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…

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 be an archaeologist, because you learn by actually doing archaeology. CAP summer field school students will earn course credits while gaining hands-on experience and developing key archaeological skills: how to survey, excavate, and map sites, how to identify and interpret artifacts in the lab, how to record and communicate findings, and how to maintain and preserve cultural heritage.

CAP Field School students digging on the banks of the Red Cedar River behind the Admin Building.

Past CAP field schools on MSU’s historic campus have focused on a number of sites across the oldest area of campus known as the “Sacred Space,” a midden associated with construction from Professor Gunson’s house, and Station Terrace, a building that served many uses ranging from housing for bachelor faculty to a post office. 

The 2019 summer field school will focus on the site of a historic homestead, located near present day Shaw Lane and Hagadorn Road on the eastern edge of main campus.

Over the past year, the CAP team has conducted archival research to learn more about the history of this area. Using documents such as U.S. Census records, plat maps, and deeds, we were able to discover how the land was used and who lived there from the mid-1800s to the time it became part of campus in the 1950s.

Peter Toolan and his family owned a strip of land between modern Hagadorn Road and Bogue Street (Plat Book of Ingham County, 1939). From at least 1870 until at least 1920 Peter, and later, his son Peter Jr., farmed land in Meridian Township (U.S. Census 1870-1920). After Peter Jr. died his sister, Mary Rogers, became the head of the household (U.S. Census 1940). Census records from 1940 indicate Mary rented space on the property to John Wesley and Lucy Westrom and Lawrence and Annie Bush (U.S. Census 1940). By 1953, the Westroms must have owned the Toolan property, because warranty deeds show that John Westrom and his son Chester transferred ownership of the land to the Michigan State Board of Agriculture in June of that year.

Plat maps are documents that show divisions of a piece of land. This map from 1939 shows the parcel of land belonging to Peter Toolan.

We also consulted historical maps and aerial photographs to learn about any potential buildings associated with these families. Within the investigation area planned for the field school, these documents show evidence of various structures on the Toolan property. A USGS topographic map of the East Lansing area shows that there was a structure on the property by at least 1909 (USGS 1909). However, since the Toolans were in the area since the 1870’s, a cabin or house could have been present there long before the map was made. The first moderately clear aerial photos of the area, from October 1953, show a house and possible outbuildings on the eastern edge of the Toolan property (MSU IPF). All of these structures appear to have been removed by 1965 (MSU IPF), probably to make way for Holmes Hall’s construction. Based on this evidence, we expect that structural remnants or historical artifacts dating from the 1870s to the 1950s are likely associated with the families living on the Toolan homestead.

October 1953 aerial image of the Toolan home lot. Hagadorn Road is just outside of the image to the right. The image shows the main house on the left, as well as one or two smaller outbuildings to the right.

CAP first began investigating this area during summer 2018 in response to construction projects taking place near the Shaw and Hagadorn intersection. In May, the CAP team conducted pedestrian and systematic shovel test pit surveys. The team recorded various artifacts including colored glass, milk glass, decorated and undecorated ceramics, bath tile, nails, medicine bottles, and butchered animal bones. In June CAP returned to host an Archaeology STEM camp for IB high school students at the site. Most of the artifacts found in May and June are consistent with dates between the mid to late 1800s and the 1950s, the period it was occupied by the Toolan and later the Westrom and Bush families.

IB STEM camp students screen dirt to look for artifacts.

We are excited to learn more about this site because it is one of the few known homesteads in the area that may have been in operation around the same time the university was founded and throughout its expansion. Investigation of this homestead can give us insight into the growth of campus and the surrounding city of East Lansing. As we continue work this summer we hope to find more artifacts and potentially locate structural remnants from the house associated with the Toolan, Westrom, and Bush families.  

If you’re interested in joining the team for the 2019 field school, you can find more information and the application form here. Applications are due to CAP Director Dr. Stacey Camp ( by March 1, 2019.  


Michigan. Ingham County, Town of Meridian. 1870 U.S. Census, page 18.

