Alumni Highlight: Amy Michael

Alumni Highlight: Amy Michael

Dr. Amy Michael is a biological anthropologist whose research examines the microstructure of human bones and teeth in order to address questions ranging from health and social identity in the ancient Maya to the effect of lifestyle factors on skeletal age. She is currently a […]

The Sweet, Sweet Science of Maple Syrup: An Update on the MSU Sugar House Project

The Sweet, Sweet Science of Maple Syrup: An Update on the MSU Sugar House Project

While Jack and I plan our field research on the old sugar bush that once stood in Sandford Woodlot, we have continued to do background research on the site.  With help from Whitney Miller, the good folks at the MSU Archives and Historical Collections, and […]

Apparitions & Archaeology: 5th Annual Haunted Campus Tour

Apparitions & Archaeology: 5th Annual Haunted Campus Tour

Happy Halloween! Yesterday we hosted our 5th annual Apparitions & Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour. For this year’s tour, we decided to change several of the stops and the MSU Paranormal Society added stories from their investigations of each area! If you weren’t able to attend the tour last night, below you can read about some of the stories told at each stop:

Southeast corner of Beaumont Tower, 1928. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Beaumont Tower:
Prior to Beaumont Tower, College Hall, the first building on campus, was located at this spot. It was erected in 1856 and was the first structure in America that was dedicated to the instruction of scientific agriculture. 

The tower itself was constructed where the northeast corner of College Hall once stood. Some of the foundation walls for the original building still exist underneath the sidewalks. In the fall of 2009, the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) tested areas north and south of Beaumont Tower and discovered the foundation of College Hall and cinder pathways that would have been used by the first MSU students!

There are many stories of hauntings around Beaumont tower. For example, specters of couples in old-fashioned dress holding hands have been seen walking slowly by on foggy mornings. On very dark nights, there have been multiple sightings of a man in tails and a stovepipe hat wandering around the tower.

Saints Rest:
Saints’ Rest was the first dormitory on campus, constructed in 1857. Unfortunately in the winter of 1876, while students were on break, the building burned down. In 2005, CAP investigated the debris left behind from the building, and determined that the fire likely started in the basement where construction tools were found burned in place. 

Students outside Saints’ Rest ca. 1857. Image from MSU Archives.

Although there were no reported deaths in the fire, there have been numerous sightings of ghostly students in 19th century clothing wandering through this space, looking for their lost dorm building. When the Paranormal Society investigated this area, the flashlight set on the ground near the Saints’ Rest sign flicked when asked if there were any spirits that wanted to communicate…

Mable Reconstructed
Mabel Post-Reconstruction

In 2015, a privy associated with the Saints’ Rest dormitory was discovered and excavated by CAP. Not only was this the bathroom for students, but it also served as a dumping ground for illicit items–such as smoking pipes and alcohol bottles–that students wished to hide forever. Also discovered in the historic privy was the head of a porcelain doll, who came to be known as Mabel. Why someone living in Saints’ Rest, an all-male dormitory, was seeking to get rid of a doll remains a mystery.

Mary Mayo Hall:
The area by this dormitory was once known as “Faculty Row,” as it was where the first faculty homes were built on campus. The only Faculty Row building still here today is Cowles House, which is the oldest standing structure on the MSU campus. 

In 2008, CAP excavated between Landon and Campbell Halls and uncovered early construction materials including wood plumbing and bricks made of clay sourced from the Red Cedar River. 

Mary Mayo Hall, a stop on the Apparitions and Archaeology Tour, is said to be haunted
Mary Mayo Hall – Image courtesy of MSU Archives.

Mary Mayo is supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings on campus. Several strange occurrences have been reported. A woman’s figure has been seen near the piano in the West Lounge and sometimes the piano plays all by itself.

MSU Museum:
Long ago, a very different building stood in this spot: Williams Hall, which was the second dormitory on campus. It was built in 1869, but like Saints’ Rest, it burned down in 1919 during winter break. 

Although limited archaeology has been done in the immediate vicinity of the museum, just to the west of Beaumont Tower, a small Archaic campsite, dating to between 3000 and 500 BC was discovered and excavated by CAP.

MSU Museum - Image courtesy of MSU Archives
MSU Museum – Image courtesy of MSU Archives

In the MSU Museum over the years, archaeology graduate students working in the basement labs reported hearing people walking around on the first and second floors, as well as strange noises coming from behind the exhibits.

Beal Gardens: 
Beal Botanical Garden is the longest continually maintained university garden in the nation. It was established by William Beal, MAC’s first Botany professor. In 1879, a Botanical Laboratory was built in the area near the Botanical Garden. 

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR
Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Campus Archaeology excavated between West Circle Drive and the Beal Garden gazebo in 2016 and found building remains believed to be the remnants of the Botanical Laboratory. Artifacts recovered included building materials, melted glass, and charcoal, most likely associated with the 1890 fire that destroyed the building. 

