CAPBlog

2020 CAP Update

2020 CAP Update

Welcome to the new decade – 2020! With the start of this new era, and our spring semester at Michigan State University, we are happy to continue working through the Campus Archaeology Program! In addition to working on our individual projects (detailed in our previous…

A Historical Perspective on Graduate Education at MSU

A Historical Perspective on Graduate Education at MSU

Chittenden Hall, current home of The Graduate School. At the time of photo, Chittenden was the Department of Forestry. Photo courtesy of the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections. As it stands today, graduate education makes up a substantial and integral part of Michigan State…

CAP Lab Open House

CAP Lab Open House

Last Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Campus Archaeology hosted their first Open House. For two hours, Campus Archaeology opened our lab doors to the public. Campus Archaeology strives to have a standing relationship with the community through our numerous outreach events each year, as well as our public service to Michigan State University. We frequently engage with the public to educate people in all walks of life on what it means to be an archaeologist. At these outreach events, people get to see examples of what we do in the field and some of the artifacts that have been recovered from MSU’s campus, but people never really get to see what we do on a daily basis.

The work that takes place in the Campus Archaeology Laboratory represents a typical day as an archaeologist: artifact cataloguing and analysis, research, and training students. Most people correlate archaeologists with fieldwork, but the majority of our work is focused on analyzing and interpreting the data collected from our fieldwork. Thus, Campus Archaeology wanted to provide an opportunity for the public to see behind-the-scenes of an archaeology lab through the Open House.

Our visitors ranged from MSU faculty and staff to high school students interested in a career in archaeology. During the Open House, guests were presented with a range of artifacts recovered from MSU’s campus, posters from conferences demonstrating current research in our lab, examples of our outreach activities to show how we engage with the public, digital and printed 3D models of artifacts, and examples of how we catalogue and curate artifacts. Guests were also able to directly interact with current CAP fellows and interns to learn about their experiences with CAP as well as their personal research projects.

Campus Archaeology would like to thank everyone who attended the Open House event. We had a fantastic time talking with everyone and appreciate your support.

Emphasizing Laboratory Work in Archaeology: A New Outreach Activity

Emphasizing Laboratory Work in Archaeology: A New Outreach Activity

MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program is well known in our community for our public outreach events and our archaeological excavations. These activities allow our archaeologists to be visible members of our MSU community and gets us out of our laboratories so we can teach and dig!…

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

Next week is the annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (October 10-12, 2019) in Mankato, MN. Below is a list of dates and times of all MSU presentations. This includes past, present, and retired MSU graduate students and faculty. Included is a poster on the Campus Archaeology…

Introducing our CAP Undergraduate Interns

Introducing our CAP Undergraduate Interns

This year we have two undergraduate interns working in the Campus Archaeology Program lab. These two students both attended the summer 2019 archaeological field school. Below you can read a little more about them!

Reid Ellefson-Frank is an undergraduate student at MSU working towards a degree in archaeology. He grew up visiting Lynne Goldstein’s field schools and public outreach archaeology events. A decade later he finds himself inside the Campus Archaeology Program that ran the events he enjoyed as a child. He is primarily interested in the archaeology of the destruction of buildings, both on the boarder between Wales and England, and in Eastern Europe in Jewish villages that experienced pogroms. He is accompanied by his service dog Llywelyn, who remains constantly disappointed that he is not allowed to chew on any of the bones found during excavation or being catalogued in the lab.

Woman holding trowel while kneeling in archaeological excavated unit.

Alexis (Lexi) Cupp is a fourth-year undergraduate student in the Department of Anthropology with a minor in environmental health and environmental sustainability studies. In the summer of 2019, she partook in the Campus Archaeology Field school where she developed an interest in Archaeology and the history of Michigan State’s campus. This is her first year participating in the Campus Archaeology internship program. She looks forward to engaging with the public through the haunted tour of MSU and is excited to showcase her research at various symposiums. She enjoys learning about history and hopes to incorporate her knowledge of the environment and society to examine the relationships between humans and their environment spatiotemporally.

