After weeks of survey, getting used to working together,learning the note taking process, and getting to know the space, our field school students were ready to begin the next step of archaeological methods: opening up full scale excavation units. We opened up six units at in three spots …
Tag: 2010 Field School
Our second week of field school moved us from the Old MSC Power Plan to just west of Beaumont Tower, across West Circle Drive from the Library. Although we continued to dodge raindrops for the entire week, we managed to survey an enormous area in …
For students, first week of any field school is a process of getting your feet wet, getting to understand your surroundings, getting to know your crew mates, and starting to get a feel for how archaeology works. For the directors and supervisors, it’s a time to get to know the students strengths and weaknesses, understand how to work together, and how to best approach and teach a new group of eager diggers. This past week, our students went through two days of lecture, activities, and presentations about archaeological methods, MSU’s past, campus artifacts, mapping, and an introduction to the class website. We talked about shovel test pits, how to use your tongue to test to see if an artifact is bone, and how to take notes. By the end of those lectures, the students (and supervisors) were ready to dig.
Our first two days in the field were at the Shaw Lane Power Plant. The power plant, marked by the iconic “MSC” smokestack that stands next to Spartan Stadium, was built in 1948, a product of the rapidly expanding campus, which was growing exponentially due to the influx of GI Bill students from World War II. The original power plant, located in front of where the Hannah Administration building stood, could no longer handle the load necessary for the expanding campus. Coal arrived by train, which ran from the south, next to Spartan Stadium, over the Red Cedar River, and ran behind Olds Hall. The site of the Shaw Lane plant was chosen largely based on accessibility: it was built alongside these train tracks. The Shaw Lane Plant stopped burning coal in 1975, and has been abandoned for quite a while now.
Our objective for this small survey was twofold: first, to see what types of features may be associated with the power plant, and second, to provide an opportunity for the students to get to know each other and get a feel for how shovel test pit survey works. Our findings were as expected. We found coal. The quantities were heaviest along the west side of our survey area, closest to the Spartan Stadium parking lot. Additionally, we found a compact gravel surface and two railroad spikes (left) in this area, indicating that, if we conducted further excavations, there would be the remains of the old railroad bed.
In all, this was a fantastic first week. The students are energetic, and we managed to dodge much of the rain that threatened us. This week, we will be continuing survey on the west circle area of campus, which is the oldest part of MSU, dating back to 1855. We hope that you will keep following along here!
Get to know our students! Check out the rest of the blog posts from last week as they introduce themselves!
Author: Terry Brock
The MSU Campus Archaeology Program and the Department of Anthropology are pleased and excited to announce that there will be a summer archaeological field school on MSU’s historic campus. An archaeological field school provides formal training for students, teaching them the fundamental methods of archaeological …
This past Tuesday, the Campus Archaeology Program completed their testing at College Hall, in an effort to determine whether or not a summer field school would be possible at the site. Unfortunately, the results are not favorable.
The extensive historical survey, and the photographs that were discovered, certainly indicate that much of the material culture that would have been located just south of Beaumont Tower were removed in 1918 and prior to the construction of the Tower in 1928. Archaeological work indicates that after much of the building was torn down in 1918, it was transferred to an area located off the intersection of Beal and Kalamazoo Street to serve as fill along the river. The leftover foundations were used to construct an artillery garage that stood for nearly 10 years. This shed housed 16 army trucks, and used part of the walls of College Hall. It was probably taken down in the mid to late 1920s, as minutes from Board of Trustees meetings in 1927 ask for the foundations of College Hall to be removed.
The photographs of Beaumont being built in 1928 provide the best evidence supporting the lack of remains. The first photo, taken of the Southeast corner of Beaumont Tower, shows that the sidewalk under which we discovered the northeast corner of College Hall was in tact during the construction of Beaumont. This explains the walls preservation. The second photo, taken from the Southwest corner of Beaumont Tower, shows that a good deal of earth was removed along the West side of the sidewalk, in order to provide a deep footing for the Tower. This is where the interior of College Hall would have been.
Our test units attempted to locate the West and South walls of the building. What resulted was some rubble of possible foundations stones, but nothing in situ. It is likely that much of the building was cleared out when Beaumont was built, and then redistributed across the site when the began to fill in the area that was excavated. The Northeast corner, however, was preserved underneath the sidewalk. Along the South end, a good deal of disturbance also came from the installation of steam, irrigation, and communication lines, limiting the areas possible for excavations, and further disturbing the deposits.
All is not lost, however. The discovery of the northeast corner, provided further insight into the difficult, early phases of the Agricultural College. The poor construction of the foundation, as evidenced by the use of small river stones and poor mortar, corroborate the historical record which indicates that the building was poorly built. The graffiti covered walls showed how manual labor by the students was a regular part of student life. This was further emphasized by the work done by the football team in 1918, who moved the remains of College Hall to their current resting spot at Kalamazoo and Beal Street.
This movement of the building’s remains also provide a glimpse into a period of transition and expansion, as Michigan Agricultural College became Michigan State College in 1925. Symbolized by the falling down of College Hall, and made permanent by the construction of Beaumont Tower, this transition included the construction of new, larger buildings such as the Memorial Student Union, the new Library (now Museum), and the addition of larger athletic facilities South of the Red Cedar River. Remains of College Hall were, therefore, discovered in two places, each a critical piece of this transition from MAC to MSC. The first is underneath the 1920s version of the Bridge to Future: the bricks of College Hall support the Kalamazoo Street Bridge, built as a link to South Campus. The foundation of College Hall rests in the shadow of Beaumont Tower, which symbolizes the advancement of Michigan State College as the founding Land Grant College, and continues to stand today as a reminder of our Univerisity’s heritage. Despite the fact that a field school at College Hall will not be possible, a significant amount of detail can be gleaned when what was discovered is put in a larger context.
Regarding a field school, we are still investigating other possibilities, so all is not lost in that regard as well. Additional opportunities are available, and will make an announcement soon. Stay tuned!
Author: Terry Brock