“Learning with Labor:” The Legacy of Student Labor at MSU

Fields and hoop houses at the MSU Student Organic Farm

Fields and hoop houses at the MSU Student Organic Farm

This past November, Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Camp, and several CAP fellows visited the MSU Student Organic Farm for a tour and to discuss a possible partnership. Tucked away in the southern reaches of campus, the farm is a tidy series of fields and greenhouses, the latter of which allow food to be grown year-round. Established in 1999 by students who wanted to learn how to grow food in sustainably, the SOF provides experiential learning opportunities resulting in productive outcomes, such as a successful CSA, the sale of produce to MSU Culinary Services, and products packaged and sold by Land Grant Goods, MSU’s first student-run business.

The Student Organic Farm is part of a long history of experiential learning from agricultural labor at MSU. If you weren’t already aware, Michigan State University was established in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. It served as a model for the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, which allowed for the establishment of land-grant colleges that were devoted to educating students in agricultural and mechanical arts, as opposed to the typical liberal arts colleges of the day. Therefore, agriculture is inextricably tied to the foundations and history of MSU.

 Agricultural students posing with farm implements on campus,1886

Agricultural students posing with farm implements on campus,1886. Image Source.

One of the central tenets of the early College was the “judicious combination of labor and study”—meaning that labor and hands-on experiential learning was as important as classroom learning (1). The earliest students were expected to labor on campus for three hours every day, “planned with reference to illustrating and applying the instruction in the Lecture Room” (2). The earliest students spent as much time working the agricultural fields as they did clearing the lands surrounding the college for future agricultural endeavors. In his 1858 diary, Edward Granger mentioned “logging” and “chopping wood” as his daily tasks almost as often as “gardening” (3).

Students were compensated for their labor, and this remained one of the major arguments in favor of required labor. It allowed students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend college to receive higher education. Money earned in the fields went towards the cost of room and board and made education available to poor farm boys from across the state (1).

 Agriculture class in the campus orchards

Agriculture class in the campus orchards. Image source

However, mandatory labor eventually became unpopular with students. An 1882 op-ed in The College Speculum complained about compulsory manual labor, which students felt no longer allowed them learning experiences, and instead labor assignments were made based on existing student knowledge and strengths. Individuals who did not know how to do certain tasks were not assigned to them for the sake of efficiency, which robbed them of opportunities for learning new skills (4). Discontent and resentment among the students was on the rise. By 1884, daily labor requirements were reduced to two-and-a-half hours daily (5), perhaps in response to this discontent.

Three students on a tractor in 1919, zooming into the future and leaving mandatory labor behind

Three students on a tractor in 1919, zooming into the future and leaving mandatory labor behind. Image source.

Mandatory student labor continued at MSU much longer than it did at other land grant institutions. This was made possible by the College’s unique yearly schedule. Classes were held spring through fall, with the long vacation break over the winter months. It was this schedule that allowed student labor to remain a major part of the College’s curriculum for over forty years. However, in 1896, the College moved the long break to the summer months, and without viable labor options over the winter, mandatory labor requirements came to an end (1).

This does not mean there was an end to experiential learning. Students have continued to work on the MSU Farm, Dairy, and Dairy Plant, gaining practical experience everyday. And the establishment of the Student Organic Farm demonstrates student hunger for experiential learning and the productivity such endeavors can result in.

So why did CAP visit the Student Organic Farm to begin with? Why this exploration of student labor? There is a possible collaboration between our two organizations that is on the horizon, but that’s all I can say for now. Stay tuned for more news!



  1. Kuhn, Madison (1955) Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan state University Press East, Lansing.
  2. Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College of Michigan, 1883-4
  3. Diary of Edward G. Granger, 1859 (MSU Archives UA10.3.56, Folder 1)
  4. The College Speculum, Vol. 2 No. 1, October 2, 1882.
  5. Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College of Michigan, 1884-5

Lice Lice Baby

For my personal research I study issues related to health and disease, so whenever I see something health related in the CAP collection I jump at the opportunity to do a blog post about it. That happened recently when I came across this seemingly simple comb recovered from excavations at Saints Rest in 2012, but I knew immediately that this was more than an average comb, this is a lice comb.

Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.

Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.

Now I’ll give you a moment to stop your skin from crawling when you think about lice. While lice aren’t something we tend to think about regularly today (unless you have young children), that wasn’t always the case.  Dealing with pesky varmints in the home and on your body was just a part of life.

Lice have been bothering humans for a long time. Humans are parasitized by two genera of lice: one shared with chimpanzees and the other shared with gorillas. By using DNA to figure out when the lice diverged between the species, scientists are working to piece together part of our evolutionary history (Reed et al. 2007). Researchers have also looked at clothing lice to reveal when they may have diverged from head lice, giving us a better idea of when clothing when first used by anatomically modern Homo sapiens (Toups et al. 2011).

Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.

Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.

Archaeologically lice have been found in Greenland, Iceland, on Dutch combs, Egyptian mummies, and in Israeli cave deposits (Bain 2004). The oldest direct archaeological evidence of head lice are from a human louse egg recovered in Brazil dating to over 10,000 years (Araujo et al 2000). Lice combs (and the lice that come with them!) have been recovered all over the world, in including from sites in Egypt (c. fifth-sixth century AD (Palma 1991)) and Israel (c. first century B.C. – eighth century A.D. (Zias 1988)). They are also routinely recovered at historic archaeological sites.

Today to get rid of lice you wash all of your linens in hot water, apply a medicated shampoo to the unlucky individual, and use a very fine-toothed comb to remove any bugs/eggs from the scalp. This comb style is the epitome of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as the general form has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source

1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source

Our double sided fine tooth comb was produced by the India Rubber Company. “I R Co Goodyear 1851” can be seen stamped on one side of the comb. A similar version is found in the 1895 advertisement seen to the right. 1851 is not a production date, but rather is the patent year for the Goodyear hard rubber vulcanization process (see Amy’s blog post on the comb from the outhouse for more info!). Combs were some of the earliest products made of hard rubber that were produced on a large scale (Fox 1899).

Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb - lower image enhanced by author

Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb – lower image enhanced by author

This tiny comb provides a glimpse into the health and hygiene routines of MSU’s earliest students.  Campus records and diaries/correspondences in the archives discuss larger health related issues on campus (like diphtheria, measles, or typhoid fever outbreaks), the minutia of everyday hygiene habits tends to go unrecorded, but of course, this is where archaeology comes in.



Reed, David with Jessica Light, Julie Allen and Jeremy Kirchman
2007 Pair of lice lost or parasites regained: the evolutionary history of anthropoid primate lice. BCM Biology 5(7) – https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7007-5-7

Melissa Toups with Andrew Kitchen, Jessica Light and David Reed
2011 Origin of Clothing Lice Indicates Early clothing Use by Anatomically Modern Humans in Africa. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(1):29-32.


Palma, Ricardo
1991 Ancient Head Lice on a Wooden Comb from Antinoe, Egypt. The Journal of          Egyptian Archaeology 77:194.

Zias, Joseph
Head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae) from hair combs excavated in Israel and dated from the first century B.C. to the eighth century. Journal of Medical Entomology 25(6):545-547.


Bain, Allison
2004 Irritating Intimates: The Archaeoentomology of Lice, Fleas, and Bedbugs.   Northeast Historical Archaeology 33:81-90.

Araujo, A. with F Ferreira, N Guidon, N Serra Freire, Karl Reinhard, and K Dittmar
2000 Ten Thousand Years of Head Lice Infection. Parasitology Today 16:269.


Mumcuoglu, Kosta
The louse comb: past and present https://watermark.silverchair.com/ae54-0164.pdf?token=AQECAHi208BE49Ooan9kkhW_Ercy7Dm3ZL_9Cf3qfKAc485ysgAAAbswggG3BgkqhkiG9w0BBwagggGoMIIBpAIBADCCAZ0GCSqGSIb3DQEHATAeBglghkgBZQMEAS4wEQQM_PXl7w2JzGNcRujgAgEQgIIBblHIP7oC0UV__MYXk1ngxxH_mfI1Om7WjPa2ymveG4sEef7kE8KxycNlII2jRePwEKddbmMNzviLhWvWL5a_AckqfWODGLegXbp5VJ9csuSjkMmeFSUJkQJPp6NO45y_UhAKhlv-Q7Q351kBnnhhYBj_YzPmlcGMmnwZ_HEy1Px_REs4M4992RVH-c6oaXUghJ-rOC5YghpM-NzaYto9E-BurLp516x5-1fzFQu-t_bl_AHKy-TNwAoDCgR-nhPIgplNJqvAkWJbGU23oEgpfgzNtZf9KXInccVoYYxmX3ZCq0KXhnLrTzA5vUrPSAwWmqO5HHxU5pSYpaKZMHl1FLpNHVksDRxntJFucPgz5NfoBJ1y_z-6JD901x2c7xarbsEoR9pRXULxLTZClop8wO1q3vQ8EJQtF__r0J2xU2j6usWZGuCID54C3i94JCbwaHUpJSaKCr5pdtA00DSNjW4x4IjoPX9cBX3yqCWBnA

Fox, Irvine (editor)
1899 The Spatula Volume 6 (https://books.google.com/books?id=FhhOAAAAMAAJ)


Middle school outreach – reflections on my research

Like Mari Isa, for this blog post, I will be talking about the outreach event that CAP ran for Holmes Middle School in Livonia, MI on Friday, January 19th.  However, I will be discussing it from a different point of view.  In Mari’s blog, she discussed the activity itself: what we had the students look at, what the goals of the activity were, what the outcomes were, etc.  I will be coming from a different standpoint: that of a grad student leading the activity and how it impacted us.

