the animal bones from the collection, of which primary identifications of cow, pig, chicken, and fish have been made. Other food remains include egg shell and raspberry seeds. We may even try to sprout one of the raspberry seeds with the help of CAP intern Becca Albert!

A perusal of CAP blogs from throughout the past year will show that we have already researched many of the types, origins, and prices of some of the dishes found in the privy, which helps us connect the food being cooked to how the food was served. A bottle of flavoring extract was also present in the privy (check out my blog on this item from April!), so we know that campus cooks were beginning to dabble in adding synthetic flavoring to dishes.

Ultimately, we hope to work with MSU Food Services to recreate a meal based on the remains in the privy and create an educational video documenting the process. Autumn will also spearhead creating a website for the project, which she will detail in upcoming blogs.

Horticulture Students 1884 - Image from MSU Archives & Historical Collections Flickr

Horticulture Students 1884 – Image from MSU Archives & Historical Collections Flickr

Understanding the foods prepared, served, and consumed by nineteenth-century students and faculty at MSU will help us recreate what life was like during the earliest years of MSU. Archaeology is all about connecting the present to the past, and what better way to make these connections than through our stomachs?

Station Terrace: A Building with Many Identities

This summer we had the opportunity to excavate in several different areas of north campus. We began the summer working in conjunction with the Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project. This required us to survey down the center median, as well as either side of the road. I talked briefly before about the general history of this area, as well as a summer progress update. We were able to locate the basement of Station Terrace.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Station Terrace. The building stood just east of Faculty Row, near the southern end of the current Abbott entrance median. There’s not much information out there regarding the building, but we do know that it had many different identities during its life on campus.

Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace was likely built during the 1880s or early 1890s (the earliest photo documenting the building is from 1896). Its original purpose was to provide housing for researchers visiting from the M.A.C. experimental stations. Later it was used to house bachelor instructors, earning its nickname the Bull Pen (perhaps also acquired as a counterpoint to Morill Hall’s nickname the Hen House).

Group of Subfaculty at Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Group of Subfaculty at Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

During the evening of January 24th, 1903 the building was damaged by a fire started by a faulty chimney. There were several issues in the containment of the fire, including many of the volunteer fire fighters being at a society room party, lacking the proper wrench to screw into the closest hydrant, a frozen fire hydrant, and a burst water main. They eventually got the blaze under control, but substantial damage occurred to the west end of the building. However, it was recommended that the building (as well as other areas on campus) become outfitted with modern fire extinguishers and hand grenades.

Following the fire, some board members suggests remodeling the building, and changing it into a two family household. They went as far as to have the college architect prepare a sketch for the remodeling, but ultimately decided that they would derive more revenue and benefit from restoring the building to its former state with several apartments.

Between the spring of 1903 and 1923 the building housed the East Lansing post office. Because of this Station Terrace is often referred to as the old post office on maps and in historical documents. In 1902 after the demolition of the original trolley car waiting room, it was moved to Station Terrace. In 1921 the old college waiting room was taken over by the Flower Pot Tea Room, a café run by women in the home economics program.

Station Terrace Today - Images via Google Street view

Station Terrace Today – Images via Google Street view

Station Terrace, as well as several other buildings, were in the path of the Abbot Road entrance construction. However, the building was not demolished. In 1923-1924 it was moved off campus, to 291 Durand Street. The structure was also modified, and portions of the building were used to build the house next door. From the right angle, it still bears a slight resemblance to its former arrangement.

Because the building was physically moved off campus, and not demolished, collapsed, or burnt down like many other buildings we excavate, I was unsure what we would actually find. I was pleasantly surprised.

During our final row of STPs we encountered a large fieldstone at the depth of 1m. This unit was expanded, and expanded, and then expanded some more. We had located an interior dividing wall, in what I feel is the basement of Station Terrace. Further excavations revealed a concrete floor, water and sewage pipes, concentrations of sheet metal, an intact paste jar (more on this jar coming in a future blog!), and a pair of men’s shoes. The east side of the unit also contained some beautiful stratigraphy.

Station Terrace Excavation East Wall

Station Terrace Excavation East Wall

Station Terrace Stone Wall

Station Terrace Stone Wall

Sanford Library Paste Bottle from excavation

Sanford Library Paste Bottle from excavation

I’m still busy conducting more research on this location, and its possible suitability as a location for the next field school.


Justin L. Kestenbaum, ed. At the Campus Gate: A History of East Lansing. 1976.

Detroit Free Press, November 19th 1922: M.A.C. to Beautify College Entrance

Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1903.

M.A.C. Record vol 27 no 26 April 21 1922:

MSU Archives: Campus Post Office 1892-1911. Folder 94, Box 826 Collection UA4.9.1

Meet the 2016-2017 CAP Fellows

It’s that time again, meet the 2016-2017 CAP fellows.  We’re excited to get to work on a batch of new projects this year, under the guidance of CAP director Dr. Lynne Goldstein.

