1882 Indian Head Penny

NNC-US-1860-1C-Indian Head Cent (wreath & shield).jpg

A penny from an earlier year that features the same design. Image courtesy of the National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.

For the most part, Unit C of our excavations has mostly produced nails, glass and ceramic shards, and a few fragments of small animal bones but last Friday (06/02) we uncovered an 1882 Indian Head penny. This type of penny has been popular among coin collectors ever since they began to be produced (though it suffered a small decline in popularity between the 1930s-1960s, possibly because the bronze version of the Indian Head cent was still in circulation and may have been overlooked as too common for notice). However, due to the advanced age of the coin, it’s a bit more of a collectors item for modern numismatists who wish to expand their collections, especially desired are those specimens with lesser wear (though some is expected since even the newest of the original Indian Heads are about 126 years old now).

1882 Indian head penny excavated from Unit C.

1882 Indian head penny excavated from Unit C.

Some History

Indian Head pennies were issued by the United States Bureau of the mint between 1859 and 1909. The ‘Indian Head’ was designed in 1859 by James B. Longacre, an engraver employed by the mint, who was directed to develop alternatives for a previous design of hir (the ‘flying eagle’ design which was issued in exchange for worn Spanish silver coins between 1856-1858) after the design was determined to be too difficult to reliably reproduce in the copper-nickel alloy the coins were to be made of. Longacre finished four possible designs by November when the Indian Head pattern was selected from the options and approved by James Ross Snowden, the director of the Mint at the time. Production began on the first of January, 1859. The original 1859 minting had a laurel wreath on the reverse side that completely encircled the ‘One Cent’ text but in 1860 Snowden decided to alter the design further, leaving the ‘Indian Head’ unchanged but swapping the laurel wreath for an oak leaf wreath that didn’t quite encircle the denomination and a narrow shield design that filled the gap in the wreath. Throughout the 1880s, Longacre’s design was reissued as demand for pennies increased, probably due to a decrease of the cost of stamps making pennies more popular. The design finally ceased to be stamped in 1909 when it was replaced with the modern style of penny featuring Abraham Lincoln on its face in honor of the centennial of the hir birth.

The Design

Despite the name, the image on the face of the coin is of not actually of a Native American at all but is actually a white woman who is supposed to be the goddess Liberty wearing the native headdress. According to a popular legend, the facial features of Liberty on the coin were based on Longacre’s young daughter, Sarah, who ze sketched when ze tried on the headdress of a visiting native but Sarah Longacre would have been 30 years old when the design was made rather than the 12 the legend claims and James Longacre hirself not only stated that the face was based that of a statue of Venus, on loan from the Vatican, which ze saw in a Philadelphia museum but after the design was approved in 1858, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb, in which ze denied it was based on any of the features of any member of hir family.

A neat numismatist fact: The most popular pricing guide for US coin collectors is ‘A Guide Book of United States Coins’ by Richard Yeoman (also called The Red Book). The early editions of the guide have become collectible in their own right and there is now a guide book to collecting early editions of the guide book for coin pricing called ‘A Guide Book Of The Official Red Book Of United States Coins’ by Frank J. Colletti.

Additional information about the penny: http://www.usacoinbook.com/coins/306/small-cents/indian-head-cent/1882-P/

Additional information about John B. Longacre: http://www.usacoinbook.com/encyclopedia/coin-designers/james-b-longacre/

References

  • JM Bullion. “Indian Head Penny (1859-1909)”
    https://www.jmbullion.com/coin-info/cents/indian-head-pennies/
    Accessed: 06/03/2017
  • JM Bullion.  “1882 Indian Head Penny”
    https://www.jmbullion.com/coin-info/cents/indian-head-pennies/1882-indian-head-penny/
    Accessed: 06/03/2017
  • Coin Trackers. “1882 Indian Head Penny”
    http://cointrackers.com/coins/14612/1882-indian-head-penny/
    Accessed: 06/04/2017

2017 Campus Archaeology Field School

Announcing the 2017 Campus Archaeology Field School!

We are pleased to once again offer our on-campus field school.  This five week field school will take place May 30th – June 30th, 2017.  The class takes places Monday through Friday from 9am – 4pm. Students enroll for 6 credits of ANP 464. This class is open to MSU students and non-MSU students. There is a $150 equipment fee that is used to supply students with excavation tools.  At the end of the field school students will keep this toolkit. Space is limited to 20 students, and applications are due to Dr. Goldstein (lynneg@msu.edu) by March 5th.

