Tag: excavation

Noteworthy: Digging Into What People Choose to Write Down

Noteworthy: Digging Into What People Choose to Write Down

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 

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 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!

 

Author: Katy Meyers Emery

#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 

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 

Summer Fieldwork Catch-up

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.

 

 

Author: Kate Frederick

People’s Park: the Short Course Dormitories

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 

Munn Field: Blacksmithing or Trash Pit?

Munn Field: Blacksmithing or Trash Pit?

For the past two weeks, we have been surveying in Munn Field prior to the installation of new astroturf. Last week, a test pit on the western side of the field caused some excitement! It revealed a puzzling amount of iron wire. The wire didn’t 

Summer CAP Crew

Summer CAP Crew

Meet the summer CAP crew.

Ian Harrison

As the summer field season begins, I would just like to introduce myself as one of the undergraduate campus archaeologists. I am dual majored in Anthropology and Geography, and am going into my final year here at MSU.  While taking summer classes on campus, the CAP program wound up being the perfect fit for me to be able to simultaneously take classes while still being able to stay involved with archaeology (ie. not missing a field season and learning more than I ever thought I could about our campus’ history to boot). Otherwise, I am looking at graduate programs in underwater and Mediterranean archaeology that will ideally land me somewhere off the coast of Southern Europe searching for sunken bronze and iron age shipwrecks in another 4-8 years, but, one step at a time. I have already greatly enjoyed this summer in the field on campus thus far, and look forward to spending the rest of the summer with everyone.

 

Bethany Slon

As a recent graduate of MSU, I am happy to say that I will be working with CAP for one last summer before leaving East Lansing. I started working with Campus Archaeology in the summer of 2012 as a volunteer, and the following fall semester I began work as an intern under the direction of Dr. Goldstein and Kay Meyers. My research involved looking at the early years of the Women’s Building (later called Morrill Hall) and gathering information about the first female students who lived in this dorm. I presented this information at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, linking it to Campus Archaeology and what the demolition of Morrill Hall meant to us. I’ll be working with the CAP summer team until July, and ten I’ll be leaving for a six month stay in Mexico, in which I’ll be assisting in an excavation outside of Mexico City. Additionally, I have hopes of someday using what I’ve learned from my experiences to continue my research of the ancient Maya in a bioarchaeology graduate program. Archaeology has always been a passion of mine, and I am lucky to have found this experience with Campus Archaeology, both to broaden my skills as an archaeologist and to do what I love.

 

Caroline Dunham

I am unusual here in the Campus Archaeology crew in that I am not an anthropology student, or even an MSU student. I am a student in LCC’s paralegal program, but archaeology is a big interest of mine. I also have been doing it since I was a kid because my dad is Dr. Sean Dunham, a recent Ph.D. grad from MSU’s Department of Anthropology. This is my second year of working with CAP; my first was in 2012.  I have also worked on numerous Cultural Resource Management (CRM) projects through CCRG. After I get my associates degree, I am considering either law school or an anthropology degree.

 

Josh Schnell

I just finished my sophomore year at MSU as an undergraduate Anthropology student with an additional Religious Studies major. I have been working with Campus Archaeology since February of 2013 when I began an internship learning how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software in an archaeological context. This my second summer working as a member of the Campus Archaeology summer team. This past year, I expanded my GIS experience and skills and presented the results of a GIS-based project investigating MSU’s Sacred Space at UURAF in the spring. This summer, we are looking to further expand CAP’s GIS work in a series of map overlays that will enhance our pre-digging research. I eventually want to be a bioarchaeologist working with the ancient Maya. My desire to become an archaeologist was actually fueled by my fascination with the ancient Maya sparked by a freshman year World History class. I am particularly interested in ritual and how it is expressed on the landscape and in power systems with an emphasis on mortuary contexts. I was recently awarded an assistantship next year for a research project under the direction of Dr. Goldstien that will allow me to further investigate these topics. I hope that this summer with CAP will give me another opportunity to further develop my field skills.

Safety First

Safety First

While digging the newly recovered structure by Ag Hall last week, we came across an old pipe that was covered in a fabric material. We were immediately concerned that this material was asbestos. Even though we were on a tight time crunch (the construction companies