CAP fellow Jeff Painter guides the discussion.

CAP fellow Jeff Painter guides the discussion.

As academics (or in my case, an academic in training), we sometimes forget that our research and our purpose aren’t just to further our knowledge in our respective fields for ourselves or other academics.  It is true that in many cases the audience of our publications are other researchers and those in research institutions.  Yet where we can have the biggest impact is in the public sector through outreach activities such as these.  These types of events were not common or even really practiced when I myself was in middle school or even in high school.  That these outreach events are becoming more prominent and more of the norm is highly encouraging and definitely has an impact on many of the students.  However, this event was not a one-way conversation with us researchers just lecturing about archaeology at the middle schoolers who passively listen.  As an instructor in this exercise, I learned a few very important things/lessons.

1.) This type of outreach matters.  Despite what many students say, they do actually love to learn, especially in a hands-on capacity.  Education can be highly effective by taking a tactile route.  Reading information out of books is highly informative, but actively engaging in the research with tangible objects routes that knowledge in reality and makes that knowledge real.  With every class, there was at least one student or group of students that guessed their “mystery site” dated “to the Neolithic, like Çatal Höyük” (seriously, multiple students said this exact phrase).  The students are learning about ancient cultures and time periods and it is through these types of activities that they get to practice their knowledge and use critical thinking skills.

A student uses a black light to find the uranium glass.

A student uses a black light to find the uranium glass.

2.) The students taught me how to interact with them.  As a graduate student, I interact mostly with my professors and other graduate students, so our topics of conversation sometimes go in directions and use certain jargon that the majority of people don’t understand or don’t care about.  By spending an entire school day with middle schoolers, we all had to reorient how we interact with others when talking about topics that we are all very well-versed in.  We sometimes forget that our research benefits the public and that we therefore need to approach these topics in a way that is meaningful and interesting for the public.  We work for them, so we need to make sure that we include them in our conversations and that our research isn’t just for our own sake.

3.) Building off my second point, it helped me think about how I can make my own research meaningful and pertinent in today’s society.  The biggest and most important question that archaeologists gets asked, and one that can be the most difficult to answer, is: So what?  Why does this matter?  Research for its own sake does nothing for society.  In doing this event, I saw students that were highly engaged, had great theories about their kits/sites, and were generally hungry for knowledge.  I learned that if one aspect of my personal research (which is how childhood was experienced for the ancient Maya) interested them, then I would have succeeded in part of my research goals.  By watching them interact with each other, I took note of how they interacted with the world around them, how they addressed each other, adults, teachers, and us.  How did they experience their world and how can I use that to look at ancient childhood and adolescence?  Additionally, what similarities can I draw from ancient Maya childhood that I see today?

By teaching these middle schoolers about archaeology, they taught me that I don’t give enough credit to middle schoolers.  We sometimes get trapped in our own ivory tower and forget that there is a world below us where most people live and interact.  Participating in outreach programs such as this not only benefits the students, but also teaches us as the experts that our expertise is meaningless and useless if we only discuss things amongst ourselves.  I hope that we continue to conduct these types of events as I think it is imperative in today’s educational climate.  The world needs more bright students to shape our future and it is our job to help make that happen.

Think Like an Archaeologist: Reflections on Outreach Using Site Kits

Given one hour, how do you teach 300 7th graders to think like archaeologists? This was the challenge presented to us when a group of teachers contacted CAP about doing an interactive event to introduce their 7th grade social studies students to archaeology. Although CAP regularly does activity-based engagement with elementary school children, we did not have a ready-made activity appropriate for older students.

Students work in groups to answer questions about artifacts

Students work in groups to answer questions about artifacts

This event presented us with an opportunity to consider which aspects of archaeology we most wanted to share with young members of the public. Since we couldn’t teach 7th graders how to do archaeology in one hour in a classroom, we decided to focus on getting them to understand how archaeologists use material and contextual evidence to draw conclusions, and how archaeology can contribute unique information to our knowledge of the past.

Over the past few weeks, we developed a “site in a box” activity designed to give students an opportunity to think like archaeologists. We assembled boxes containing artifacts, site photos, and maps, with each box representing a “mystery” archaeological site. Lisa wrote in detail about our process in assembling these boxes on the blog last week. Students were instructed to work together, using all available evidence to complete two tasks. The first task was to identify the artifacts and discuss their potential uses. The second task was to use these answers to make larger inferences about the site: What type of site was it? What was the time period and geographic location of the site? What do the artifacts say about the people associated with the site? For example, how did they eat and procure food? How did they dress? Did they see any evidence of belief systems?

