This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an […]
The 2018-2019 school year has begun! Dr. Stacey Camp has taken over as director of the program, following Dr. Lynne Goldstein’s retirement from MSU. We will be continuing to work on several ongoing projects, as well as begin several new ones. Please meet our 2018-2019 […]
Well these last four years have gone by incredibly quickly. I’ve said it before but after participating in the 2005 Saints Rest Field School I never thought I’d have anything to do with MSU’s archaeology, let alone be the campus archaeologist for the last three years. But alas, my reign is coming to an end. The campus archaeologist position is actually only supposed to be a two years position, but circumstances required me to stay on for a third. I’m also moving back to California at the end of the month (to continue teaching, working in archaeology, and writing my dissertation), so I won’t be continuing on as a CAP fellow next year. That being said, in the last four years I’ve gotten to participate in some pretty cool things:
Excavating the West Circle privy – My first summer working for CAP involved monitoring the final phase of the West Circle Steam Tunnel improvement project. Because the construction was in the oldest part of campus we uncovered a large number of areas of archaeological interest including: part of the Engineering Shops, the corner of Williams Hall, the historic steam tunnels, and the privy associated with Saints Rest (Cap had been wondering where the heck all of the outhouses were and why we hadn’t found one yet!). The privy contained a large number of unique artifacts that we were able to study and work with for years (like Mabel and the raspberry seeds). In fact, the larger number of food related items from the privy spurred the historic meal reconstruction project that CAP fellows Susan and Autumn later worked on.
- Work with great interns – One of the responsibilities of the campus archaeologist is to manage and teach the undergraduate interns. I was able to oversee 8 interns during my time here, and each was a pleasure to work with. It was fun to be able to teach these undergrads more about historic archaeology, lab practices, and research methods.
Manage two CAP field seasons – It was an amazing learning experience to be able to plan and manage two field seasons here on campus. Getting to be part of the process from the initial construction planning phase provided invaluable experience working with both IPF and individual construction companies. With regards to the CAP crew, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals. We covered a lot of ground during those two summers including locating Station Terrace, excavating at the Weather Bureau, putting the first 1×1 m units in at the location of Beal’s Lab, digging behind Old Hort (where the ground was some of the most unforgiving I’ve ever encountered but the crew persisted and made it through), and the Wilson Road realignment survey (where even 300+ mostly negative STPs didn’t destroy the crews morale).
- Being the TA for the 2017 field school – I must say this was a bit of a surreal experience for me. When I took the Saints Rest field school in 2005, I never imagined that I would one day be the TA for another on campus field school. Once again, this was a great experience in the planning and logistics that occur with a formal field school versus the CRM style summer activity I had previously managed.
- Outreach – Over the past four years we’ve gotten to engage in some pretty unique types of outreach. We started the Apparitions & Archaeology Haunted Tour in collaboration with the undergraduate paranormal society (which has been a huge success with upwards of 150 people attending), the historic meal reconstruction (the partnership with MSU culinary services has been fantastic and looks like it will be continuing beyond Spring 2018), and the middle school activity kits.
CAP really embraces public archaeology, and the ethos of openness has provided a unique experience. Having to adopt the CAP persona and consistently engage with the public was something that took me a little while to get used to, but it’s been really rewarding to see the interest from campus and the wider public in what we do here at CAP.
It’s truly been my pleasure to have worked with CAP for the past four years. Being the campus archaeologist has been an invaluable experience, and I know that Autumn Painter (who will be taking over as Campus Archaeologist) will do a great job.
This is my last post for the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am retiring from MSU this summer, and will be moving away from East Lansing. The new Director of CAP is Dr. Stacey Camp, and I am certain that she will do a […]
With Dr. Goldstein’s official retirement date drawing near the CAP fellows (and one past fellow!) wanted to take some time to reflect on the impact Dr. Goldstein has had on our lives, and the truly unique experience being part of the Campus Archaeology Program has […]
The Saints’ Rest Dormitory has a foundational history with Michigan State University, acting as the first dormitory for the fledgling college, and with the Campus Archaeology Program itself, being the first large-scale excavation and archaeological fieldschool on campus. Built in 1856, Saints’ Rest was the second building erected on campus for the new school and was known as “the House”, “the hall”, or “old hall” . The building acted as the primary dormitory on campus until 1870 when Williams Hall was built. Unfortunately, Saints’ Rest burned down in the winter of 1876.
The site was originally excavated in 2005 as part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration and has been revisited for excavations in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012. Throughout these digs, CAP has uncovered numerous artifacts relating to early campus life including items of personal hygiene, such as the lice comb that Lisa described in one of her earlier blog posts. Another item relating to hygiene found at Saints’ Rest was a fragmented, but reconstructed, chamber pot lid (Figure 1).
Measuring about 12in in diameter, the ceramic chamber pot lid has some kind of floral motif on the exterior surface; however, it is unclear as to what it exactly depicts (if you have any suggestions or recognize the pattern let us know – it’s previously been described as a thistle and leaf pattern). The dark blue color of most of the fragments is a result of burning during the fire.
Evidence for the use of chamber pots stems all the way back to ancient Greece, dating to the 6th century BCE [2, 3]. The use of chamber pots became more common, and more necessary, as areas of the world became increasingly urbanized. With settlements becoming larger and more organized and planned, sanitation became a major concern for many densely populated areas . Although extensive plumbing systems were installed in ancient Rome, indoor plumbing did not become readily available for small-scale buildings and for residents until the 19th century with chamber pots being used even into the 20th century .