Michigan. Ingham County, Meridian Township. 1920 U.S. Census, Sheet No. 9A.

Michigan. Ingham County, Meridian Township. 1940 U.S. Census, Sheet No. 20A.

United States Geological Survey. Michigan (Ingham County), Mason Quadrangle. Map. U.S. Department of the Interior. 1909. Accessed:

Plat book of Ingham County, Michigan. Meridian Township. Map. W.W. Hixon & Co. 1939. Accessed:

MSU Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities (IPF) Public GIS. Accessed:

  • Aerial image, October 15th 1953
  • Aerial image, 1965
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…



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 a CAP Fellow due to the diversity in job duties, including cultural resource management, public outreach, and digital humanities. Her reflection upon her time as a fellow highlights public engagement via social media and public outreach events. Check out our Q&A with Dr. Frederick to see why she believes public engagement is such an important component of Campus Archaeology, as well as some of her favorite memories and contributions to the program.

Q: What years were you a Campus Archaeologist?

A: I was a CAP Fellow from August 2013 to August 2015.

cap cafe

Q: What were the major projects that you worked on/with fellows on?

A: In terms of construction projects, I oversaw the Phase III and Phase IV of the steam tunnel reconstruction. It was during the third phase that we found the original Vet Lab, and during the final phase that we discovered the privy near the MSU Museum. In terms of other projects, I instituted the Apparitions and Archaeology tour. I thought it would be a fun way to talk about the history of MSU. I also started the CAP Café, a casual archaeology lecture.

Q: What was the most important thing you got out of CAP?

A: The power of social media and public outreach. I learned that archaeology cannot thrive as a discipline without public engagement. If we do not disseminate the importance of archaeology and stewardship to the public through outreach programs and social media, then we are shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot.

Q: In what ways did CAP make you more marketable when searching for a job?

A: Because the Campus Archaeologist wears many hats, I learned several valuable skills that I’ve found useful in my jobs since. CAP taught me to be flexible in the field and to juggle several projects at a time. In a single day, a Campus Archaeologist can go from shovel testing a series of sidewalks in the morning, to archival research in the afternoon, and ending with a campus tour.

Q: How did the skills and knowledge gained in CAP help you in your job now?

A: Before becoming Campus Archaeologist I was a social media minimalist. I quickly learned not only how to productively utilize social media platforms, but also how integral social media can be to public engagement.

CAP crew working side by side with the construction crew.

Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Campus Archaeologist?

A: The biggest task as Campus Archaeologist is captivating an unwillingly captivated audience; the construction workers. An integral aspect of the position of Campus Archaeologist is explaining why CAP is important. This is most often done in front of an audience of construction workers that are required to listen, but definitely don’t want to listen. Getting on my soap box and explaining why it’s important we halt construction for a few days so we can excavate an historic privy, does not captivate the audience. Telling workers that we’re going to delay their deadline because we found some cool ceramics is a tough pill to swallow when it means late night and earlier mornings for the workers who now need to make up that time delay. Construction workers are the first eyes on the archaeology. They have the power to call us or just inform us after the fact; obviously, our goal is the former. Because we run the risk of being seen as a nuisance, we have to instill a sense of stewardship in the construction workers. We have to show the value in our work through the big picture.

Q: What was your favorite part or memory of CAP (highlights)?

A: My favorite aspect of being Campus Archaeologist was becoming intimately familiar with MSU and its history. I started at MSU as an undergrad in 2004, then continued my graduate career here in 2011. I bleed green. It was always exciting to uncover some little known or long forgotten piece of MSU’s history.

We would like to thank Dr. Frederick for taking the time to answer questions about her time as an MSU Campus Archaeologist. She truly reveals her love of public engagement in a way that encourages future archaeologists to consider ways in which they can disseminate information to the general public in a captivating manner.



        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…

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 spent with Campus Archaeology have contributed tremendously to my growth as a scholar and public archaeologist. For my final post, I decided to reCAP some highlights of my tenure as a CAP fellow.

