Tag: excavation

Summer 2018 Recap

Summer 2018 Recap

This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an […]

Continuing Preparations for Summer Construction on Campus

Continuing Preparations for Summer Construction on Campus

As the weather warms and summer gets closer, the Campus Archaeology Program is gearing up for yet another busy season. While our excavations occur primarily in the summer, months of planning and preparation take place before the first trowel is stuck in the dirt. Many […]

1882 Indian Head Penny

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

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 […]

Campus Archaeology Summer Work Update #1

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, […]

Noteworthy: Digging Into What People Choose to Write Down

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 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 […]

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

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 […]

#womendigging

#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

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

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 […]