Through excavation, lab work, and digital outreach students will examines several unique and interesting places on MSU’s historic campus.  In this course students will get the opportunity to actively engage in archaeological research. You will learn excavation methods, survey techniques, how to map and record an excavation unit, laboratory methods, cultural heritage and digital outreach engagement, as well as an introduction to archival research.

This summer we plan to excavate in two areas: Beal’s Botanial Lab and Station Terrace.

Beals Lab:

Beal in the botanical garden. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Beal in the botanical garden. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Dr. Beal is an important person in early campus history.  Though Beal served as a botany professor at MSU (then MAC) from 1871-1910, he made mark on campus that survives to this day.  The Beal botanical garden (directly east of the MSU main library), established in 1873 is the oldest continuously operated university botanical garden in the U.S.  Beal also started, what is today, one of the longest continuously running experiments in the world!  In 1879 Beal buried 20 bottles containing seeds with the intent to see how long a seed could lay dormant and still germinate.  The next bottle is scheduled to be dug up and opened in 2020.  The location of the experimental bottles is a closely held campus secret.  Beal was known as an incredibly eccentric professor, and the design of his first botanical laboratory was fittingly eccentric as well.

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal's Botanical Lab after the fire - March 1890. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Beal’s Botanical Lab after the fire – March 1890. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Built in 1879 (more detail), this building burned to the ground on March 23rd 1890.  Although specific details about the fire have been lost over time, we do know that lab equipment (such as microscopes) was salvaged from the wreckage and the fire prompted the university to establish a fire brigade. We’ve established that portions of the building foundation still exists, and field school students will have the opportunity to excavate in this location.

Station Terrace

Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace stood at the souther end of what is now the Abbot street entrance.  This building was constructed between 1892-1895 and originally housed visiting scholars from the experimental research stations. It was also later used to house bachelor faculty members, the East Lansing Post Office, and the Flower Pot Tea room (read more). The building was moved off campus in the early 20s but the foundation, as well as many artifacts remain.  After excavations at Beal’s lab it’s expected that the field school will move to this second location.

For more information about the field school, head on over to the field school webpage.

Download the application. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have here, on Twitter, or email Dr. Goldstein directly.

 

References:

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/msu-gardens-ranked-among-best-in-the-us/

http://www.cpa.msu.edu/beal/research/research_frames.htm

http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-21F/meeting-minutes-1890/

Campus Archaeology Summer Work Update #1

Spring classes have ended, thousands of people have graduated, and a relative calm has spread over the campus. While many people kick back and relax over their summer vacation, this is the busy season for us here at CAP. During the summer we’re busy excavating, researching, and conducting lab work. It may seem like much of our work is tied to campus construction (which does take up a chunk of our summers), but there’s so much more that we do. The construction job monitoring, shovel test pits, pedestrian surveys, and research fuels many of our projects all year long. It’s also the time when we put much of the research our CAP graduate fellows have been working on to the test.

The past three weeks we have been excavating and surveying the Abbot Entrance area ahead of the landscaping rejuvenation project that began on the 25th. I talked about a bit of the history of the Abbot Road entrance in my post about the campus streetcar. We knew that we were going to be working in the area of several historic buildings, namely Faculty Row House #6, Station Terrace, the Y.M.C.A. (formerly the campus hospital), and the U.S. Weather Bureau. We still have more work to do in the area in the coming weeks, but we have uncovered some exciting things since work began!

Campbell/Landon Sidewalk Realignment

Our first area of priority was the sidewalk realignment at the southwest corner of Abbot Road and West Circle Drive. Although we didn’t encounter anything related to the structure of Faculty Row House #6, or the Old Trolley waiting room, we did locate an old sidewalk. Now I know what you’re thinking, a sidewalk, big deal! But this is still a part of the historic campus landscape. Artifacts near the sidewalk, including a carbon battery rod, pipe stem, butchered animal bone, and ceramics indicate an early 1900s date. Part of the sidewalk was removed and is being sent to the Civil Engineering department for testing. This will help them to understand changes in cement/concrete technology over time.

