While the ground may be covered with inches of snow, CAP is looking ahead to plan for summer construction, in addition to our undergraduate archaeological field school. As you would have read in a previous blog post, the field school will be taking place near […]
Tag: field school
Still searching for an archaeology field school for this summer? The Campus Archaeology Program will be offering a field school—right here on MSU’s campus—from May 13 to June 7, 2019. A field school is one of the best ways to learn what it takes to […]
Chris Stawski was involved with Campus Archaeology at its inception, beginning as an archaeological technician in the summer of 2008. Chris also held the position of Campus Archaeologist during the 2010-2011 academic year. During his tenure with CAP, he was a crew chief twice during the Campus Archaeology Summer Field School, and helped to create the framework for a Geographic Information System database for campus archaeological and historical research and analysis.
Chris earned his PhD from Michigan State University with a focus on archaeology in 2012, and since has been applying his skills in higher education, where he had taught for 5 years as an adjunct faculty member in the Anthropology Department at San Francisco State University.
Chris currently works at the University of California Berkeley’s Extension Program, and assists the Dean’s Office in project management and research. It is in this position that he uses his skills first developed working as Campus Archaeologist, which include establishing and maintaining campus partnerships, effectively communicating with external stakeholders and departments, and collaborating in multi-disciplinary research.
Q: You were in of the first groups of CAP fellows, what was it like when you were all establishing the program and how did it change over your tenure?
A: While CAP was first being established, the focus was on trying to figure out what we were working with archaeologically and trying to get a sense of the history and pre-history of the campus. A parallel focus was trying to be good campus partners. I took a lot of meetings with folks across campus to help foster collaboration and to make sure people knew who we were and what our mission was. This was where Dr. Goldstein was so successful in the early years of CAP, and its due to her laying the groundwork for these relationships that made CAP a truly successful program.
A: As things went on, people started to take more notice, and we emphasized the outreach in an effort to engage both the internal community at MSU, the larger archaeological community, as well as the local East Lansing community. The summer field schools were a great success in this respect, and really made people aware of what we were doing on campus. Archaeologically, over time we got a good handle on the landscape and what we may expect to find, and started building models that were informed by the survey and excavations we did. This led to more structure for the program, more opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate participation, and more research.
Q: What was your year as Campus Archaeologist like?
A: My year as Campus Archaeologist was spent organizing. I worked with some very excellent undergraduate interns, and together we helped to curate, standardize and structure the artifact collection for CAP. That was a big undertaking, but very helpful for all future collections. My own personal project was to build the framework for a Geographic Information System (GIS) for the archaeological investigations we did. It was pretty bare bones in the beginning, but subsequent people at CAP have improved upon the database and structure since I left. My final months as Campus Archaeologist were spent helping to run the 2nd ever CAP Summer Field School.
Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Campus Archaeologist?
A: My biggest challenge was social media. Terry Brock and Dr. Goldstein were so good at using these platforms for CAP, and I was completely illiterate in terms of Twitter and Facebook. But I kept at it because that was a crucial way in which we interacted with the public. As an archaeological program, I would have to imagine that we were a very early adopter of social media, especially Twitter. I have since gotten a bit better with Twitter, but it is still not my strong suit 🙂
Q: What was your favorite part of CAP (highlights)?
A: My favorite parts of CAP were the summer field schools, working with the undergraduate interns on their projects and seeing them present at the undergrad symposium, and just being in the field. You never knew when you may be called in to go to a construction site, or be asked to do some initial investigation of an area. It was so fun loading up my truck and heading out with my peers to go excavate on a nice fall day. Those are some of my fondest memories from my time at MSU.
Q: What were the major projects that you work on/with fellows on?
A: Like I had mentioned earlier, one of the biggest projects was curating and providing a structure to the artifact database at CAP. The other major project was the Faculty Row project, which was a huge construction undertaking in the oldest part of campus. That was my first major project, andI spent all summer helping to oversee and mitigate the major earth moving being done. That was also the first time we used GIS at CAP. We found a great map of the old Faculty Row buildings, and I was able to take that map and overlay it on the current aerial imagery of campus to get a better idea of where we may find archaeological sensitive areas and material.
Q: What are you currently working on now?
A:Currently I am the executive assistant to the Dean of the UC Berkeley Extension Program. I help to manage the Dean’s Office as well aid in managing projects, research and analysis related to the mission of the program. Prior to this role, I was an adjunct lecturer in the Anthropology Department at San Francisco State University.
Q: What was the most important thing you got out of CAP? How do you bring what you learned in CAP to what you do now?
A: For me, CAP was the best example of how you do archaeology and research in higher education, while simultaneously being a good campus partner and engaging in multi-disciplinary and cross-departmental collaboration. It helped to take me out of my “anthro/arch” bubble, and showed me the value of inclusivity and teamwork. Good research must take on a collaborative aspect, and you must be diverse in how you approach your work. Whether that is a diversity of people, different perspectives and viewpoints, or a variety of departments/programs, it is an essential aspect of all the work I have done since my time at CAP.
I want to thank Chris Stawski for allowing me to interview him and for his excellent perspectives into the early years of the Campus Archaeology Program.
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 […]
While archaeologists are trained in a number of different skills and techniques, there is one thing that all archaeologists know and love: shovels. Shovels are just as much a part of archaeology as the ubiquitous trowel, and even lend their name to the title of […]
While archaeologists are great at identifying artifacts that we recover, we occasionally find objects that are a mystery. Even on campus, we sometimes find intriguing objects in our excavations that take some investigative work to identify. One group of objects that has piqued our interest were a number of small black cylinders recovered during the 2015 CAP field school at the late 19th-early 20th century Gunson site. Ambiguous enough to make finding a function difficult, the current Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright suggested that they might have originally served as carbon rods within batteries. After doing some research, she appears to be right!
