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 …
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, october 5
9 am – 12:15 pm Symposium
Storing Culture: Subterranean Storage in the Upper Midwest (Auditorium)
9:15 am – Now and Later: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Hunter-Gatherer Food Storage Practices by Kathryn Frederick (former Campus Archaeologist)
12 pm – Discussant, Dr. William Lovis
10 am – 12 pm General Poster Session
Reports from the Field (Room 210-214)
Archaeology along the Banks of the Red Cedar: Summary of 2018 Riverbank Survey by Jeffrey M. Painter, Autumn M. Painter, and Jack A. Biggs (Campus Archaeology Program)
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm General Poster Session
Materials and Methods (Room 210-214)
Historic Cuisine on the Go: A Campus Archaeology Program and MSU Food Truck Collaboration by Autumn M. Painter and Susan M. Kooiman (Campus Archaeology Program)
Saturday, october 6
9 am -11:45 am General Session
Middle Mississippian to Late Prehistoric Lifeways (Auditorium)
11:30 am – A Revised History of the Late Precontact and Historic Era Occupations of the Cloudman Site by Susan M. Kooiman and Heather Walder
1:30 pm – 4 pm General Session
Landscape, Settlements, and Their Detection (Room 100-104)
3:45 pm – Trade Relationships of 18th-Century Ottawa along the Grand River, Michigan by Jessica Yann
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 …
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 …
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 August I’m usually looking forward to the cooling weather, changing leaves, and enjoying the beauty of freshly fallen snow…for about 6 weeks. By the time January roles around I’m already cursing the frigid temperatures and dreaming of the sun and sweat of summer archaeology. After last winter’s arctic blasts and record breaking snow falls, I think my tolerance this year is at an all time low. I commute an hour to campus, so the winter of 2014 was downright traumatizing.
While winter is clearly not my favorite season, and definitely not an exciting one for Michigan archaeology, it is a good time to catch up on everything. CAP had a busy summer with the discovery of the Vet Lab, shovel testing People’s Park, and an excavation of a trash pit on the LAST day of digging. The fall was equally busy with planning for our Apparitions and Archaeology Halloween event and creating the historic panels for Chittenden Hall (these will soon be displayed in Chittenden so stop by and check them out). While I’m not looking forward to the winter weather, I am looking forward to the slower winter months.
That is not to say that we wont be busy at CAP, everyone is still working diligently on their projects. But during the cold winter months we have more time to cozy into the archives and keep warm in the lab. This may be a sad statement, but I’m excited to catch up on reports and lab work. To, not only finally have the time to devote to these endeavors, but to have enough time to do them well. I am never quite relaxed and comfortable until everything is in its proper place, labeled, cataloged, and filed. I love fieldwork as much as the next archaeologist, but it’s calming to know that everything we find in the field properly cataloged and available for research, and not just thrown onto a shelf, never to be studied again.
Over the winter it’s my goal to finish the accessioning. Since we received official Site numbers from the State last year, we’ve been accessioning our artifacts through the MSU Museum. It is a tedious process to go through and label all the artifacts we’ve found since 2005, but it’s great to familiarize myself with every single artifact CAP has excavated. Other CAP fellows Blair and Lisa will be helping me on the accession project throughout the winter.
I should enjoy the winter while it lasts, because before I know it we’ll be planning our Summer 2015 Field School and preparing for another whirlwind summer.
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 …
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 and analysis. Back here at our homebase in MSU’s Consortium for Archaeological Research, we’re working on analysis and interpretation of our artifacts and integrating this with our maps.
Artifacts found on this campus vary from types of ceramics and metal fixtures found within homes to industrial pipes and building materials. After the dig, the collected finds are returned to the lab and processed. This means that all of the finds are washed and dried. Following this process, members of our team work to identify the artifacts and input them into a database. Our team notes the type of artifact and the presence of identifying characteristics such as decorative styles, any wording or maker’s mark (trademark stamps), and/or if the piece is a specific part of a vessel such as rim, handle, or base. This allows us to look at just what types of things were being used in the early days at Michigan State College.
In the meantime, another type of analysis is occurring upstairs in the archaeology computer lab. It is here where a slightly more technologically literate group (with skills I personally envy) works on the digital side of Campus Archaeology. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) members input the location of our digs on to real satellite images of the area. This creates a multilayered map with extensive information on the site. At current, these maps show the location of all our shovel tests (ST) (a surveying technique where a small pit is dug to sample the area). Each shovel test is associated with the archaeological project site it is within, who dug it, and a positive or negative indication of whether finds were collected. This process helps us located the areas of early activity on Michigan State’s campus.
So far these two important processes have been separated. While the rain has kept us off site and stuck indoors, we have been inspired to initiate an integration of the two forms of analysis into one helpful mapping system. Our goal is to create a more robust and useful purpose for the Campus Archaeology Program’s GIS maps. The result of this will be the creation of a way to integrate the catalogue of artifacts into the map.
In order to represent the artifacts in the GIS system our team needed to come up with a list of artifact types that not only fully incorporates the variety and cultural relevance, but also is not overwhelming to the system. This took a rather tedious meeting and lots of debate in order to develop the shortest and most complete list. We debated whether we should focus on broad types such as pottery or metal, or more specific types like whiteware, stoneware or pearlware. A second debate was whether we should assess them by presence or absence, a technique that works well if something is broken within the pit, or by the frequency of finds, which works well with lots of little artifacts. We also debated how to classify artifacts, like whether we should separate items by function or material used, which becomes problematic with items like buttons that are all different materials but same function. We came up with a semi-finalized list of around 25 artifact types will be inputted in to the GIS system. From here, each ST will be associated with either a presence/absence or item amount for each of the 25 types.
Once this is done we will be able to use the GIS maps to show where artifacts were collected, and further look at the location and concentrations of artifacts by statistical analyses. This process, which is one of the most intensive off site projects, will with all hopes be fruitful to the knowledge of your Campus Archaeology Team.