CAP crew works excavating the sidewalk feature

CAP crew works excavating the sidewalk feature

The early 1900s sidewalk, partially uncovered.

The early 1900s sidewalk, partially uncovered.

Abbot Road Median

Stone wall from Station Terrace basementNext we moved to the Abbot entrance median. Landscape services planned to remove diseased non-native trees, and return the area to a more historically accurate planting scheme. Following what has become a yearly tradition, we found a building, Station Terrace to be exact! Our final shovel test pit for the median located the top of a stone and mortar wall. We believe this to be a basement interior-dividing wall. On the east side of the wall were two large decommissioned pipes, as well as two layers of charcoal and debris. The east unit’s stratigraphy was not disturbed at all, so these pipes appear to be original to the building, or at least installed before the foundation was filled in after the building was moved in 1925. To the west of the wall was a layer of larger boulders covering a poured concrete floor. I believe that the boulders were added as fill. Although we only opened a small area we found many wonderful artifacts, including a complete waterman’s ink bottle, a complete Sanford Library Paste jar (used to mount photographs), and a pair of shoes!

Sanford Library Paste jar, Pat. 1915 from East Station Terrace Unit

Sanford Library Paste jar, Pat. 1915 from East Station Terrace Unit

Additional investigation into this area, at some time in the future, will be necessary to determine how much of the building currently exists subsurface. Although Station Terrace appears on several maps, some of the older ones are not the most spatially accurate, and the surrounding landscape is drastically changed today. However, one 1926 map has the beginning of the north and south bound lanes of Abbot, leading me to believe that the eastern third of the building lies under the media, with the rest is under the road and west Abbot sidewalk area.

The Summer 2016 Field Screw after completing Station Terrace STP

The Summer 2016 Field Crew after completing Station Terrace STP

Next week we will be continuing exploration of the Abbot road entrance, focusing on the northwest corner where the U.S. Weather Bureau stood from 1910-1948. Stay tuned for updates, and follow us on Twitter and Instragram (@capmsu) for updates from the field!

Noteworthy: Digging Into What People Choose to Write Down

Excavations at 2011 Field School

Excavations at 2011 Field School

In continuation of my semester-long research project on Beaumont West, MSU’s sole prehistoric site excavated by CAP, I have entered the initial stages of report writing. This requires not only the results of the artifact analyses, but also the details of the site excavation so that I can put the artifacts into context. Beaumont West was excavated in 2010 and 2011, and none of the original technicians or students remain involved in CAP. Therefore, if I want information about how the site was excavated and what was found where, I must rely upon notes. It is standard for archaeologists to keep a field notebook to record what was done on a daily basis. This is useful for both refreshing one’s own memory when you write summary reports at the end of a field season, but it is also critical for the use of other scholars who may need this information for other purposes later on. One of the first things a budding archaeologist learns is the importance of recording notes, both in a field notebook and on excavation forms.

 

In my search for the information required for writing a report on the site (i.e., the dates it was excavated, how it was excavated, the depth and size of the feature, what was found in context with the feature, etc.), I turned to field notebooks from the 2010 and 2011 field seasons to determine exactly when, where, and how the site was discovered and excavated. I first browsed the notebooks of some of the field supervisors; however, I was surprised to find that these contained hardly any mention of the prehistoric site. Where was the underlined exclamation, “We found an Archaic projectile point today!”? And what about, “We now believe that Feature 1 is a 3000-year-old hearth”? My frustration grew, but after some reflection I realized that as a prehistoric archaeologist, of course I would be excited to find such things amidst all of the historic sites, but this might not be the case for everyone. The materials were also found during field school excavations, the supervisors were likely very busy and were unable to record information about every specific excavation unit.

 

This raises the question: how do people choose what to write down? From archaeologists of the present to MSU students, faculty, and administration of the past, individuals do not and cannot write everything down. They are selective in what they record, if they record anything at all. People write down what they feel is most important at the time, which of course varies based on one’s perspective. When writing documents that others will read, it is also common to record only things that make you or your institution look good and exclude mistakes or anything negative. This is important to consider when perusing field notes, but is also crucial to researching in archives, which is an activity quite common among CAP fellows. We search for accounts from the past using a variety of sources, from official documents to student journals, which gives us multiple perspectives on the same subject. Yet these documents still do no give us the whole story. Archaeology has shown that what people chose to write down on paper is often biased and selective. For example, smoking and drinking were officially banned in Saint’s Rest, MSU’s first dormitory. When students wrote home to their parents, they spoke only of their good behavior. However, when CAP excavated Saint’s Rest, the evidence for drinking and smoking in the dorm was abundant. The students partied, but this was something neither the students nor the administration ever wrote about. Archaeology provides yet another dimension to historical research—by getting dirty, we find out the dirt on people in the past.

