In a couple weeks, from April 15 to April 18, the Society for American Archaeology Annual Conference will be occurring in San Francisco, CA. There is going to be great representation of members of Campus Archaeology and the MSU Anthropology Department. Daggett, Adrianne  SYMPOSIUM: …
My previous posts this semester have focused on Campus Archaeology’s involvement in community and educational outreach and the pros and cons of these types of activities. Last Friday, members of Campus Archaeology gave an in-school presentation for MSU Science Festival at East Olive Elementary in …
This coming Thursday CAP has a meeting with MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) and Granger construction to discuss the upcoming summer construction projects. Most importantly, Phase 4 (final phase) of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvement, a.k.a the steam tunnel project. This project began in the summer of 2012, in an effort to upgrade the 100 year old steam tunnels. CAP has worked closely with this project because a) it is taking place in the heart of historic campus, West Circle; and b) it gives CAP the opportunity to explore huge areas of buried MSU.
Unfortunately, this project is quite destructive to any potential archaeology, so my job is to do the proper research so CAP can preemptively excavate, or at least be prepared for any findings. Last summer, during Phase 3, you may recall that CAP discovered the foundation of the original Vet Lab, built in 1885. This discovery caught us off guard, and though we were able to hold off construction so we could excavate, it was not an ideal situation. I’ll be much more prepared this summer.
IPF always gives us the construction blueprints, which detail every aspect of the construction process. From digging the 30ft deep steam tunnels to tree removal, these plans allow CAP to make a game plan for how we’re going to approach the construction, i.e. simple shovel testing or full excavation. For Phase 4, the final steam tunnel replacements will cut across Olds Hall and towards the MSU Museum. I’ve been compiling historic maps and photos to see if any of these cuts will impact historical features. Currently, I’ve discovered three potential structures: the Vet Lab, the Mechanical shops, and the original steam tunnels. The steam tunnels are too deep for us to shovel test or excavate, so we can only monitor until something is found. Most likely, we’ll shovel test beforehand to determine if the remains of the Vet Lab and Mechanical shops will be disturbed.
At the upcoming meeting on Thursday we’ll explain our findings, and our concern for the possible destruction of these historic features, then we’ll create a strategy that allows for archaeology, but does not severally inhibit the construction. IPF and Granger understand the significance of the cultural heritage of MSU and are always willing to accommodate our archaeology.
In addition to the steam tunnel project, there are a handful of other construction projects occurring on campus this summer. MSU’s campus is constantly being renovated and upgraded to accommodate the ever-growing university. It is CAP’s goal to discover and disseminate the history on which MSU has built its name.
Author: Kate Frederick
Campus Archaeology is proud that we can give undergraduate students at MSU such an intensive, hands-on experience in archaeology. Our interns are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in every aspect of archaeology, from the research, to the lab work, all the way to full-scale …
As the only non-archaeologist graduate fellow in Campus Archaeology Program (I am a medical anthropologist in training), I wanted to investigate the attitudes that others outside the discipline have toward archaeology. Interestingly enough, when I tell people I am an anthropologist, it is usually assumed …
This past Saturday was a cold and rainy day. We celebrated Michigan State football as our team beat Wisconsin in a great Big Ten battle. But while some were celebrating in the rain and cold, others celebrated different aspect of Michigan State, at the Michigan …
Whenever Campus Archaeology is alerted of a construction project on campus, we typically conduct what is called an archaeological survey to determine if there are any potential archaeological sites in the area. This is important because it gives us the opportunity to quickly examine a large area, and then do more detailed archaeological excavations if we are able to determine that possible sites exist. There are a number of different types of survey that are used, each depending on what equipment is available and what the type of environment being surveyed. We are using two survey techniques while we search for the location of the Weather Bureau: Geophysical Survey and Shovel Test Pit Survey. This post will discuss the latter.
Shovel Test Pits, or STPs, are a way for archaeologists to cover a large area quickly. STPs are minimally invasive, meaning that they do not disturb a lot of ground, yet provide enough data for us to determine how viable an area is for further archaeological testing. The STP is a shovel-by-shovel width hole dug straight into the ground. The dirt is sifted, and artifacts are collected and their type and quantity is recorded on a map. We then examine the map for areas where their are significant artifact clusters, and identify those areas as potential archaeological sites that need to be further examined.
Let’s use our survey at the Weather Bureau as an example. Our first step was to establish a grid and pace off the location of where the STPs would go. Because we are in a small area, and were hoping to identify a building location, we decided to put STPs every 5 meters. In larger areas, these STPs would have been spaced at 10 or 15 meters. After this was settled, the STPs were excavated, artifact counts were recorded, and plotted on the map. STPs with significant concentrations are referred to as “positive” while ones with no or few artifacts are “negative”.
When we were finished, definite clusters of positive STPs began to emerge on the map near the north west corner. At this point, it is customary to excavate “radials”. These are additional STPs that are dug to the north, south, east, and west of each positive STPs, giving us a more refined picture of how these clusters are delineated. If a positive STP is surrounded by negative radials, than it is typically assumed there is no site there. In this case, these radials ended up being positive, indicating that there was significant human activity occurring in this space. Because these items were primarily bricks and nails, it is assumed that this was most likely the location of a building, probably the Weather Bureau.
The next step would be to do further testing to determine how much of the building is still intact. It is quite possible that this was just brick rubble and fill from the building’s demolition, not intact features or foundations. Without STP survey, however, we would not have been able to identify where to begin these excavations, making this a critical piece of archaeological methodology to understand.
Author: Terry Brock