Throw the Pipe Down the Pooper! – This is one of my most popular blogs, and you may be able to imagine why. It’s a fun read with a cheeky title, and writing this blog was a hoot. A rogue student throwing his illicit broken smoking pipe down the toilet to avoid getting caught with contraband—does it get much better than that? I think not. Plus, it’s my favorite blog title ever.

Archaic projectile points discovered on the MSU Campus (photo by W.A. Lovis)

Ancient MSU – My first year as a CAP fellow I was tasked with writing a report on the only precolonial Native American site on the MSU campus. Part of the larger Beaumont West site, it is a small campsite dating to the Archaic period, which means it’s over 3000 years old. This was a time before the people of ancient Michigan generally used pottery, so as a pottery expert, this was a challenge. I am not, well, the best at lithic (stone tool) analysis. However, the process did improve and expand my analytic skills, and it helped me better acquaint myself with the pre-MSU landscape. There is not much in the way of ancient indigenous archaeological materials on any part of campus because, quite honestly, it didn’t used to be a great place to live. The campus is naturally very low and wet, so not an ideal living situation. The Beaumont West site is located on one of the most naturally high and dry parts of campus, of which some keen Archaic groups took advantage. This research project, in addition to conducting survey shovel tests across campus, helped me understand just how much the MSU landscape has been filled in and altered to make it the relatively level, dry ,and livable space it is today.

Offerings from the 1860s Luncheon hosted by CAP and MSU Culinary Services (photo by S.M. Kooiman)

Capturing Campus Cuisine – This is, of course, my favorite project, as you can no doubt tell by my numerous blogs about food. However, this was more than just a fun project. It was an incredible opportunity to develop my experience in public archaeology, and it spurred my passion for creative outreach. From hosting the 1860’s luncheon, to having our historic meals featured on the MSU Food Truck, to our collaboration with the Student Organic Farm to bring back salsify (which is evidently trendy in Britain now, so we are on the cutting edge!), our project has been non-stop fun. Being able to reach out to people and identify with folks from the past through food has been a truly wonderful experience. Getting to eat some of the food along the way was also pretty cool.

Me having a cow over excavating a cow skeleton

Don’t Have a Cow – The discovery of the skeletonized cow buried six feet underground on campus this past summer was exciting, and the opportunity to help excavate it was a new and fun opportunity for me since I haven’t really worked on burials, animal or human, before. It also tied in nicely to my prior research and blogs on the history of dairy at MSU, which was also great because it gave me an excuse to eat cheese and ice cream.

CAP fellows standing around while Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter does all the work during the USDA Rose Lake Survey

CAPeople – It might sound trite, but the people I have worked with at CAP are what made my tenure as a fellow truly enjoyable. First,the opportunity to learn from and work with Dr. Lynne Goldstein was incredibly important for me. She has taught me so much about archaeology, outreach, and the inner workings of the university system, and she has been a supportive mentor as I explore my options outside of CAP. Working with Dr. Stacey Camp this past semester has also brought new insights and perspectives to my work,and I also appreciate her insider perspective on the figure skating world (she’s met Kristy Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan!). It’s been a joy to collaborate with Autumn Painter on the food project for the past couple years. She has been a wonderful project partner (who enjoys food as much as I do), and to see her thriving as the Campus Archaeologists this semester has been great. I also had a great time working with Lisa Bright, my motivated and creative CAPtain for three years. The food project was initially her idea, so I owe a lot to her creativity (which also came in handy for developing punny blog titles).

There were also times when I would hang out with my friends and then suddenly realize that everybody there was a CAP fellow. CAP certainly helped me form lifelong friendships and bonds and for that I will always be grateful. That is, until I become a famous food travel TV personality and forget everyone… (we can all dream, can’t we?).

So, farewell, CAP blog readers. I hope you have enjoyed my ruminations and research. If you are interested in reading more about ancient food and pottery, follow my personal blog, Hot for Pots!

And farewell CAP. It’s been one crazy ride through history.

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…