Students and faculty members have reported seeing a male apparition dressed in clothes from the 1920s – some say it is Professor Beal coming back to the garden to check on his seed experiment that he started in 1879.

CAP fellow, Kate Frederick standing by historic steam tunnel.
CAP fellow, Kate Frederick standing by historic steam tunnel.

Steam Tunnels:
Throughout north campus there are historic steam tunnels; they are a series of honeycombed tubes that are over 100 years old. In 1884, the first boiler and power plant was constructed on campus, behind Olds hall. The steam created by the boiler was used to heat the original Wells and Williams Halls, the Chemistry building, library, and museum. 

During the 2014 West Circle construction, Campus Archaeology was able to excavate one of these historic steam tunnels. We were lucky to be able to document this stretch of tunnel, as most of the historic tunnels have been deeply buried, are caved in, or have been removed by construction.



Michigan State’s Campus Archaeology program has provided fellowships for a number of graduate students in anthropology. These fellowships are awarded to enthusiastic, motivated students who are interested in gaining a unique learning experience. The fellows dedicate a lot of time and energy into conducting research […]

An Interview With A CAP Fellow: Former Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright

An Interview With A CAP Fellow: Former Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright

As a new member of the Campus Archaeology Program and as someone starting my first year in the anthropology program, I have not yet chosen a project, so I was delighted when the opportunity to interview a former member of CAP came up. As I […]

Modeling the Past: Photogrammetry and Anthropological Research

Modeling the Past: Photogrammetry and Anthropological Research

For my CAP project this year, I decided to do something at which I feel I’m particularly good: creating 3D models of artifacts found during CAP excavations. I have been using digital technologies to render 3D models for about three years now and have created these models for a number of reasons and for a number of different projects. In making the models, I use a technique called photogrammetry, which, at its most basic, takes a set of 2D images of an object, person, or place, stitches the images together, and if all goes well, a 3D rendition of that object is created in digital space. (A lot of other computer sorcery happens deep within the software’s code to actually create the models, of which I understand none, unfortunately.)  The power of this methodology and its ultimate results cannot be overstated for a few reasons, of which I will discuss a few here.


IB Archaeology STEM Camp

IB Archaeology STEM Camp

In honor of World Teachers’ Day, we thought we would share our experiences working with students and teachers this past summer (2018). In the fall of 2017, Doctors Lynne Goldstein (former CAP Director), Stacey Camp (current CAP Director), and Leigh Graves Wolf (Clinical Associate Professor […]

Getting to the Root of History: Reviving Past Crops with the Student Organic Farm

Getting to the Root of History: Reviving Past Crops with the Student Organic Farm

For the past several years, the Capturing Campus Cuisine project has resulted in some wonderful collaborations and outreach opportunities between CAP and other MSU programs. Our partnership with MSU Culinary Services has resulted in a successful historic luncheon reconstruction and “throwback” meals with the MSU ON-THE-GO […]

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

Next week is the annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (October 4-6, 2018) in Notre Dame. Below is a list of dates and times of all MSU presentations, posters, and discussants. Included in these are two posters on Campus Archaeology projects that you should check out!

Friday, october 5

9 am – 12:15 pm Symposium
Storing Culture: Subterranean Storage in the Upper Midwest (Auditorium)

9:15 am – Now and Later: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Hunter-Gatherer Food Storage Practices by Kathryn Frederick (former Campus Archaeologist)
12 pm – Discussant, Dr. William Lovis

10 am – 12 pm General Poster Session
Reports from the Field (Room 210-214)

Archaeology along the Banks of the Red Cedar: Summary of 2018 Riverbank Survey by Jeffrey M. Painter, Autumn M. Painter, and Jack A. Biggs (Campus Archaeology Program)

1:30 pm – 4:30 pm General Poster Session
Materials and Methods (Room 210-214)

Historic Cuisine on the Go: A Campus Archaeology Program and MSU Food Truck Collaboration by Autumn M. Painter and Susan M. Kooiman (Campus Archaeology Program)

Saturday, october 6

9 am -11:45 am General Session
Middle Mississippian to Late Prehistoric Lifeways (Auditorium)

11:30 am – A Revised History of the Late Precontact and Historic Era Occupations of the Cloudman Site by Susan M. Kooiman and Heather Walder

1:30 pm – 4 pm General Session
Landscape, Settlements, and Their Detection (Room 100-104)

3:45 pm – Trade Relationships of 18th-Century Ottawa along the Grand River, Michigan by Jessica Yann


Creating a New Outreach Activity

Creating a New Outreach Activity

Those who follow us know that outreach is a big part of what we do in the Campus Archaeology Program. Every year, CAP participates in several public outreach events including Michigan Archaeology Day, Grandparents University, ScienceFest, and more. These events are important because it gives […]