 

Of course, I do not believe that previous CAP supervisors were trying to hide anything, it was just a matter of time and perspective that influenced what they wrote down. I’m sure future archaeologists will shake their fists at me for not recording information they consider important, data that might inform a specific question that was not part of my own research objective, or even just silly oversights on my part (yes, it does happen, I admit it!). Luckily, I have been able to find much of the information I needed in the notebooks of field school students who worked on the site, who wrote very detailed notes (no doubt in part because student notebooks are usually graded). These contained much of the information for which I had been searching, and I was suddenly quite grateful for the inherent fear of bad grades which constantly looms over students’ heads. The process has reminded me that as I move forward with gleaning details from field notebooks and move on to other projects involving archival research in the future, I must always be aware of the different motivations and perspectives of those whose hand I read in order to land nearest the truth.

The CAP Summer Season So Far

The summer field season has started out pretty busy this year. During our first day of monitoring the fourth phase of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvements, we received a call from Granger regarding some bricks that were found by the Museum. They were beginning to open up a large pit to remove and replace a steam tunnel junction underneath the Museum’s West Circle parking lot. The bricks were covered by a layer of concrete and remained insitu, mortar and all. Nearby this feature we found a large amount of concrete, brick, stone, and metal rubble. We did a quick rescue to record and learn what we could from the find as it had to be removed to progress the steam replacement.

Remaining foundation of Williams Hall

Remaining foundation of Williams Hall

I spent some time before construction began making some maps of the affected area using overlays with historic maps of the area and the locations of current buildings, sidewalks, and roads. Based on the maps I made, we are pretty sure the wall and rubble we found near the Museum was part of Williams Hall, which burned down in 1919.

Map overlay with 1915 buildings

Map overlay with 1915 buildings

Following the Williams Hall discovery, we continued to monitor by the Museum as well as the pulling up of the parking lot in front of and the sidewalks around Olds Hall. We also dug some test pits in the green space to the east of Olds Hall as well as underneath the parking lot located between Olds Hall and the Main Library. Neither of the surveys revealed anything of concern, although we began finding brick, cement, glass, nails, and other metal underneath the sidewalks around Olds Hall.

A couple of days following the Williams Hall discovery, a series of bricks that looked like a corner was found while we were digging shovel test pits underneath some of the sidewalks by Olds Hall. We opened the area up a bit and realized that the bricks were still arranged like a wall with an ash-heavy soil on one side that was full of nails, metal, and glass. There was also a large amount of loose bricks, mortared-stone, and cement around the wall. We dug down on the other side to find that after a few courses, the bricks stop at a layer of cement that continued into the bottom of our unit. We also chased the wall to either end until we found where the bricks stopped. After cleaning up and documenting, as well as consulting the maps I made, we believe it was a wall from the old engineering shops that burned down with the original engineering building.

We started the second week of the summer off right with some grilled cheeses from the MSU Dairy Store! We are currently working in the lab to finish up accessioning and cataloging artifacts from last summer and those we have from this summer so far. We are also continuing to monitor the steam tunnel construction and will keep you posted of any further developments!

Ten Years Since Saints’ Rest… A Brief History of Campus Archaeology

For those of us who have been involved in Campus Archaeology for a while, it is hard to believe that it has already been almost a decade since the first MSU excavation occurred. In honor of this, we are beginning the 2015 year by looking back at some of the major finds and events for the program!