Carbon rods are found in the center of zinc-carbon batteries, today’s basic household battery. In general, these batteries produce energy through chemical reactions that take place between their component parts. As these reactions release energy, the centrally placed carbon rod functions as a positive electrode, helping to funnel the released energy into whatever device the battery is powering (Frood 2003; Schumm 2011). These batteries can come in both flat or cylindrical forms, and can be stacked together to generate even larger electric potential (Schumm 2011). Based on the shape and the length of the carbon rods recovered by CAP, it is likely that they originated from within cylinder batteries.
If, like me, you tend to image the late 18th-early 19th century as battery free, they actually have a much deeper history than many realize. The first batteries that we know of were actually created centuries ago, sometime between 200 B.C. or A.D. 600. Known as “Baghdad Batteries,” these devices, constructed from metal and liquid components placed in clay jars, were capable of producing a small electric charge, but it is unknown how they would have been used (Frood 2003). Much later, in 1866, the same concepts were used by Georges-Lionel LeClanche to invent the LeClanche wet cell battery. Housed in a glass mason jar, this early battery was used to power important technologies like telegraph machines and railroad signals. In 1888, Carl Gassner improved this model and created the first dry cell battery, which used a solid medium instead of a liquid one. This improvement made these batteries spill-proof, and are the ancestor of all of our modern batteries today (Schumm 2011). Both wet and dry cell batteries utilized carbon rods to help channel the battery’s energy, but based on the dates from the Gunson site (late 19th-early 20th century), these rods would have been from dry cell batteries.
Batteries may have had numerous roles on campus. Starting in the 1890s, MSU officials were working on initiatives to power many parts of campus through the use of electricity (Meeting Minutes of Offices of Board of Trustees and President 1892, 1894, 1898). A few departments also requested and received funding to purchase electrical equipment for power sources and experiments. For example, in 1890 and 1895, the College approved the purchase of a mysterious “electric apparatus” for two different professors (Meeting Minutes of Offices of the Board of Trustees and President 1890, 1895). In 1898, they also approved the purchase of an electrical motor to power the equipment within the mechanical shops (Meeting Minutes of Offices of the Board of Trustees and President 1898). Batteries are also occasionally mentioned, as in 1904, when a large storage battery (think like a large car battery) was purchased and installed for the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering (M.A.C. Record, Dec. 13th, 1904). Batteries also may have been used to power technologies mentioned earlier, such as communication equipment.
It is hard to know how Gunson, a horticulturalist by trade, would have used these batteries. While it is likely that he and his family may have used them within their home for some purpose, another clue is found in an 1896 edition of the M.A.C. Record. Within, there is a small discussion of an experiment conducted by a few men in Chicago, who used electricity produced by an electric engine and then storage batteries attached to a cart to kill weeds along a railroad line (M.A.C, Record, Oct. 20th, 1896). While the validity of such experiments is called into question by this article, it shows that people in many scientific fields were experimenting with electricity during this time, even horticulturalists and botanists. As such, some of the batteries we have recovered may have served household functions, but others may have been used in experiments conducted in Gunson’s greenhouse or around the campus grounds.
2003 “Riddle of ‘Baghdad Batteries.’” BBC News website. Accessed Feb. 7th, 2018.
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
1896 M.A.C. Record, October 20th, 1896.
1904 M.A.C. Record, December 13th, 1904.
1890 Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
1892 Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
1894 Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
1895 Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
1898 Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
Schumm, Brooke Jr.
2011 Zin-Carbon Batteries. In Linden’s Handbook of Batteries, edited by Thomas B. Reddy and David Linden. McGraw Hill, Columbus OH.
During this past summer’s field school, our six-person team excavated the remains of a building known as Station Terrace, which once stood on Abbot Road, just a stone’s throw from where the MSU Union currently stands. Following the field school, all of the artifacts we […]
As this field school comes to an end, I sit to reflect on what an awesome journey this has been. When the field school first started, I was a little nervous about the type of work that we were going to be doing because I had never used a shovel or trowel before. I had never dug anything in my life. So being a part of this experience was going to help me learn new skills and techniques.
Starting off in Unit C, helped me get the practice that I needed to understand the different steps that are part of an archaeological excavation. Learning everything from measuring and digging a 2×2 meter unit, to marking the coordinates to screening the soil, to doing a Munsell Test.
One of my favorite things to do was doing the Munsell test because it was challenging in the sense that I had to pay close attention to the texture and different colors in the soil. Paying close attention to the soil to tell whether it had a more dull or bright color to it and figuring out a way of identifying the right shade so it could match the color seen by the professor. Making observations and being descriptive is very important because it tells us more about its history.
I also found it interesting to see the different colors and textures of the soil as we went deeper in the unit. I remember back in Week 2 when Alex and I were working on level two and three and there was a spot on the floor that looked like mac-n-cheese. So whenever I tell my friends and coworkers about the dig, I mention this to them because it is easier for them to understand what I am saying when I describe the experience and what I see when I use words that they can understand.
Even though this field school required a lot of physical work, I would definitely do it again. It is definitely worth it and it is very enriching. I am an Anthropology major student, not an Archaeology student, but this helped me understand part of our school’s history in a more material and physical context.