Students discussing artifacts and looking at the site map representing a Maya cave site.

Students discussing artifacts and looking at the site map representing a Maya cave site.

We debuted the new activity last Friday at the middle school. On the day of the event, we divided nine CAP representatives including Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Camp, all six CAP fellows, and one undergraduate volunteer across three classrooms to help run the activity. Each classroom of students was divided into five groups, each assigned a different box representing containing the materials from one of the mystery sites.

Each class was 55 minutes long. We typically took the first 10 minutes to explain the activity and answer a few questions. After this introduction, students had about 30-35 minutes to work in groups to complete the activity. During this time, CAP representatives walked around the room answering questions, helping stimulate discussion, and guiding students in identifying some of the trickier artifacts. During the last 15 minutes of class, each group presented their findings, selecting a few artifacts to share along with their conclusions about the site. Finally, they compared their answers with the site descriptions in the answer key.

We found this time frame short enough to keep students engaged throughout the entire class period, but long enough for them to answer most of the questions. Left to their own devices students tended to spend most of their time describing artifacts, so CAP representatives learned to help steer discussions toward interpretations at the halfway mark to keep them on track. While the students did well with most of the physical artifacts, we noticed we needed to clarify what to do with images of artifacts, as students often overlooked or struggled to identify these. In the future we might consider replacing these with physical artifacts or clearer images, along with explicit instructions to look at artifact images.

CAP fellow Susan Kooiman helps guide discussion.

CAP fellow Susan Kooiman helps guide discussion.

Overall, we felt that the activity was a success. The students were engaged, enthusiastic, and seemed to enjoy piecing together the puzzle we presented them. They asked thoughtful questions and came up with interesting interpretations about their sites. We were especially impressed with some of the connections they made based on what they had previously learned in social studies. Several students asked if the presence of corn and eggshells meant the people at their site were domesticating plants and animals.

Although preparation for this event took considerable investment of time and resources, it also presented an opportunity to develop a quality activity we could use for other events. These kits would be appropriate and interesting to audiences from middle school students to adults. Looking forward to our planned outreach events, this activity could easily be used for Grandparents’ University. Finally, putting together this activity made us think about how to convey what makes archaeology a unique and relevant source of information in a meaningful, yet manageable way.



Who Knew My Coca-Cola Addiction Could Be So Useful: Using Coke Bottles to Date Archaeological Sites

Dating archaeological sites that we discover is one of the most basic tasks that archaeologists perform.  While we all must do it, dating archaeological assemblages is not always easy.  Luckily, marketing and branding, a crucial part of our consumer world, helps to make dating historic sites a little easier.  Every company needs a brand, something that makes them stand out among their competition and reminds the consumer that they are buying a quality product.  A great deal of branding is done through material culture, creating visual cues that trigger people’s memories and make them want to buy your product.  Like clothing lines, long-lived brands must change over time to keep up with both their competition and the current fashions and culture, leading to variation in the products of companies.  This variation, when documented, can help us to date different deposits at archaeological sites.  One great example is the Coke bottle.  Here at Campus Archaeology, we occasionally come across Coke bottles in various forms.  Depending on some particular characteristic of the bottle, we can give a general date to the materials found with that bottle.

Coke bottles through the years

Coke bottles through the years. Image source

Coca-Cola first made its appearance in 1886 as a soda fountain drink in downtown Atlanta, GA.  Over the next number of years, Coca-Cola was only served by the glass at drinking fountains until around 1899, when the company signed its first bottling contract (Coca-Cola 2011).  The earliest Coca-Cola bottles were Hutchinson style bottles, but were quickly followed by straight-sided bottles with crown tops in a number of different colors of glass.  Dating to between 1900 and 1920, the dates of these straight-sided bottles can be narrowed even further based on the shape of the script and where the script is placed on the bottle.  For example, straight sided Coke bottles with script in a diamond shape in the center of the bottle are dated to 1907-1912, while ones with a vertical arrow in the center date to between 1912 and 1916 (for more variations: www.antique bottles.com/coke/).  During the time of the straight-sided Coke bottles, the Coca-Cola brand was expanding greatly.  As such, competitors tried to take advantage of this brand by closely mimicking Coke branding strategies.  In response, the Coca-Cola company had bottle manufacturers create a unique bottle type, one that had a distinct look and feel, which would forever be synonymous with the Coca-Cola brand: the contour (or hobbleskirt) bottle.  Patented in 1915, the contour bottle went into production in 1916 and was subsequently sold all over the world (Coca-Cola 2011; Lockhart and Porter 2010).