2005: Saints’ Rest

Saints Rest in 1857, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

Saints Rest in 1857, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

In 2005, MSU was celebrating its sesquicentennial, its 150th year that it was a university. As part of this celebration, Dr. Lynne Goldstein proposed the excavation of the first dormitory on MSU’s campus. Saints’ Rest was built in 1856, but burned down in 1870 over winter break. Since its demolition, the site had remained open grass and sidewalks, marked only by a small cornerstone. Research into the site revealed that there was a chance that the foundations of the building were still there, and that we could learn more about this early era of campus life. The Saints’ Rest excavation took place in June 2005, and over six weeks, the archaeological team discovered foundation walls, a sand floor and cobblestone floor basement, original stoves that heated the dorm, barrels and buckets of building materials used to maintain the dorm, and dozens of historic artifacts like ceramics, bottles and more. It was a highly successful dig that demonstrated the importance of conducting archaeology on MSU’s campus.

2007-2008: MSU Campus Archaeology Officially Begins with major excavations of  Faculty Row and College Hall

With the importance of conducting archaeological work demonstrated to the university, Campus Archaeology began as a small program dedicated to the protection and mitigation of MSU’s archaeological resources. The goal wasn’t just to excavate known sites, it was also to work with construction crews to prevent destruction of the archaeological record everywhere on campus, as well as to educate the campus community about the importance of these resources in learning more about our university.

The foundation of College Hall. Photo courtesy of University Relations.

The foundation of College Hall. Photo courtesy of University Relations.

Two of the first major digs that occurred in this earliest stage of Campus Archaeology was the excavation of  Faculty Row and College Hall in 2008. New utilities were installed underground near the West Circle dormitories in this year. It was known that the first faculty houses, called Faculty Row collectively, were once located in this area. Prior to replacement of the new utility lines, Campus Archaeology excavated and tested the area around the West Circle dormitories in order to determine if any of the original buildings or materials from Faculty Row remained in this area. Excavation revealed glass bottles, bricks, construction materials, trolley rail spike, and a wooden water pipe, and the stratigraphy revealed a number of landscape and structural modifications from the destruction of Faculty Row

College Hall was the first academic building on MSU’s campus, and after it came down in 1918, its foundations were used to create an Artillery Garage. This didn’t sit well with alumni who had fond memories of this important and historic building, so money was donated to create Beaumont Tower. In 2008, when construction was being completed to update the sidewalks around the tower, Campus Archaeology got the opportunity to find the foundations of College Hall, still beneath Beaumont Tower.

2010 + 2011: First and Second MSU Campus Archaeology Field Schools, and First Prehistoric Site

2010 Field School

2010 Field School

During 2010 and 2011, the MSU Campus Archaeology program had its first archaeological field schools on campus. These field schools gave students the opportunity to do archaeology in their own backyard, and learn archaeological methods without having to travel too far. The field schools revealed a lot of new information about the area within West Circle Drive known as the Sacred Space. They located some of the earliest sidewalks, and found a major trash deposit on what would have been the banks of the old river that used to run through campus. Most important, in 2011, members of the field school discovered the first prehistoric site on campus. While we had found some evidence of prehistoric peoples, it was limited to a few flakes and small stone tools. In 2011, an actual prehistoric fire pit and site was discovered.

2012 + 2014: Morrill Hall Boiler Building and Veterinary Lab Found

Mapping the west wall of what we believe was the Vet Lab.

Mapping the west wall of what we believe was the Vet Lab in 2014

Over the past few years, we’ve made more exciting discoveries, like finding a building that wasn’t on any of the historic MSU maps below East Circle Drive. This building turned out to be a boiler building that provided heat to Morrill Hall and a dairy building when it was first erected in 1900. The boiler was only in use for a couple years, and then was torn down when a newer heating system went into place on campus. The building was forgotten until construction crews revealed it in 2012 digging up the old road to replace the steam tunnels. Another exciting find was last summer, when our archaeologists found the foundation walls of the first Vet Lab under West Circle Drive. The team discovered foundations to the building, as well as some really cool artifacts like keys and metal labels for specimens, as well as animal bones.

2015 and Beyond: Third Field School and More!

This upcoming summer, we are very excited that we will be having the third MSU Campus Archaeology field school, which will teach students proper excavation techniques and archaeological methods on campus. It is an exciting opportunity to excavate our campus and learn more about how our university developed and changed over time. In the past decade, Campus Archaeology has done a lot to improve our understanding of the development of MSU, and it is exciting to look ahead- imagine how much more we’ll learn about MSU in the next decade!

