Tag: archaeology

The Basics of a Pedestrian Survey (by Katie Simonson)

The Basics of a Pedestrian Survey (by Katie Simonson)

Hi, my name is Katie Simonson and I am one of the students taking part in the 2024 field school, where we are working on the site of the original observatory here on MSU’s campus. Part of the foundations were found earlier in May of 

Recording History (by Olivia Cardinell)

Recording History (by Olivia Cardinell)

The importance of archaeological excavations revolve around the drive to uncover forgotten, and missing pieces of history; my time with Michigan State’s Campus Archaeology Program aided in doing just that. I worked alongside Dr. Stacey Camp and 12 other CAP crew members to dig up 

To MSU and Beyond: Sharing Excavation Findings using KnightLab StoryMapJS

To MSU and Beyond: Sharing Excavation Findings using KnightLab StoryMapJS

This academic year has allowed me to explore several digital methods I had little to no knowledge about. This is partially due to my teaching position at MSU in the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR). While in this position, I was a LEADR TA for Dr. Gillian Macdonald’s ISS 325: War and Revolution course. The topics covered in the course were international security and borderlessness. One of the class projects involved creating a story map encompassing these concepts.

You may be asking, what is a story map? A story map is a method that utilizes time, space, and media to tell a story and showcase research. As a public-facing tool, this method is a great way to get ideas across to your audience.

The tricky thing was that, while I understood the concepts behind story maps and why they are an important tool for disseminating research, I did not know how to make a story map myself. This meant that I needed to create one so that I understood the process and could help students work through any potential hiccups or roadblocks that they would encounter. But I was facing my own mental roadblock in that I had no idea what to make a story map about! So, after discussing potential ideas with Ben, our Campus Archaeologist, we thought that making a CAP-themed story map would be a great CAP project.

My project is not the first CAP story map (for example, if you’re interested in a story map about past campus cuisine, you can find that here), so I was able to scroll through past projects and learn more about what had already been presented by CAP Fellows. For the ISS course, I created a story map focusing on significant excavations conducted by MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program. Due to the substantial volume of archaeological fieldwork CAP has performed, and the constant turnover of Campus Archaeology fellows, the function of this storymap was meant to be two-fold: 1) create a public-facing description of some of CAP’s

Like many CAP Fellows before me, I utilized Knightlab StoryMapJS to create my project. Knightlab is an open-source project created and hosted by Northwestern University, which you can learn more about here. This particular tool has a lot of published instructions and how-to’s, making the tool more accessible for people to learn.

The editing tab of the story map that Aubree created to learn the process for the ISS 325 course.
The editing tab of the story map that I created to learn the process for the ISS 325 course.

While I enjoyed this project, much of the information has been presented by a previous CAP Fellow (you can visit that story map here). We will also be working to update the existing project with some of the excavations we’ve done since the map was made. With that skillset in had, the real work can begin!

The story map that I am creating will be called “To MSU and Beyond: How our campus fits in the world.” I will be exploring where MSU artifacts come from, and when they could have made their way to our campus. Most of the artifacts come from around the United States, but there have been a few international finds as well. When working with Knightlab StoryMapJS in particular, each new slide will move to a new space on the map; to the right side, there will be a panel with a picture and information about the artifact(s) that came from the area pinpointed on the map. The goal is for this story map to be utilized by CAP in the future to show the general public how we are connected to other states and other countries, and when those connections were occurring.

Stay tuned to see the final product launch in a few months!

Campus Archaeology Director (Dr. Stacey Camp) Belated Fall 2023 Update

Campus Archaeology Director (Dr. Stacey Camp) Belated Fall 2023 Update

This past summer has been one of the busiest, if not the busiest, summers of my time as director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. While we did not have a field school as we generally run them every other year, a remarkable discovery was 

Encountering archaeology with the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP).

Encountering archaeology with the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP).

by Juan Carlos Rico Noguera Michigan State University (MSU) CAP “is a program that works to mitigate and protect the archaeological resources on Michigan State University’s beautiful and historic campus.”[1] CAP is also an initiative that contributes to the public understanding of MSU’s history, enabling 

Spill the Tea: The history of tea in Michigan

Spill the Tea: The history of tea in Michigan

Holly Long

I love tea; I drink it every single day. It is warm, hydrating, and is known for healing properties. But the tea leaves most drink today are imported and are not indigenous to North America and are rarely grown here. Tea leaves, not including herbal blends, all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, a tropical flora not suitable to the drastic climatic changes found in Michigan. This plant grows at many altitudes and can be dried or roasted to produce the variety of “colors” we can purchase today. It has been utilized for medicinal and social consumption for centuries, depending on preparation and its caffeinated properties. Though it does contain caffeine, it has lower levels than coffee beans once it is brewed, making it a less popular drink among the caffeine addicted populations in North America.

An image of a Yaupon Holyl bush with bright red berries.
Yaupon Holly bush. Image from Wikipedia.

But if we cannot grow this plant in Michigan, how could people have been drinking tea (dried leaves in water) for ages? While tea comes from Camellia sinensis, dried leaves, herbs, and berries steeped in water were consumed long before commercial tea plantations came to fruition. Other plants were used, depending on the local flora, to create ritual or nutritional drinks. The Yaupon, a relative in the Holly family, is the only native plant in Michigan to contain caffeine, allowing for its medicinal use. Caffeine is a toxin produced by plants to ward off insects and to stop them from eating the leaves but such low levels are almost harmless to humans (not including the caffeine addicted today). However, the effects can be felt and can provide short term energy and the feeling of being wide awake which made it ideal for rituals or being included in fasting periods. One example of archaeological evidence for the consumption of holly comes from outside of Michigan at the site of Cahokia, near modern-day St. Louis, Missouri. Known as a site where many individuals converge for ceremonial purposes (bringing a variety of trade goods with them), the ceramic pots left at the site were scraped and analyzed by archaeologists to determine their former contents. Substances such as caffeine and methylxanthines were detected and the ratios of these chemicals corroborates the use of the holly plant in these vessels. This confirms that people have been utilizing the plant life around them for hot and cold drinks for thousands of years for a variety of purposes.

But not all teas were used for its caffeine in rituals and fasting. Some teas were utilized for the nutrients they provided. In the harsh winters here in the north, food becomes scarcer and less various which means certain nutrient deficiencies might set in. Using the abundant pine needles in the area made tea that added much needed vitamin C back in the diet and provided a warm drink during cold times. Many plants in this area were known for their medicinal properties and were utilized by the native people to cure ailments of the stomach, throats, skin, and joints. Edible plants such as the yarrow, mullein, blackberries, wild rose, and honeysuckle and herbs like sage, mint, and rosemary can be dried and steeped or mashed into liquids to help ease different pains and issues. Many of these plants were not found during the winter and were dried to preserve them much like the leaves of Camellia sinensis are dried and oxidized for tea-drinking purposes.

A top down image of botanical ingredients laid out next to a ceramic mortar and pestle, which is held by a hand of a person out of frame.
Images of medicinal plants. Image from PPM Tree.

Not only could these plants be consumed but they were used to heal wounds on the body as well through poultices. Autumn is the time of harvest, the perfect time to finish foraging for these plants and drying them in preparation of Winter. In the final few days of sunny weather, you can embrace the Michigander’s love of the outdoors and learn to drink these nourishing and healing plants that may grow in your own backyard.

References

(n.d.). Camellia sinensis. PLANTS RESCUE. https://www.plantsrescue.com/posts/camellia-sinensis

Bowers, C. (2020, March 6). Wild thing: Pine Needle Tea. Edible Communities. https://www.ediblecommunities.com/featured/wild-thing-pine-needle-tea/

Ching, T. (2021, November 9). How to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day with tea. https://tching.com/2021/10/how-to-celebrate-indigenous-peoples-day-with-tea/

Crown, P. L., Emerson, T. E., Gu, J., Hurst, W. J., Pauketat, T. R., & Ward, T. (2012). Ritual black drink consumption at Cahokia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(35), 13944–13949. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1208404109

Real Green Digital. (2018, July 2). 10 Michigan plants Native Americans used every day. PPM Tree Service & Arbor Care, LLC. https://ppmtree.com/2018/07/02/michigan-homeopathic-plants/

Wendell, M. T. (n.d.). The origins and history of tea: Where did tea originate? https://marktwendell.com/historyoftea

Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, October 24). Ilex vomitoria. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilex_vomitoria

Summer fun with “Spartan Solar”

Summer fun with “Spartan Solar”

This last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of CAP Crew, the group of MSU Archaeology (or archaeology-curious) students that conduct the compliance archaeology during the summer. Although, there is significantly more paperwork and lab work than there is fieldwork – 

