CAPBlog

Scout’s Honor: We are getting a Girl Scout badge!

Scout’s Honor: We are getting a Girl Scout badge!

Over the past couple of months, Campus Archaeology has been in communications with Girl Scout Regional Program and Event Specialist, Bethany Wilson, to develop an archaeology badge for girl scouts across Michigan. We are elated about our new partnership! These annual events will be a […]

Makes Five Gallons Of A Delicious Drink: Health and Political Debate Through Root Beer?

Makes Five Gallons Of A Delicious Drink: Health and Political Debate Through Root Beer?

Today sodas high in sugar are considered indulgent treats or unhealthy drinks, often disparaged as empty calories. Over the last decade consumption of these and other sugary beverages has dropped by nearly twenty percent (NY Times). However, this was not always the case, the development […]

Printing the Past: 3D Printing the Artifacts of MSU

Printing the Past: 3D Printing the Artifacts of MSU

As I have discussed in previous posts, my project for this year in CAP is to make 3D models of different artifacts found around campus that we have here in our collections. You may have also seen many of these on our Instagram and Twitter accounts though our ‘Artifacts of the Week’ initiative we started this year. These efforts have been done to both digitally preserve the artifacts we have, as well as make them more publicly accessible.

GIF of the Saints’ Rest pitcher 3D model.

Another new medium that I have briefly touched upon is 3D printing. CAP is lucky enough to have access to the brand new Digital Heritage Imaging and Innovation Lab (DHI Lab). This space allows students and scholars to digitize, document, preserve, and provide access to tangible heritage and material culture. Part of the LEADR (Lab for Education and Advancement in Digital Research) constellation of facilities, the DHI Lab is administered by the Department of Anthropology. It contains amazing artifact imaging resources, powerful computers to process 3D models, and a new 3D printer. These resources have become invaluable as CAP continues its push to reach a wider audience and share some of the great things we have found here on campus that allow us to reconstruct past student and faculty lives.

While digital 3D models allow us to share our findings with a larger audience, 3D printing those digital models gives a much more tangible and tactile representation of the artifact. When CAP conducts outreach and sets up booths and activities at community events, we want people to experience the artifacts that we find on campus, yet at the same time we are hesitant to have them handled too much as many of the artifacts are very old and fragile. Printing out the artifacts thus gives people an accurate representation of what we found while still preserving the artifact itself. Additionally, since the prints are made out of plastic, they can be handled and dropped without fear of breaking them. Plus, 3D prints are just cool.

Ceramic pitcher model being prepared in the 3D print software, Cura.
3D printer working on the base of the ceramic pitcher print.

As a test for this new idea, I decided to make a 3D print of an artifact where we already had the 3D model – the ceramic pitcher found during the 2005 Saints’ Rest excavations. The type of files required to make the 3D model are also compatible with the 3D printing software (I export my files as .obj – aka Wavefront object). With the Ultimaker 3D printer in the DHI Lab, I was able to upload the 3D model into the appropriate software (called Cura), adjust the settings, and begin the print. Making these prints is no quick task. Even lower quality prints can still take many hours.

Luckily, I had all the settings correct and the 3D print came out great! As I build more and more 3D models over the coming semester, I will also try to print them out with the 3D printer so that people can not only see, but touch and pick up representations of what we find on MSU’s campus. At CAP’s core are two tenets: 1) unearth and reconstruct the lives of those throughout MSU’s history, and 2) communicate our findings with the public. Having these visual aides allows us to better fulfill that second tenet and engage with the public in a more tactile manner. We will also definitely be bringing all of our prints to any outreach events that we host or participate in.

The 3D print next to the original ceramic pitcher found during the 2005 Saints’ Rest excavations.

Archaeology has routinely been a field that readily utilizes and adapts new technologies and methods to further our pursuit of knowledge of the past. In the case of 3D printing, this new method is best used when we have the public in mind so that people have a more memorable experience when they come and see us. Keep on the lookout for more models and 3D prints that will be coming out in the coming months and be sure to check out the following links to some of our other pages and accounts that will document our latest initiative: The Archaeology of MSU in 20 Artifacts.

3D models hosted on our Sketchfab account: https://sketchfab.com/capmsu
3D model of the ceramic pitcher: https://sketchfab.com/models/0e4c1aaba78242c4bcd2b2a240d91a35

Introducing the Site of the 2019 CAP Summer Field School

Introducing the Site of the 2019 CAP Summer Field School

Still searching for an archaeology field school for this summer? The Campus Archaeology Program will be offering a field school—right here on MSU’s campus—from May 13 to June 7, 2019. A field school is one of the best ways to learn what it takes to […]

Update on the MSU Sugar House Project: Fieldwork has Begun!

Update on the MSU Sugar House Project: Fieldwork has Begun!

After receiving permission to conduct field work in the Sanford Woodlot, Jack and I (along with Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter) were able to start mapping and surveying the remains of the MSU sugar house. While our work was impacted by snow and falling leaves, we […]

CAP Update

CAP Update

Happy 2019! The spring semester has started at Michigan State University and that means that the Campus Archaeology Program is back in action, preparing for all of the events and projects for the spring and summer! Below is an update on the projects we will be working on and what events we will be participating in and hosting:

In a few weeks we will be at the Bennett Woods Elementary School Science Night with a table full of artifacts, our stratigraphy game, and some of the tools we use for excavations.

This April, we will be participating in the Michigan State University Science Festival Expo Day, where you will be able to screen for artifacts, play our stratigraphy game, participate in our #ColorCAP coloring page competition, and check out some artifacts we have uncovered on campus!

Starting in May, CAP will be hosting an archaeological field school on the corner of Shaw and Hagadorn Roads on MSU’s campus. We will have a public day where everyone is welcome to stop by and ask us questions, get a site tour, and learn more about CAP and the research that is taking place.