#womendigging

On November 24th, Turkey’s president Erdogan declared that women are not equal to men. However, the specific statement that rung across the archaeological community was “You cannot tell them [women] to go out and dig the soil. This is against their delicate nature”. Archaeologists, both male and female, responded on Twitter almost immediately, starting the #womendigging trend. Many, including CAP members, posted photographs of themselves in action.

 

Although the trend has slowed down, people are still posting #womendigging photos, and CAP is proud to continue the trend. So now we’re proud to present a few images from women digging through CAP history:

More mapping

2008- Jane W. and Jen B. map a different wall at Faculty Row.

STP 1

2009 – Erica digs the first Shovel Test Pit

P1010600

2010-

IMG_0081

2011 –

P1011619

2012 –

Saints Rest Rescue 2

2013 – Saints Rest Rescue 2, Trench 1, cleaning plaster floor off

Old Vet Lab Excavation

2014 – Old Vet Lab Excavation: Led by Kate, Team includes Adrianne, Katy, Josh and Ian

 

To Valhalla and Beyond: Plans for CAP for 2014-2015

Viking Ship Funeral by Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia

Viking Ship Funeral by Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia

Greetings gentle readers. I have admittedly procrastinated the writing of this blog post. In my procrastination, I stumbled upon a buzzfeed.com post (link below) referencing a recent interview with actor Nick Offerman in which he was asked about his preplanned funeral arrangements. His brilliant response involved an elaborate, if inventive, recreation of a Viking burial ritual, flaming arrows, and Chris Pratt. Last year I read a book chapter that cited a detailed eyewitness description of a Viking funeral, but one which included neither fiery missiles nor a burning longboat welcoming the deceased to the Great Beyond (Parker Pearson 1999). I am a touch disappointed that history seems to lack this dramatic theatrics, but I digress. I was reminded of the never-ending discussion among archaeologists regarding the public’s perception of archaeology and the past. We are often mistaken for paleontologists or are asked even more frequently if we own a fedora and/or bullwhip.

The Campus Archaeology Program at MSU has consistently maintained a visible presence, whether by social media or fieldwork on campus. By frequently updating the website with our findings or participating in events such as the annual Michigan Archaeology Day, we not only inform the public about what it is that archaeologists do, but also generate interest in MSU’s rich history. I remember my excitement at learning about CAP when I first came to MSU. My undergraduate institution did not have a similar program, nor have I heard of other universities having archaeology programs that focus work specifically on university history. I have only conducted fieldwork with CAP a few times and was initially a bit surprised but always excited when passersby visited our work areas. Some would briefly stop and ask if we had found anything exciting before continuing their day, but many would stay for several minutes and ask questions about what we were looking for, why we were excavating in a given space, etc. A few even participated in screening soil for artifacts. It was always apparent that students and non-students alike take a special interest in Michigan State’s heritage and hold it as a source of university pride.

My primary project for CAP this year involves determining a suitable location to hold the 2015 Campus Archaeology field school. The project will involve a combination of archival research and shovel testing across campus. Current areas of interest include the botanical gardens, the Forestry Cabin once located at People’s Park, and an area of the River Trail near the administration building that yielded what appears to be a large trash pit comprised mostly of discarded lab equipment. In the weeks to come, you may see us around campus with our shovels and screens digging away. If you do, feel free to stop by with any questions or if time permits you could even help us uncover, preserve, and share our university’s heritage.

We hope to see you soon.

Reference:

Parker Pearson, Mike. 1999. The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Texas A&M University Press,

College Station.

Link to Buzzfeed article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/nick-offerman-has-already-planned-
his-funeral-and-it-sounds#1ei364n

*Disclaimer: The Offerman interview includes a single instance of profanity at the end.

Summer Fieldwork Catch-up

I’ll admit it, this post is a little late in the making. I’ve been trying to play catch-up from the last couple of days of summer survey that left us with a ton of artifacts, and even more questions. I, and the CAP crew, spent a good portion of the summer organizing and planning, in order to not fall behind…and it all went down the drain on the LAST day of survey.

I believe we last left you with an update on our results from the People’s Park survey. While the survey did not result in many artifacts, we were able to confirm-based on GIS- that the Chittenden Memorial Cabin once stood on what is now the back steps of Wells Hall. And even though we didn’t find any artifacts directly relating to the cabin, we are now absolutely sure as to where it was

Decorated salt-glazed stoneware found in the trash pit.