Coke bottle found by CAP in the Brody/Emmons Dump

Coke bottle found by CAP in the Brody/Emmons Dump

Since the beginning of their production, Coca-Cola contour bottles have changed very little, as this bottle served as the hallmark of the Coca-Cola brand.  While the bottle designs stayed relatively consistent, the patent for the bottle was renewed several times.  Since the patent date or patent number was included on the bottles to prove that they were from true Coca-Cola distributors, these numbers can help narrow down the date range of when the bottle may have been made.  For example, from 1917 to 1928, Coke bottles had the patent date of “NOV. 16 1915” on each bottle.  When a different patent was acquired on Dec. 25th, 1923, the bottles eventually began to display this date.  From 1928 to 1938, the so called “Christmas Cokes” (due to the Christmas patent date) were produced that possessed this second date.  Other such markings are “PAT. D 105529” (1938-1951), “US PATENT OFFICE/MIN CONTENTS 6 FL OZ” (1951-1958), and “US PATENT OFFICE/ MIN CONTENTS 6 ½ FL OZ” (1958-1965) (Lockhart and Porter 2010; www.antiquebottle.com/coke/).  Starting in 1960, Coke began selling their products in cans, followed by plastic bottles in 1978, marking the slow decline of the glass Coca-Cola contour bottle (Coca-Cola 2011; Coca-Cola Journey Staff 2017).

Close up of bottle from Brody/Emmons Dump showing the Dec. 25, 1923 patent date.

Close up of bottle from Brody/Emmons Dump showing the Dec. 25, 1923 patent date.

On campus, if we find a Coke bottle during excavation, we know that the deposit dates to around 1900 or younger.  We can then use more specific details about the bottle to further narrow down the date range.  For example, within the Brody/Emmons dump, an early trash disposal site for East Lansing, CAP recovered at least one Coke bottle.  The presence of this bottle indicates that at the dump was being used sometime between 1900 and the present.  Looking closer on the bottle, one sees a patent date of Dec. 25th, 1923.  This date indicates that the bottle was an old “Christmas Coke” bottle, made and sold between 1928 and 1938; a date range that fits well with what we know about the use of this dump.  Coke bottles, used in this way, serve as excellent diagnostic artifacts for more recent historic sites.  But, as marketing never ceases, we must also be wary of recent reissues of old Coke bottles, which promise to confound our efforts in the future.

References Cited

Antique Bottle Collectors Haven
n.d.   “Antique Coke Bottles.”  Website.  http://www.antiquebottles.com/coke/

Coca-Cola Company
2011   125 Years of Sharing Happiness: A Short History of the Coca-Cola Company.
http://www.coca-colacompany.com/content/dam/journey/ us/en/private/fileassets/

Coca-Cola Journey Staff
2017   “Contour Bottle History.”  Coca-Cola Website.

Lockhart, Bill, and Bill Porter
2010   “The Dating Game: Tracking the Hobble-Skirt Coca-Cola Bottle.”  Bottles and
      Extras: 46-61.


Creating Outreach Site Kits

Outreach isn’t something out of the ordinary for CAP to do. We routinely participate in a wide variety of outreach events ranging from small groups to hundreds of people at large events like Sciencefest.

CAP was recently contacted by a group of Middle School teachers here in Michigan and asked if we would be interested in collaborating. This district had recently changed some of the social science curriculum to include more anthropology/archaeology and study of the ancient past. The teachers asked if we would be willing to come in and conduct an event that would allow their students to interact with archaeologists and to have the opportunity for hands on engagement.

So we were faced with a few new challenges – most hands on events we’ve done in the past are geared towards elementary school students and smaller groups. This event would need to cover 300 7th graders. Thankfully we would be covering individual classes with no more than 30 students per class and a maximum of 3 classes running at once.

We decided to create a “site in a box” activity.  We selected sites that would provide a wide range of time periods, site types, and locations.  The students will be provided with a worksheet that asks them to identify the artifacts, consider who the people that used them were, what time frame these objects are from, and where in the world the site may be.  Each site box has 10-11 artifacts, and a series of additional clues like maps or site photos.

Site A – Alameda-Stone Cemetery

The Alameda-Stone cemetery is located in Tucson, Arizona.  It was used by local community members from the early 1860s through 1881.

Site A - "Alameda-Stone Cemetery" artifacts

Site A – “Alameda-Stone Cemetery” artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Bone
  2. Rosary
  3. Part of a shoe
  4. Coffin nails
  5. Coffin hardware
  6. Buckle
  7. Earring
  8. Coffin Wood
  9. Buttons
  10. Cloth


The box also includes a map of the entire cemetery, a close up of an individual burial, and an artifact image.

Overview of the excavated cemetery. Image from the excavation report.

