Anthropology Day 2018 – What do we study?

Today is World Anthropology Day, sponsored by the American Anthropological Association.  This year we have decided to highlight the non-CAP research our director(s) and fellows conduct.

Lynne Goldstein

Dr. Goldstein at the 2017 CAP field school

On this World Anthropology Day, I am doing archaeology, but differently than I have done it in the past. I am going to retire this year – I still plan to do archaeology, but will no longer be teaching or digging. This shift in focus means that I have a lot of things to wrap up, as well as new projects to plan – it is important to organize our data and information so that others can carry on and go in new directions. For Campus Archaeology, I am trying to make sure that I leave new Director Stacey Camp with a program that is well organized, with few loose ends. For other projects, I am trying to accomplish much the same outcome. When we think about doing archaeology, we often think about the active parts – digging, analyzing artifacts, organizing data. All of those parts are critical, but the part that takes the longest is synthesizing, interpreting, and writing. When done well, these tasks are perhaps the most rewarding, if not always as much fun as digging and looking at cool artifacts. As you can see in the posts below, all of us at MSU Campus Archaeology are spending World Anthropology Day doing anthropology in very different ways. However, given that we are in Michigan, none of us are outside digging today.

Stacey Camp

Dr. Camp in Ireland c. 1998-1998

Dr. Camp in Ireland c. 1998-1998

My career in archaeology started when I enrolled in an archaeological field school as an undergraduate. The field school was in Ireland, and it was my first opportunity to travel abroad. There, I learned basic archaeological skills, such as how to excavate a unit, how to identify and date historic artifacts, and how to operate a transit used to map archaeological sites. I was fascinated by Ireland’s rich but contested history, and wanted to find a way to get back there after the field school ended. I applied for a competitive grant and received it, which allowed me to spend three months traveling around Ireland to analyze and interpret the presentation of Ireland’s prehistory at heritage sites and museums. It was a formative moment in my career, one that took me out of my comfort zone and gave me the chance to experience what it was like to do independent research in a foreign country. Since then, I have continued to examine sites with nuanced, dark pasts, ones that tell stories of racism and inequality so often ignored in the history books. My current research looks at the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and I hoping to expand this project to look at how individuals of Japanese heritage were treated in other countries during World War II.

Lisa Bright

Lisa Bright

Lisa Excavating at VMC Historic Cemetery. Image Source: Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group

My research focuses on the health and nutrition of individuals buried in a later 19th/early 20th century indigent cemetery in San Jose, California.  This cemetery is associated with the county hospital, and construction of a new hospital building in 2011 necessitated the exhumation of over 1,000 individuals in the path of the construction.  This cemetery presents a rare opportunity to study the lives of individuals in Santa Clara County during this time period as few large historic cemeteries have been excavated in the United States. The information that can be gained from the study of this collection will inform social scientists on the health, social status, demographic makeup, and medical practices encountered by this population. Specifically, the people buried at this cemetery were members of lower socio-economic communities, represented by many different ethic backgrounds. My dissertation research examines the impact of public health policy, and issues of institutional/structural violence on the health outcomes of these individuals.

Susan Kooiman

Susan Kooiman

Susan Kooiman

My research revolves around how humans interact with food and the ceramic vessels they crafted to cook, serve, and store food. Food is a biological need but is also inherently social, tied closely to our daily routines and cultural traditions. Pottery was crafted by people for the purposes of cooking, storage, and serving, both for in the home and in public contexts. The shape and other physical properties of vessels provide insight into which function a vessel was made to serve, while alterations to pottery vessels provides clues to how people used them. Both food choice and ceramic vessel form and style indicate social relationships and are subject to change over time in response to environmental, social, and/or political changes.

I study diet and pottery use of pre-European contact Indigenous groups in the Upper Great Lakes of North America. Specifically, I am looking for possible changes in food and cooking habits through time at the Cloudman site in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which was occupied from AD 100 to AD 1600. My dissertation explores these topics through burned food residue patterns (which can indicate cooking styles) and examination of food residues for microscopic plant remains and chemical signatures of plants and animals. Ultimately, I hope to understand the how and why the occupants of the Cloudman site made subsistence decisions in the context of environmental and social factors.

Autumn Painter

Autumn sorts bones in the cap lab.

Autumn sorts bones

Happy World Anthropology Day! My name is Autumn Painter and I study foodways in the prehistoric Midwest. My current research looks at the Morton Village site, located in west-central Illinois. This site was occupied contemporaneously by both local Mississippian people and Oneota migrants, and is an excellent case study to learn about subsistence strategies, social interaction, and food sharing. I specifically focus on analyzing animal (faunal) remains to answer my research questions.


Jeff Painter

Jeff Painter records a ceramic sherd.

Jeff Painter records a ceramic sherd.

My name is Jeff Painter and my research examines migration and social interaction in the late prehistoric Midwest.  Specifically, I focus on Morton Village, located in west-central Illinois, as a case study.  This site was occupied contemporaneously by both local Mississippian people and Oneota migrants, and was an excellent example of post-migration social interaction.  At this site, as well as at a comparative Oneota site in Wisconsin and another Mississippian site from west-central Illinois, I examine cooking practices and the context of cooking to examine how food practices changed due to migration and the role these practices played in negotiating life in this multi-ethnic community.

Jack Biggs

Jack Biggs

Jack Biggs peaking out of a sinkhole

My name is Jack Biggs and I am a 4th year anthropology graduate student at Michigan State University. I am a physical anthropologist and bioarchaeologist and my research interests are human growth and development and the impacts that the outside world has on these processes. Specifically, I focus on ancient Maya social constructs of infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and how factors such as diet, social structure, and the ecosystem interplay to eventually create a fully realized member of adult Maya society. I am currently on staff for the Central Belize Archaeological Survey (CBAS) where I co-direct excavations at mortuary rockshelters in the Caves Branch River Valley in Central Belize.

Mari Isa

Creating a finite element model of a blunt force impact to a skull. Mari Isa

Mari Isa – Creating a finite element model of a blunt force impact to a skull.

My research applies elements of anthropology and engineering to help explain trauma in the human skeleton. Both extrinsic factors—related to forces placed on the body—and intrinsic factors—characteristics of the body that are subject to human variation—contribute to how bones break. My research uses engineering experiments, computer modeling, and anthropological knowledge of human variation in the skeleton to better understand how these factors interact to generate fracture patterns. Understanding how bones break is critical to interpreting patterns of skeletal trauma as accurately as possible.

Unlike historical records or witness accounts, skeletal injuries provide direct evidence of traumatic events. Skeletal trauma observed in archaeological remains can be placed within a cultural context to explore human behaviors across time and space. In forensic contexts, skeletal trauma provides key evidence in reconstructing specific events responsible for injuries. This is important in individual cases involving violent deaths, and in the context of investigating human rights violations.

2017 Anthropology Day Videos

Yesterday was the American Anthropological Associations Anthropology Day.  Campus Archaeology participated by posting a series of short videos showcasing some of the projects and outreach we had conducted over the past week.  Here are the permanent links to those videos:

  1. CAP Fauna with Autumn Beyer:
  2. CAP Ceramics with Jeff Painter:
  3. CAP Outreach with Susan Kooiman, MAS talk on prehistoric site:
  4. CAP Director – Inside Dr. Goldstein’s Office:
  5. CAP – Campus Archaeologist with Lisa Bright: