For most of us, it seems that not much happens at MSU in July. Most of the students are still gone, and while the occasional roving herd of incoming freshmen pass through for orientation, the campus still seems quiet. Historically, not much has happened this …
Tag: campus history
Michigan State University was originally established in 1855 as an agricultural college of the state and after almost 160 years, it has grown to become one of the largest educational institutions in the U.S. Over the years, MSU has become known for, not only its …
Welcome back to a new semester (and new year) for Campus Archaeology. We’re looking forward to this semester, especially since we’re going to be starting a number of surveys and excavations on campus this Spring. Sadly, we did not receive the funding from the MSU Sustainability grant program in order to do the proposed project we discussed last semester. However, we still plan on doing the project! Having a historical framework for understanding the sustainability practices of a community is an important factor. By knowing how we developed, and what practices were successful, we can create better, more informed decisions in the future.
This brings me to a question I find that I’m repeatedly having to answer: Why does archaeology matter? Why is it important?
Beyond the intrinsic value of filling in the blank pages of history, archaeology has practical purposes that matter today. Archaeology aids in correcting potentially biased perspectives of the past, or histories written from a single perspective. For example, on campus we know that the written rules from the 19th century college state that students were not allowed to smoke. While this fits the ideal of the time period, we’ve found pipes associated with the historic campus buildings, showing that students back then were just as likely to break the rules as students today.
Archaeology can help us to uncover the unwritten moments of history to better understand the way that the campus landscape was developed. The banks of the Red Cedar were built upon to prevent flooding in the early 20th century. What isn’t written about is that the way that they did this was by using the materials from previous campus buildings which had collapsed. We were able to find plaster with writing on it in the banks which matched pictures of the walls in College Hall.
Archaeology can reveal a past we didn’t even know existed! This summer, we found evidence of a prehistoric hearth and various stone tools. This means that the historic of occupation on the MSU campus goes much deeper than 1855, and extends hundreds of years earlier. The site that was found is unique because we rarely find these types of small occupation areas, and there are very few of them found in the broader area.
MSU has a long standing tradition of pride in our past on campus. The history of our campus is more than images of early classes, football memorabilia, and scrapbooks, our history is literally buried beneath our feet. Every time you walk across the open space within West Circle, you are walking across over 150 years of MSU history, as well as the prehistory of the area. In the same way we protect Sparty as the traditional mascot before football games, we too need to protect the history of the school that lies under the ground. That is the goal of Campus Archaeology; to protect our past and share it with our community.
Why do you think archaeology is important on campus? What do you like best about the tradition of protecting our history here at MSU?