Overview of the excavated cemetery. Image from the excavation report.

Image of  burial from Alameda-Stone cemetery. Image from excavation report.

Image of a shoe recovered from an excavated burial. Image from the excavation report.

Shoe recovered from an burial. Image from the excavation report.

Site B – Historic Privy on MSU’s Campus

The west circle privy was excavated in 2015.  The artifacts in the structure date to the 1850s and 1860s.  This is the only privy that has been located on campus.

Site B - MSU Historic Privy artifacts

Site B – MSU Historic Privy artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Raspberry seeds
  2. Plate
  3. Fish bones
  4. Glass cup
  5. Egg shell
  6. Doll fragments
  7. Plate
  8. Violin flask bottle picture
  9. Comb
  10. Ceramic tea/coffee cup
  11. Buttons


Site B - West Circle Privy during excavation

Site B – West Circle Privy during excavation

Sketch map of the west circle privy

Site C – Aztalan

We wanted to include a prehistoric site in the Midwest to be able to provide a local connection for the students.  With Dr. Goldstein’s extensive experience at Aztalan it was an easy choice.  The site of Aztalan is located in present day southern Wisconsin and was occupied between 1050 and 1200 AD.

Site C - Aztalan artifacts

Site C – Aztalan artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Shell beads
  2. Arrowhead
  3. Pot fragment
  4. *artifact photo
  5. Duck bones
  6. Photograph of mounds
  7. Photograph of stratigraphy
  8. Daub
  9. Stone tool flakes
  10. Shells



Site D – Mayan Cave Burial 

The cave burial site of Actun Kabul was selected for site D. Actun Kabul (Actun is the word for cave in the Mayan language) is a cave deep within the jungles of Belize in Central America.

Site D - Actun Kabul artifacts

Site D – Actun Kabul artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Human bone
  2. Jade
  3. Pot Fragment
  4. Figurine Fragment
  5. Shell
  6. Corn
  7. Pepper seeds
  8. Human teeth
  9. Stingray spine
  10. Glyph carving
  11. Obsidian


We also provide the students with a map of the cave.

Map of Site D - Actun Kabul

Map of Site D – Actun Kabul


Site E – Professor Gunson’s Trash Pit

For our final site we selected the site the 2015 CAP field school excavated – Professor Gunson’s trash deposit.

Site E - Professor Gunson's Trash Pit artifacts

Site E – Professor Gunson’s Trash Pit artifacts

This sites artifacts include:

  1. Laboratory equipment
  2. Vaseline Glass
  3. Window Glass
  4. Ketchup Bottle
  5. Ceramic plate
  6. Nails
  7. Decorated ceramic
  8. Bottle
  9. Flower pot frag
  10. Brick


Since we needed to make 15 total kits, there was no way we could include actual artifacts.  The objects in the kits are a combination of online purchases, hunting at the University Surplus Store, donations from CAP fellows/faculty, and some creative saving (this week I boiled a chicken carcass for the bones, saved all of my egg shells, and picked out seeds from bell peppers). Each kit also contains an envelope with an answer key that identifies each of the artifacts, and provides a narrative of the site.  The envelope also contains more details maps and photos of the archaeological site.

Today we’re putting these kits to the test!  We’ll be posting throughout the day on social media, and stay tuned for a follow up post about the event later this month.


Another Persons Trash (Midden) is an Archaeologists Treasure

As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated in several seasons by CAP near the location where Saints’ Rest once stood. Because of the sites’ use as a small public dumping area, the artifacts recovered are expected to reflect the daily life of those living at and nearby Saints’ Rest dormitory. The end goal of this research project, in conjunction with research by Lisa Bright, Amy Michael, Jeff Painter, and Susan Kooiman, is to better understand the everyday lives of the early MSU students.

Continue reading

Boarding Clubs to Culinary Hubs: The Evolution of Dining at MSU (Part II)

As college students return to MSU from winter break, dining halls across campus are opening back up to feed the hungry masses. As discussed in my previous blog, the original dining hall (aka boarding hall) on campus left much to be desired by the students, who took the issue into their own hands and lobbied for the establishment of boarding clubs in lieu of college-run dining. The college approved this move in 1883.

The earliest boarding clubs were housed in Wells and Williams Halls. Williams Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

The earliest boarding clubs were housed in Wells and Williams Halls. Williams Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

The newly established boarding clubs were managed by the students, each employing a steward in charge of purchasing provisions and managing cooks and other hired help (1). Initially, there were five clubs, each with their own dining room on campus—three in Williams Hall and two in the basement of Wells hall (2). Each club consisted of 30 to 40 students, which reportedly led to less boisterousness and “no more duels…with pickles or crackers” (2) (which, to be honest, sounds much less fun to me). Students were initially assigned to clubs but could switch as availability arose, and the clubs catered to both the taste and price point of its members (2,3). Much like today, students could earn wages by working for the clubs, so it worked to further defray costs of education for some students (2).