3D Prints and Public Outreach: A Refit Activity

3D Prints and Public Outreach: A Refit Activity

In CAP this year, we’ve been brainstorming about public outreach activities. We’ve been focusing on activities for kids – who sometimes need a little extra help engaging with archaeological materials. This is my first year as a graduate student at MSU, and my first year 

Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights: A Review of the 2022 Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference

Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights: A Review of the 2022 Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference

As we near the end of the semester, I want to reflect on one of my favorite experiences of fall 2022: the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference! This year’s conference was organized by: Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, Professor Emeritus of Western Michigan University; our own Director of the Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program, Dr. Stacey Camp; Dr. Stacy Tchorzynski, Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Department Natural Resources (DNR) archaeologist; and Dr. Krysta Ryzewski, Associate Professor at Wayne State University. I attended this conference as a volunteer, but had the opportunity to sit and listen to many researchers speak about their ongoing research in the midwest.

Dr. Nassaney gave the introduction and explained that the theme of the 2022 program was Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights. He further explained historical archaeology is relevant to the present, especially regarding civil rights issues. The following talks and posters reiterated the importance of historical archaeology in conversations about civil rights.

The first half of the day included two podium presentations from Dr. Ryzewski and Floyd Mansberger. Dr. Ryzewski’s presentation focused on their work in Inkster, Michigan, and was titled “Updates from the Field: The Archaeology of Malcolm X.” The house excavated is where Malcolm X converted to Islam, where ritual bathing and daily prayers were practiced. The house was originally going to be demolished, but due to the work of Aaron Sims, the house is now undergoing a four-phase process that has seen the house added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2022, archaeological investigations that have seen a lot of community engagement, and in the future will involve restoration and the creation of a community center.

Floyd Mansberger, Director of Fever River Research, presented “The Archaeology of the 1908 Springfield Riot.” There were five houses that were found in an area that was not under protection, so Mansberger and his team conducted an archaeological mitigation on these houses. Many artifacts were found, including some burnt items. Some of the artifacts found suggested that a family of color may have been living in one of the houses. Some of these artifacts include items from the Eighth Illinois Regiment, the first all Black and POC regiment. There were also Civil War artifacts associated with the households.

During lunch, Julia DiLaura, a student from Wayne State University, presented her poster titled “Taking the Plunge: Archaeology of a 20th Century Jewish-Owned Bath House and Mikveh in Detroit.” She showcased the artifacts found at the site.

After the poster presentation, two additional speakers presented their research and updates. First was Dr. Laura Ng, Assistant Professor at Grinnell College. In her talk, “Towards Community-Engaged Chinese Diaspora Archaeologies in the Midwest,” she discussed the history of how people and goods moved, along with the issues and racism that contemporary Asian-American communities face. While Dr. Ng has previously worked on the west coast and in China, she shared how transnational and anti-racist frameworks should be used more in midwestern settings and how to implement those frameworks. Some archaeological literature reinforces biased language and stereotypes, and archaeologists need to step in and work toward changing this language and stereotyping. In addition, she spoke on her community-engaged work with findagrave.com, where people can find the location of graves of passed friends and loved ones.

The last podium presentation of the day was given by Sarah Surface-Evans, Senior Archaeologist for SHPO. Her presentation was titled “Asinii-Waakaa’igan (Stone House): The Cornerstone of Sanctuary and Community.” She and her team have been working with the Pelcher family to learn more about how the Pelcher family farmstead played a role in the lives of children who ran away from the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School (MIIBS). Two Peltcher family members perished at MIIBS, leaving the family as one of many who lost their children to the school. Oral history has indicated that the farmstead was a safe haven for children, where hand-me-down clothes were left for children to change into. A joint field school with students from Central Michigan University (CMU) and Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College (SCTC) was held, where units were dug in the areas where the old granary, barn, and cabin once stood. Many different types of artifacts were found, along with faunal remains. An analysis of the faunal remains was conducted, and they found that there were many cattle bones present. Following all of the talks, a break-out discussion was held about participants’ interests.

Needless to say, MHAC presented an incredible learning experience for those present. As a non-midwesterner myself, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to learn more about the ongoing archaeological work in the region.

Another day, another mystery in the CAP lab…

Another day, another mystery in the CAP lab…

While cataloguing artifacts from Service Road, we stumbled across an intriguing piece of a milk glass jar featuring an applied color label with bright red and blue hues. I say it was intriguing because many of the artifacts we have left from Service Road are