Hey everyone, guess who’s back! Yep, after six weeks of field school in Belize, I’m back in East Lansing, working with Campus Archaeology to unearth the past couple of hundred years of Michigan State University. While I was away, the rest of the Campus Archaeology …
We’ve found some interesting artifacts on campus, some of which can be a little difficult to identify, and others that are a little bit weird. There are random chunks of metal, bent and rusted until identification is impossible. Old bottles that have lost their labels …
While I’ve been visiting the archives a couple of times a week, looking for information I can use for my research project, I’ve also been down in the CAP lab with Blair, putting together a type collection that can be used for future CAP members, in order to help classify artifacts that have been/will be found. Since I haven’t had much experience thus far in archaeological labs, it’s been interesting to learn what exactly a type collection even is, and to get the opportunity to look at all the collections that Campus Archaeology has obtained since it was first started. During my first visit down to the lab, Katy helped me to understand the difference between the types of ceramics we have (earthenware vs. whiteware vs. stoneware, etc), the difference between the types of nails we have, and ways to classify the types of glass we have. To someone who has had experience in the lab, this may all seem like very trivial stuff, but for someone who had never seen a type collection before, or had gotten to classify artifacts before (namely, me) I had to start somewhere, and learning the basics was definitely necessary. I was given a couple of informational sheets to look over, along with some websites, until the next time I could get back in the lab.
As an undergraduate, this work in the lab has really helped me learn some necessary skills that I will continue to use as a graduate student and into my career life. Granted, I’m not necessarily looking to be a historical archaeologist. As of right now, I’m looking into graduate schools that will help me focus on bioarcheaology, specifically in Central America. However, this doesn’t mean that what I’m doing in the CAP lab won’t help me in the future. What a typology is and how it is formed/used is necessary to know for working with artifacts from any time period, not just historical artifacts. Even though bioarcheaology focuses on human skeletons, all archeological fields can be connected in some way or other, and it could definitely be useful to me to someday use what I know about typologies to help with whatever research I happen to be doing. It’s also been nice to get some experience in the lab, just in general. As an archeologist, I will definitely spend much of my future in labs, and learning the dos and don’ts of a lab is obviously important. Not to mention lab experience looks good on graduate school applications, which is definitely something I’m keeping in mind as I get closer to graduation.
As cliché as it sounds, it’s also been a good experience to work with someone else in the lab. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t extremely knowledgeable about type collections, and it’s been nice to work with a graduate student who knows more. Blair has been very enjoyable to work with, and she offers up good suggestions that I otherwise may not have thought of. It’s also been nice to get to know a graduate anthropology student. As a junior, I’m starting to look into graduate schools and what kind of life I will live after I graduate from MSU, and working with not only Blair, but with Katy and some of the other graduate students too, has given me a peek at that.
For an actual summary about what Blair and I have been doing in the lab, take a glance at her blog entry. It’s been a rewarding experience working down there with her, and I have to say, there is really no better way to learn about this great university’s history than actually getting one’s hands on the actual artifacts that tell us so much.
We are now deep into the throws of creating a typology for the CAP artifacts from across campus to establish a system for adding new objects during future work. In archaeology this set of artifacts is called a type collection which allows us to be …
If you’ve been following our twitter feed or facebook, you know that we are hard at work surveying beneath the sidewalks around Linton Hall and Beaumont Tower. As part of the campus construction, a majority of the sidewalks within the sacred space are being renovated. …
On June 7th during an excavation in West Circle Drive we recovered a paperclip. Now, you should know that we don’t keep anything that is definitely modern. We don’t keep the crushed beer cans from tailgating or the McDonald’s straws from littering. We did keep a paperclip, although whether or not to do this was debated. Can a paperclip really tell us anything about the past? Are they even considered historic?
For a while the paperclip was forgotten among the dozens of bags of artifacts from our extensive surveys, that is until yesterday when we began our identification and cataloging. Out of sheer curiosity we searched online for information about the paperclip and were shocked at how old the paperclip is. Paperclips were invented the same year as the typewriter, ten years before the telephone, and twenty years before Coca Cola or barbed wire. That’s right, by the time the matchbook was invented, paperclips were already of legal drinking age.
History of the Paper Clip
The first bent steel wire paper clip was patented by Samuel B. Fay in 1867. Its original purpose was for attaching tickets to fabric, although the patent recognized that it could be used to attach papers together. However, advertisements for the paperclip aren’t found until 1899 so it is unlikely that there were any significant sales prior to the late 1890’s. Another design of the paperclip was patented by Erlman J. Wright in 1877 and was advertised at that time for use in fastening newspapers. A flood of paperclip patents were found for 1897, indicating that there was widespread use of this item in offices in this period. A trade publication from 1900 stated that “The wire clip for holding office papers together has entirely superseded the use of the pin in all up-to-date offices” (Early Office Museum 2012).
Paperclip- The Artifact
Based on the descriptions from early advertisements, we can tell that our paperclip is a Gem type that was first introduced in 1894. The only problem is that Gem style paperclips are for the most part unchanged since their introduction in material and design, and the machines for creating them are same in design as the 1930’s machines. Some are covered with colorful plastics, but ours was not so this distinction is unhelpful. Given that other artifacts from the level include historic cut nails and glass, it is likely our clip dates to the early 20th century.
Fun Facts about Paperclips
While doing research on the paperclip, we also learned some fun facts. Did you know the Herbert Spencer (individual who coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’) is often attributed with inventing the clip in the early 19th century based on a journal entry that describes a paper fastener he is using?
A Norwegian, Johan Vaaler (1866–1910), has erroneously been identified as the inventor of the paper clip due to some poor German reporting in the 1920’s. During WWII the Norwegians wore them on their lapels after national pins were outlawed by the Nazis. It was a symbol of solidarity and being bound together, combined with the nationalism of the country’s supposed invention of the tool. Following the war, the paperclip became a national symbol!
20 billion paperclips are produced annually in the United States, and a study estimated that the majority of these are not used for holding paper together- but rather are used for other tools for technology (CD-ROM ejector, iPhone SIM release, etc), bent apart, used to make chains and bracelets, or even used as lock picking devices (Wikipedia).