Front view of the original Wells Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Front view of the original Wells Hall, date unknown. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Although both the official college catalogue and The College Speculum, the student newspaper, initially labeled the boarding clubs a success (3, 4), the praise did not last long. The first sign of trouble appears in 1891, when the boarding clubs drafted Articles of Association, an incorporation that facilitated the “avoidance of bad debts by a legalized corporate existence,” (5), which allowed the Boarding Association to require payment ahead of time rather than relying on the seemingly unsuccessful honor system. Together, the boarding clubs had a total debt of $3100, quite sizable for the time (6).

Further instability of the clubs is seen in the constant fluctuation of their number. There were originally five clubs: A, B, C, D, and E. Club F was organized in a small house off campus in 1883 (4), bringing the number to six, but there were only four clubs listed in 1895, and by 1900, only two are mentioned in the college catalogue. By 1915, the clubs included A, B, C, D, E, and G (sorry, Club F), each club having 80-85 members, except Club C, which catered to the 190 female students at the college (7).

In the 1920s, there was but a single boarding club for men. While it operated in Wells Hall, the only men’s dorm of the time, its occupants were not required to eat there. Membership was purchased on a weekly basis, so the club had trouble purchasing the proper amounts of food (8). Bowls of food were brought out to tables and each person helped himself, so food often ran out before everyone had access to it. The food was generally inexpensive, lacked variety, and was high in starch and calories (8).

Women's Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women's Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Women’s Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women’s Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Furthermore, Wells Hall only housed 200 men, and in the 1930s, the remaining 3200 male students lived in fraternity houses, with relatives, or in various housing in Lansing and East Lansing (2). Since the boarding club was unreliable and limited, most of these men ate either in restaurants around East Lansing, or, much like today, ate cheap homemade meals, including “spaghetti, day-old bread, red bean, peas, [and] beef heart.” (2, p. 357). Overall, nutrition for male students of the early 20th century was lacking.

Women's Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women's Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Women’s Building (aka Morrill Hall), which housed Women’s Commons dining hall. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

The same could not be said for the women. Club C became the Women’s Commons in 1921, coming under the control of the Home Economics Department (9). This gave female students experience in the management of institutional food service (1). The Commons had excellent food and service and subsequently was in high demand for banquets and frequented by faculty (8). In 1922-23, the women studying institution management also opened and ran the Flower Pot Tea Room, housed in the Station Terrace building excavated by CAP this past summer.  The Commons and Tea Room were successes in institution-run food services and paved the way for the future of dining at MSU.

Construction of Mason Hall, marking the beginning of the end of the boarding clubs. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

Construction of Mason Hall, marking the beginning of the end of the boarding clubs. Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections. Image Source.

A new men’s dorm, Mason Hall, was opened in 1938. It housed a new college-run dining hall and board was required along with the room. The College’s new devotion to providing adequate meals to all incoming students was the final death knell for the boarding clubs at the MAC (2, 8).

Although at times troubled and inconsistent, the student-run boarding clubs lasted over 50 years. They began with students voicing concerns about welfare, and while successful for a time, it seems the ever-increasing student population proved too great for the boarding clubs to handle, a problem better handled by a centralized dining program. Today, MSU Culinary Services does an excellent job with providing students, staff, and faculty with quality food in a variety of options. So if you are near campus and get hungry, EAT AT STATE!

References Cited

  1. Widder, Keith R. (2005) Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy, 1855-1925. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
  2. Kuhn, Madison (1955) Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan state University Press East, Lansing.
  3. Annual Catalogue of the State Agricultural College of Michigan, 1882-3
  4. The College Speculum, Vol. 3 No. 1, August 1, 1883.
  5. University Club Boarding Association Articles of Association, 12 Nov, 1891 (MSU Archives UA 17.107, Folder 97, Box 2407)
  6. Letter from Harry D. Baker, to Groesbeck, Dec. 24, 1891 (MSU Archives, Madison Kuhn notes, UA 17.107, Box 2415)
  7. Annual Catalogue of the Michigan Agricultural College, 1914-1915
  8. Vail, Marion Louise (1950) A Study of Food Service Units in East Lansing, Michigan, Comparing 1929 with 1949. Unpublished M.S. thesis, Department of Institution Administration and School of Home Economics, Michigan State College, East Lansing.
  9. MAC Record, 2 No. 3, Oct 14, 1921.