The presence of this chamber pot lid in an early campus archaeological context highlights some of the realities of life on campus. These first students did not have the (then) luxury (but now commonality) of using a restroom inside the dorm that is separated from other rooms or is regularly sanitized; their only options were to use the privy just south of the building or to use a chamber pot inside their room. Chamber pots were often stored under the bed or in cabinets, and then emptied into designated dumping areas . Even with a lid covering the pot (and its contents), exposure to pathogens and diseases that travel through fecal matter was exponentially higher than it is today. Of course chamber pots were not the only reason that diseases relating to poor sanitation jumped easily from person to person, but the use of these vessels didn’t truly help to eradicate the problem. In 1886, there was an outbreak of typhoid fever (which is directly linked to fecal contaminants) on campus which resulted in one student death. It wasn’t until the 1890s that the college had modern plumbing installed after epidemics of diphtheria and measles, and after numerous student and parent complaints . These outbreaks even resulted in the college creating a 7-room hospital building to quarantine infected people as soon as possible.
Although we recognize that our lives as MSU students today are different from those of 150 years ago, sometimes we don’t realize by just how much. The presence of the chamber pot lid at Saints’ Rest highlights one of these aspects that may have contributed to serious health crises that broke out on campus. Books and movies have a tendency to romanticize the past as formal and proper, but studying this chamber pot lid, while fascinating, has only reinforced my gratitude for modern amenities and hygienic practices, e.g. indoor plumbing.
 Kuhn, Madison. Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955. Michigan State University Press, 1955.
 Kravetz, Robert E. Chamber Pot. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2006, 101: pp. 1414-1415.
 D’Agostino, Mary Ellin. Privy Business: Chamber Pots and Sexpots in Colonial Life. Archaeology, 2000, 53(4): pp. 32-37.
 van der Linden, Huub. Medals and Chamber Pots for Faustina Bordoni: celebrity and Material Culture in Early Eighteenth-Century Italy. Journal for eighteenth-century studies. 40(1): 23-47.
 Cunningham, Zac. “Of Chamber Pots and Close Stool Chairs”. Web blog post. Lives and Legacies Blog. 15 July, 2015.
While archaeologists are trained in a number of different skills and techniques, there is one thing that all archaeologists know and love: shovels. Shovels are just as much a part of archaeology as the ubiquitous trowel, and even lend their name to the title of […]
Where did the kitchenware at MSU come from during the early years of the school? As it was not economical to purchase dinnerware sets in the same way families purchased dishes for their home, the college most likely turned to catalogue companies, the Costco of the past. Evidence for this large scale purchasing of dinnerware and kitchenware items lies in purchasing logs and archaeological evidence. As discussed previously, the college purchased many different types of plates, bowls, cookware, and glassware in order to accommodate the students living in the dormitories on campus. Several ceramic sherds have been uncovered through Campus Archaeology excavations at the Brody/Emmons site, the first East Lansing dump, with the makers mark present showing that they were from “Albert Pick & Company.”
In 1857, Albert Pick and his brother Charles founded ‘Albert Pick & Company’, based in Chicago, as a kitchenware and furniture supplier for hotel and restaurant markets (Clayman, Made in Chicago Museum). The company grew steadily, and by the early 1900s, it had become a major supplier for hundreds of leading hotels, selling tables, chairs, silverware, linens, dinnerware, and even the first dishwashers! While most of the earliest ceramics purchased by MSU were from England, ‘Albert Pick & Company’ wares became more popular in the United States during the 1910’s, 20’s, and 30’s, corresponding well with the time period in which the Brody/Emmons dump was in use.
Among their many items for sale, Albert Pick and Company offered a wide variety of dishes, as can be seen in the photos below from their 1913 catalogue. Not only were different types and designs of dinnerware available, but a range of sizes were also provided. For example, six different sizes of plates were advertised in ‘The Green Newton Pattern,’ allowing the purchaser to tailor their choices based on their specific needs.
Pictured below is an example of one type of Albert Pick and Company plate or saucer bought and used in the East Lansing area. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to narrow down the manufacturing date of this dish, or find the name of its pattern, but future research may be able to address these questions. The makers mark below states:
Albert Pick & Company
While there is no direct evidence that this specific dish was purchased by MSU, as it was recovered from the first East Lansing dump, it is possible that it was bought for use on MSU’s campus or at a restaurant or hotel in East Lansing.
Sheridan Plaza Hotel Silverplate Creamer by Albert Pick & co., c. 1920; Andrew Clayman – https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/2016/02/03/Sheridan-Plaza-Hotel-Silverplate-Creamer-by-Albert-Pick-Co-c-1920s
Trade catalogs from Albert Pick & Co. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/SILNMAHTL_32473
The Archaeology of Shopping: Variations in Consumerism in the Past http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=5070
From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 1 http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4869
From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 2 http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4943
Aren’t Bowls Just Bowls? Not for the First Students at MSU http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4541
Last week I attended the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting, held this year in Washington D.C. This was a particularly pertinent meeting for Campus Archaeology because a symposium was held in honor of Dr. Lynne Goldstein. As she nears retirement and the end of […]