Tag: artifacts

CAP Archaeological Ethics

CAP Archaeological Ethics

We love the work we do through MSU’s Campus Archaeology. While our primary purpose is to mitigate and protect the archaeological and cultural resources on MSU’s campus, CAP goes above and beyond to also engage with our public audience and local community through outreach and 

Campus Archaeology in the Time of COVID-19

Campus Archaeology in the Time of COVID-19

Greetings from Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. This summer has been one of great concern for our community and nation as well as one where we have had to rethink how we approach Campus Archaeology amid a global pandemic. Under 

Modeling the Past: Photogrammetry and Anthropological Research

Modeling the Past: Photogrammetry and Anthropological Research

For my CAP project this year, I decided to do something at which I feel I’m particularly good: creating 3D models of artifacts found during CAP excavations. I have been using digital technologies to render 3D models for about three years now and have created these models for a number of reasons and for a number of different projects. In making the models, I use a technique called photogrammetry, which, at its most basic, takes a set of 2D images of an object, person, or place, stitches the images together, and if all goes well, a 3D rendition of that object is created in digital space. (A lot of other computer sorcery happens deep within the software’s code to actually create the models, of which I understand none, unfortunately.)  The power of this methodology and its ultimate results cannot be overstated for a few reasons, of which I will discuss a few here.

Continue reading Modeling the Past: Photogrammetry and Anthropological Research

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

Next week is the annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (October 4-6, 2018) in Notre Dame. Below is a list of dates and times of all MSU presentations, posters, and discussants. Included in these are two posters on Campus Archaeology projects that you should check out! Friday, 

The Many Faces of Cowles House, MSU’s Oldest Building

The Many Faces of Cowles House, MSU’s Oldest Building

This summer, Cowles House, MSU’s oldest standing building, is due to get a facelift. As part of this remodeling, crews will remove a few trees from around and inside the building and expand the west wing.  In preparation for this work, I have been researching 

Sorting the Admin Artifact Assemblage

Sorting the Admin Artifact Assemblage

Archaeology is like a puzzle- only you don’t know what picture you’ll end up with and some of the pieces are either broken, burnt or missing. As you may have read previously, on our last day of summer excavation, Campus Archaeology discovered a potential trash pit with hundreds of historic artifacts in it (Read that post here). It was located between the Administration building and the Red Cedar River. It is an area that could tell us quite a bit about historic MSU, and definitely a location we will investigate further in the future. After the field season ended, the artifacts were taken back to the lab for cleaning.

So what happens then? How do we begin to understand what all these artifacts mean? Do they belong to a trash pit or was it accidental loss of materials? Was it the refuse from a single building or activity, or from many buildings and activities? What exact time period was the material deposited in? Who did it potentially belong to?

Before we start trying to figure out the picture that this puzzle makes, we first need to examine all the pieces.

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Assemblage from Admin, being sorted into broad categories, via author

The first step is to divide the artifacts into broad categories like glass, ceramic, and metal. By sorting them into these categories we start to see patterns or unique artifacts. After that, we divide them further. For glass, we look at whether it is window glass or bottle glass. The easiest way to do this is to place the glass flat on the table- if it is completely flat, it is likely window glass, whereas if it has any curve it is more likely to be bottle glass. For ceramics, we sort out by the ceramic type such as whiteware, stoneware or porcelain. For metal, we sort them into functional categories, like door related hinges and keys or building related nails and screws.

Once we’ve got the broad categories complete, we can begin to see patterns among them. We start finding pieces of ceramic that match and belong to the same pot. We separate specific decoration types to see if they preferred patterns or plain ceramics. We divide the bottle glass into milk bottles, decorative cut glass bowls, or lab equipment like test tubes and thermometers. This is the part of the process that is the most frustrating but also in many ways is the most exciting. At this stage, you begin to understand what the assemblage means, who might have created it, and where it belongs. Sometimes you get lucky and a couple pieces fit together to make a more complete bottle or pot. Other times it is exhausting as you find that nothing fits or you can’t identify what an artifact is.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be working with this collection to understand it better. Right now, we’re still sorting, trying to make connections, and comparing what we’ve found here against other material found on campus.

 

Winter is Coming: The Cold Days of CAP

Winter is Coming: The Cold Days of CAP

It’s official, winter is coming. Scratch that, it’s here. I woke up this morning to a snow dusted car and icy roads (bonus points for avoiding the fishtailing 4×4). In the best years I’m an extreme, fair weather fan of winter. By the end of 

Updates on the CAP Typoloogy

Updates on the CAP Typoloogy

Hello CAP blog followers! Thank you for your patience as I get back into blogging. This semester I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Kiluna Rosali so I had to delay my first post for a bit. Nevertheless this semester I am finishing 

Accessioning MSU’s Archaeology

Accessioning MSU’s Archaeology

Numbers are important for archaeologists. We number each excavation we do, each hole within our surveys, and every single bag of artifacts we fill. These numbers help us keep organized. We can match the bag numbers with the site numbers, shovel test numbers with specific artifacts, and survey areas with map locations. On MSU’s campus we are constantly digging, and we need these numbers. Over the next year we will be dealing with some very important numbers: accession numbers.

Josh working in the lab to clean artifacts for cataloging,  via Katy Meyers
Josh working in the lab to clean artifacts for cataloging, via Katy Meyers

Accessioning is the process of creating a permanent and unique record of an archaeological. The accession number is the way of identifying the particular collection. After collections are identified, the accessioned assemblages then become formally integrated into a museum that will assume the obligation of care and management. In order for a collection to be accessioned, every item within it must first be inventoried and described within a catalog, then the objects within it must be assigned unique identifiers related to the accession number, and all archaeological documentation related to the collection.

Each number represents a specific collection from a single dig, or a specific survey, or can include a number of surveys or digs that take place at the same site. For example, we will be asking for a single accession number for each of the different buildings. Any material from that particular building will be organized into a single collection. However, if there are artifacts that are from the same survey but drastically different sites, like a historic and a prehistoric, they will be put into separate accessioned groups.

Over this next semester, I will be going through all of our excavation and survey records to create an argument for why they each are important and should be accessioned. This is an exciting project that we are undertaking, and one that is extremely important for the program.

 

 

Rainy Day Work: Integrating GIS and the Artifact Catalog

Rainy Day Work: Integrating GIS and the Artifact Catalog

The large amount of rain East Lansing has experienced over the past three weeks has deeply affected the construction and archaeology on campus.  This delay in work has allowed us at the Campus Archaeology Program to turn our attention to the other side of archaeology: finds