2017 Year in Review

I know what you’re thinking.  “But Lisa, it’s only December 18th, 2017 isn’t over yet!”  And while that’s true, here at MSU finals week is over and the winter break has begun.  That means CAP fellows are taking much needed break and regular weekly blogging will be on hiatus until Tuesday January 9th.  2017 has been an exceptionally busy year here at CAP and here are a few of the highlights.

Upcoming CAP director change:

As I’m sure you’ve read, our fearless leader Dr. Lynne Goldstein will be retiring this spring.  Fortunately the department was able to hire her replacement, Dr. Stacey Camp with a year of overlap.  Dr. Camp will take over as CAP director in May 2018.

Food Reconstruction Project:

CAP fellows Autumn Painter and Susan Kooiman worked on our 1860s meal reconstruction project – Capturing Campus Cuisine.  This project has helped inform us on early food procurement, cooking choices, and food systems during early campus years.  The first phase of the project culminated in the interactive website and with the help of MSU food services and the MSU bakery, we hosted a meal reconstruction event last April.

Outreach Events:

This year we’ve participated in outreach events including:

2017 CAP Field School:

From May 30th – June 30th CAP hosted it’s biannual on campus field school.  This year students excavated at the site of Station Terrace. Students excavated six 2×2 meter units that included areas outside of the building, and inside of the foundation.  Check out the recap blog post to learn more about each of the units.

Summer field crew excavations:

In anticipation of the Wilson road realignment, the CAP field crew excavated over 300 test pits! Although they excavated in several other locations around campus, the larger area impacted by the upcoming road realignment meant that much of the summer was spent investigating areas surrounding Wilson road.

These are just some of the larger projects we’ve completed over the past year.  This doesn’t include all of the hard work our individual CAP fellows and undergrad interns have put into their ongoing projects.  We’ve got some really exciting projects and events lined up for 2018 so stay tuned!

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Horseshoe from Brody/Emmons Complex site.

Horseshoe from Brody/Emmons Complex site.

No, I’ll stop any speculation; we haven’t uncovered any hand grenades (think of how much paperwork that would be!). But we do have a horseshoe. Now you might be saying, so what? You’ve surely recovered horseshoes before. And yes, that’s true. We have found full and partial horseshoes at a number of locations around campus. However, this horseshoe from the Brody/Emmons Complex (site of East Lansing’s first landfill) never saw a horses hoof. This horseshoe was made specifically for gaming.

Although much of archaeological evidence relates to the more routine portions of life, such as cooking, hunting, or household structure, archaeologists have also found evidence of sports and gaming. Artifacts that are believed to be associated with games have been found all over the world, such as these 5,000 year old gaming tokens from Turkey, or evidence of Pre-Columbian ball courts. CAP, however, has not uncovered many sports or game related artifacts.

Men playing horseshoes circa. 1942. Image source.

Men playing horseshoes circa. 1942. Image source.

Horseshoes is an outdoors game played between two people, or two teams of two people, using four horseshoes and two targets (stakes) set up in a lawn or sandbox area. Players alternate turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground, which as typically 40 feet apart. There are two ways to score: by throwing the horseshoes nearest to the stake, or by throwing “ringers”. A ringer is when the horseshoe has been thrown in a way that makes it completely encircle the stake. Disputes about the authenticity of a ringer is settled by using a straightedge to touch the end points of the horseshoe, called heel caulks. If the straightedge does not touch the stake, the throw is classified as a ringer.

1929 catalog featuring pitching horseshoes. Image source.

1929 catalog featuring pitching horseshoes. Image source.

It’s possible that this horseshoe was homemade/handmade, but they were also being sold in kits during the early 1900s.  Our horseshoe weights approximately 1 1/2 lbs, but rusting has resulted in some loss.  It is interesting to note that the pitching horseshoe catalog entry on the right sells different weights for men’s pitching horseshoes and women’s pitching horseshoes.  Since our horseshoe is close to the 1 3/4 lb weight range, it’s possible that this horseshoe was meant to be used by women.  Additionally it’s also possible that this horseshoe simply did not meet regulation standards for size and weight requirements.

Horseshoes diagram. Image source.

Horseshoes diagram. Image source.

A 1940s beer advertisement showcasing a family playing horseshoes. Image source.

A 1940s beer advertisement showcasing a family playing horseshoes. Image source.

The first formal rules for the game were established in England in 1869. However the first recorded tournament in the United States wasn’t until 1909 in Bronson, Kansas. Though the popularity of horseshoes had faded some, yard games are easy to spot today at MSU, especially on game days and at tailgates. Games like corn hole (aka bag toss, sack toss, baggo, and many other regional variations of the name) and ladder toss are easy to spot, but a  horseshoe pit is slightly more illusive these days.  Although we’ll never know why someone decided to throw away this horseshoe, we’re happy to have found it.  This artifact provides an interesting viewpoint into East Lansing’s past.