For any MSU alumni grandparents, we will also be hosting a session during MSU’s Grandparents University! If you are interesting in participating, please check out their website: https://alumni.msu.edu/learn/on-campus/grandparents-university/.

Our CAP Fellows will also be continuing work on a number of projects, including the early food project, researching the historic sugar house in the Sandford Woodlot, photogrammetry/3D modeling for our #artifactoftheweek posts, alumni interview blog series, creating new outreach activities, and researching database management strategies! Stay tuned for our weekly blog posts to learn more about the projects!

ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: KATE FREDERICK

ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: KATE FREDERICK

Dr. Kate Frederick, a recent MSU graduate, worked with Campus Archaeology for two years, where she says she gained wide range of skills sets. She stated that though she had a decade of archaeological experience, there was a steep learning curve in the role of […]

ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: CHRIS STAWSKI

ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: CHRIS STAWSKI

        Chris Stawski was involved with Campus Archaeology at its inception, beginning as an archaeological technician in the summer of 2008.  Chris also held the position of Campus Archaeologist during the 2010-2011 academic year.  During his tenure with CAP, he was a […]

A Close Shave: Personal Grooming and Social Interaction during the Early History of MAC

A Close Shave: Personal Grooming and Social Interaction during the Early History of MAC

The Saints’ Rest excavations conducted by the Campus Archaeology Program have been well-documented and researched not only because this was the inaugural project for CAP, but also that it is one of the earliest buildings on campus, giving us a rare glimpse into how students lived during the formative years of the institution. Due to the many posts written about his site, I will not attempt to synthesize the vast amount of information we have gathered here, but will focus on a particular artifact that that I feel is particularly pertinent for this time of the year.

Screen shot of the 3D model of the shaving mug recovered from Saints’ Rest in the 2005 excavations.

During the 2005 excavations of Saints’ Rest, CAP unearthed (and expertly reconstructed) a mid-19th century shaving mug. Given that the close of No-Shave-November is upon us, it is only appropriate that I delve into the history of personal hygiene and social interactions through the lens of cumbersome facial hair. The mug in question was possibly a deep or royal blue color during its use-life, but was likely damaged in the fire that consumed Saints’ Rest, thereby distorting its true color and any decoration applied after it was fired in a kiln.

1908 catalog page from the Koken Barbers’ Supply Company showing the uniform and cylindrical shape but highly decorative nature of shaving mugs. Image source.

Facial hair hygienic practices have archaeological roots indicating that before the adoption of metallic shaving devices, sharpened shells were likely used (1). Once copper began being utilized for various other reasons, the metal was manipulated into rudimentary shaving implements. During the 18th century, the straight razor is known to have been manufactured in England (2). Yet shaving mugs, and its not far-off cousin the shaving scuttle, were not officially patented until 1867 (3). Shaving mugs (and scuttles) were used mainly for mainly two functions: 1) to hold hot water used to heat up the brush, and 2) whip up a large lather from the shaving soap. Traditional shaving soaps were hardened soap discs, not the canned foams or gels we know today.

The mug would be filled with water that had been heated over a stove and then let the soap brush sit and warm up in the water. After the water was dumped out and the brush had coated in the shaving soap, the mug was then used to create a lather by whipping the soapy brush until a thick foam appeared.

This is obviously a much more laborious process than we know today, especially since the straight razor was the most popular shaving implement until the invention and patent of the safety razors in 1887 (although the most popular was designed by King C. Gillette in 1895), although it still took some time before these razors were widely used (4). The safety razor changed the culture of shaving by making it less time-consuming, less intimidating, and an overall easier process since the razors were designed to be discarded after one use.

Given the date of both the patent of the safety razor (1887) and the date when Saints’ Rest burned down (1876), this mug would have been used during the hey-day straight razor shaving. Additionally, since no other shaving mug pieces have been found or identified from the Saints’ Rest assemblage, this might indicate that shaving may have been a social bonding experience between students as well as a representation of social identity. The modification of any type of appearance on the body is both a reflection of the self as well as a reflection of the culture in which one exists (5). Although the vast majority of men do not let their facial hair grow wild and untouched, grooming by means of shaving off all facial hair or implementing certain styles is a social communication that produces, reproduces, and emphasizes a sense of self within a cultural system.

1895 ad from the Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog for the safety razor emphasizing its convenience and ease. Image source.

In order for these excavations and artifacts to have any meaning, we must root them within the cultural context from which they were found. Only then do we go beyond the description of an object, such as a simple shaving mug, to the interpretation and social importance that the object can convey. So as the end No-Shave-November is creeping near, grab your shaving mug, your shaving soap, and your straight razor and participate in the culturally communicative body modification process and express your social identity! (or keep the beard, it matters not to me)

Be sure to check out our 3D photogrammetry model of the shaving mug linked here!

References:

  1. Sherrow, V. (2006). Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  2. Brown,K. (2009). Foul bodies: cleanliness in early America. Yale University Press.
  3. Brooks, J. P., & McGrady, J. (1867 – July). Improvement in shaving-cups. U.S. Patent 66,788.
  4. Thorpe, S. C. (1953). Practice and science of standard barbering, Milady Publishing Corp.
  5. Turner,T. S. (2012). The social skin. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 2(2),486-504.
Final ReCAP: A Fellow’s Farewell to Campus Archaeology

Final ReCAP: A Fellow’s Farewell to Campus Archaeology

Hello, old friends. It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye. It is a bittersweet farewell: I’ve finished my Ph.D. (a good thing),and it is therefore time for me to end my tenure with Campus Archaeology (a sad thing). The past three-and-a-half years […]