Lisa Bright: Lisa is a third year PhD student in Anthropology, returning for her second year as Campus Archaeologist. Her dissertation 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 two undergraduate internships, and working to complete reports and process artifacts from this summer.

Amy Michael: Amy Michael is a returning CAP fellow (can’t get rid of me!). She is furthering her research on gendered use of space on campus and looks forward to including artifacts found during the summer 2016 excavations in her analysis. This year, Amy will work with Lisa Bright on a variety of projects including the analysis of the historic privy vs. campus middens or trash sites.

Susan Kooiman: Susan is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Anthropology. Her research focuses on prehistoric pottery use, cooking practices, and diet, and her dissertation will explore these topics in the Upper Great Lakes of North America. This is her second year as a CAP fellow, and she and Autumn Beyer will be working together on a project highlighting food on campus during the Early Period (1855-1870) of MSU’s history. They plan to recreate historic MSU meals based on food remains found in an early privy during CAP survey in 2015 and create online digital media documenting the project for the public.

Jeff Painter: Jeff is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, with a focus in prehistoric archaeology in the Midwest and Eastern Woodlands. Specifically, he focuses on interaction and foodways in late prehistory and the function and use of ceramic vessels in the past. This is his first year as a CAP fellow and he plans on exploring the role of institutional ceramics at MSU as well as the ceramics found in the Gunson House trash pit excavations from summer 2015.

Autumn Beyer: Autumn is a second 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 first year as a CAP fellow and she plans on working with returning fellow Susan Kooiman on a project to recreate historic MSU meals based on artifacts recovered from a privy.

Mari Isa: Mari is a third year Ph.D. student in Anthropology. Her research focuses on the intersection between anthropological analysis of skeletal trauma and biomechanical experimentation. Additionally, Mari’s fieldwork focuses on bioarchaeology in Late Roman Tuscany. She is excited for her first year as a CAP fellow, during which she will be examining sustainable practices at MSU through time.

Meet Dr. Heather Walder

Dr. Heather Walder, a Visiting Assistant Professor for 2016-2017, will be joining the Campus Archaeology team this fall.

Dr. Heather Walder

Dr. Heather Walder

She is an anthropological archaeologist researching exchange, migration, and identity in past situations of colonialism and intercultural interaction. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2015, with a dissertation investigating glass and metal artifacts from17th and early-18th century habitation sites of Indigenous peoples of the Upper Great Lakes region. Compositional analysis (LA-ICP-MS) of glass trade beads and pendants was employed to define glass recipe patterns, while physical attribute analysis of the copper-base metal objects qualitatively and quantitatively recorded artifacts’ size, shape, and working-methods, such as hammering, scoring, bending, clipping, folding and crumpling. Examining both metal and glass artifacts provided complementary data sets that allowed identification of difference and overlap in Native peoples’ technological practices and trading connections, and clarified spatial and temporal aspects of interaction for a period of dynamic population movement and socio-economic change.This research produced new archaeological evidence that demonstrated how historically-documented Native American groups in the Upper Great Lakes region, including the Huron, Potawatomi, Meskwaki, Anishinaabe, and Odawa, applied their existing knowledge of technology and material properties to artifacts obtained through trade relationships. Available European-made materials changed over time, as glass workshops shifted their recipes; likewise, Native communities and individuals applied diverse technological practices to convert European items into more socially significant and useful objects like re-fired glass pendants and metal beads. Clarifying these practices through technological style analyses investigated the relationship between culture and technology, contributing to broader examinations of how Indigenous populations in contact with colonial powers maintain(ed) cultural continuity when faced with interaction and material change.

While at Michigan State University, Dr. Walder will continue pursuing similar questions related to historically-documented encounters among Indigenous peoples of the Midwest and Europeans through further material and spatial analyses. Much of this work lends itself to collaboration with MSU students and research on previously excavated artifacts in the MSU collections, such as those from  the Cloudman Site, a protohistoric or Early Historic Anishinaabe / Ojibwe camp on Drummond Island, and the Marquette Mission site, a Tionontate Huron village in close proximity to a Jesuit mission at St. Ignace, occupied c. 1670 – 1700. Walder’s expertise in archaeological chemistry and historical artifact analysis will allow her to address new research questions focused on the material culture excavated by the Campus Archaeology Program. She is looking forward to working with the CAP Fellows and undergraduate interns this year on upcoming projects.


Day of archaeology

Today is the 2016 Day of Archaeology.  The goal of the Day of Archaeology project is to provide a window into the varied lives of archaeologists around the world.  You can see our contribution at:

Head on over and check it out.  You can browse all of the posts, or view by theme such as Historical Archaeology, or Digital Archaeology.