Decorated salt-glazed stoneware found in the trash pit.

not. As they say, negative science is still science.

With a few days left in the summer field season, we decided to survey areas of high probability along the north side of the River Trail. MSU construction has a long-term plan of regrading and repaving both sides of the River Trail, so we figured we’d get ahead of the game and narrow down areas of potential cultural heritage. During the first couple of days of survey we found a fairly steady stream of historic artifacts (bottle glass, whiteware, and a cow tooth!) between the western edge of Beal Gardens and the Wells Hall bridge. All very exciting, but also very expected.

Then, as every archaeologist knows, we found a fascinating feature on one of our final shovel test pits, on the final day of our summer season. Directly behind Hannah Administration Building, on the beautiful lawn next to the Red Cedar River, we dug

directly into a huge trash pit. We found the entire range of CAP’s artifact typology, and more. We were pulling up bottle glass of all colors, notebook size pieces of stoneware, glass from lab beakers, lab test tubes, bullet casings, and the list goes on.

Me(Kate) showing the depth of the pit.

Me(Kate) showing the depth of the pit.

We expanded the shovel test pit into a 1×1 meter unit that went 160cm deep, and we still never found the edges or the bottom. This indicates that the large pit was purposefully dug and infilled with trash, though we don’t know when, or exactly why. It was not uncommon for the University to use trash to shore-up the river bank against erosion, or to fill in low spots…but we’ve never found a trash pit with the plethora of material equal to this. We shovel tested around the pit and found that the artifacts continue, but in a much more dispersed pattern.

Currently, we are working on the lab side of the analysis, i.e. washing, cataloging, and researching the artifacts and the area around Hannah. Dozens of the ceramics have makers marks, so it shouldn’t be difficult to narrow down a date, but it is quite time consuming. So, that is where we stand with CAP work, once again playing catch-up from a busy summer field season.

 

People’s Park: the Short Course Dormitories

As our archaeological investigation of People’s Park continues, so does our archival investigation. As Adrianne explained in our last blog one of the motivating factors behind our shovel test survey of People’s Park was pinpointing the location of the Chittenden Memorial Cabin; however there were other structures located at People’s Park that we had to consider for our research. Three buildings labeled as “Short-course dormitories” stood in the now vacant space for several decades after WWII.

Aside from what the name itself describes, the short-course dormitory buildings are particularly interesting because we really don’t know much about them, giving Campus Archaeology an excellent opportunity to survey the area for any remnants of these buildings that may give us more insight into their structure and function. Prior to breaking ground however, we did a thorough search of the MSU archives and online campus records to try and find out as much about these structures as possible. Much to my surprise, there was nothing, not just too little to work with but a literal void in any records about the existence of these buildings. As such, the only proof that the short course dormitories ever stood is their presence on campus maps appearing in the post WWII years through 1969, as well as the rare passing mention in transcripts of interviews with former students and faculty.

Based on the size and shape of the dormitory buildings on historic maps of campus, as well as the University’s trend in the post WWII era of constructing temporary Quonset dormitories, cafeterias, and classroom buildings in an (albeit quite successful) attempt to house the influx of military veterans attending the University on the newly drafted GI bill, we can reasonably presume that the short course dormitory buildings were similarly Quonset style structures. Constructed of corrugated steel, Quonset huts were generally built atop a foundation of concrete pilings, wood planks, or nothing at all, meaning that if the short course dormitories were in fact Quonsets, we could expect to find remnants of concrete, wood planks, or nothing. While not the wealth of information we were looking for, we hoped that the archaeological record would be more revealing.

Without knowing the exact location of the dormitories however, we relied on a general grid test-pit survey of the entire courtyard to find remnants of these buildings (among others), but again, there was little to indicate the presence of any structures. While there was a general assortment of brick, charcoal, and small pieces of concrete throughout People’s Park, there were never any concentrations or patterns of these discoveries to indicate a structure. Further, the only notably large pieces of concrete that we discovered turned out to be large broken chunks of sidewalk.

As such, our recent search for the short course dormitory structures shows that not all archaeological research, even that of semi-recent history results in answers on the first try. To continue the search we may have to look in other archives around campus, or try to find out the colloquial names for each of these buildings that may result in more information than did our searches for ‘short course dormitories,’ so that next time we return to the field, we will be better equipped to find the remnants of this part of our campus history.