Introducing Our 2019-2020 CAP Graduate Fellows

Introducing Our 2019-2020 CAP Graduate Fellows

Benjamin Akey: Benjamin (they/them/theirs) is a first-year doctoral student and graduate research assistant studying historical archaeology. They received their BA in Anthropology from University of California Santa Cruz in 2018, where they focused on the performance and negotiation of class and ethnic identities through patterns…

Summer 2019 Re-CAP

Summer 2019 Re-CAP

Campus Archaeology had an exciting summer field season, from the archaeological field school to field crew work across campus. We also hosted a class for Grandparent’s University and painted the MSU Rock! Below you can read more about each project. Archaeological Field School This summer…

Color Me Excited! Munsell visits MSU Campus Archaeology Program

Color Me Excited! Munsell visits MSU Campus Archaeology Program

During the last week of our undergraduate archaeological field school, Art Schmehling and Laura Weeks from Munsell came out to visit our excavation, show us a few of their products, and see how we typically use their soil color book. The products they brought and taught us about included their new Munsell CAPSURE Color Matching Tool!

Art Schmehling, Autumn Painter, and Dr. Stacey Camp comparing the Munsell color tools.
Art Schmehling, Autumn Painter, and Dr. Stacey Camp comparing the Munsell color tools.

They also provided us with the Farnsworth Color Vision Test so we are able to evaluate the extent that our color vision can tell the difference between specific colors and hue variations within a given color. This test indicates our color acuity across the entire spectrum of visible color, which is an essential skill for archaeologists.

Archaeologists typically use the Munsell Soil Color Book to evaluate soil strata (layers of soil) during our excavations. It allows us to learn how the archaeological record was formed, a process in which layers of soil and cultural material are laid down on top of one another through time. Soil color changes and the presence of cultural material also allows archaeologists to look at and tell the difference between natural and cultural deposition episodes and/or activities. If you are interested in how archaeologists ‘read’ soil stratigraphy, take a look at a previous blog post: http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=334.

We were excited to try out the new Munsell CAPSURE Color Matching Tool in comparison with our traditional way of using the soil color book! Several Campus Archaeology staff and field school students tried out the device. To get the most accurate reading, the soil must be clean scraped and made as smooth as possible. You place the device flat against the soil and press a button on the side to capture the color. The device provides a Munsell color (i.e. 10YR3/4), and it also allows you to view colors that have been categorized as similar.

When we tested the same soil sample using both methods (book and digital device), we found that we identified colors the same or similar to the digital device’s readings. While this didn’t happen every time, we found that inclusions greatly impacted the color that the digital device selected. We also challenged the CAP staff to categorize the same soil layer using a paper Munsell book in order to see if we categorized colors in a similar fashion. While we mostly agreed, there were some soil layers that we identified as slightly different. Overall, we believe the device would be useful on a large scale excavation that could benefit from consistency, as individuals perceive colors in different ways and would assist in increasing work flow.

Hue test results showing total error score and discrimination classification for Autumn Painter.
Hue test results showing total error score and discrimination classification for Autumn Painter.

To test how differently we identify colors, we used the color vision test provided to us by Munsell. Two professors, three graduate students, and one undergraduate intern completed the test. Our results ranged from ‘average discrimination’ to ‘superior discrimination.’ The definitions of the discriminations from the test are below:


Superior Discrimination
About 16% of the population (exclusive of color defectives) has been found to make 0 to 4 transpositions on first test, or total error score of zero to 16. This is the range of superior competence for color discrimination.


Average Discrimination
About 68% of the population (exclusive of color defectives) make a total error score between 20 and 100 on first tests. This is the range of normal competence for color discrimination.

Low Discrimination
About 16% of the population (exclusive of color defectives) has been found to make total error scores of more than 100. The first retest may show improvement, but further retests do not materially affect the score. Repeated retests reveal no region of large maximum or minimum sensitivity as is found in color defective patterns.

It was interesting to see how we all view color changes and hue variations. One thing to note is that we all picked out one of the color samples as not fitting in well within the color spectrum; we all agreed it appeared brighter than the surrounding colors it was designated to sit between.

We appreciate Art and Laura taking the time to come out to the field school site, as well as providing us with the vision test! We are looking forward to taking a trip to visit their facility this fall to learn more about Munsell and how they make the colors.

Looking Forward to 2019-2020

Looking Forward to 2019-2020

As the end of my first year as the Campus Archaeology Program Director is coming to a close, I wanted to share some reflections and thoughts about our work. First, I wanted to say that I have been very lucky to work with our CAP…