The Real Scoop on Why Station Terrace Housed a Shovel

High School volunteer Spencer holding the shovel blade from Station Terrace

High School volunteer Spencer holding the shovel blade from Station Terrace

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 hard working archaeologists who dig for their supper, shovel bums. Every archaeologist can recognize many types of shovels, and we all know what situations they are best for during excavation. So, it is always fun when we get to use a shovel to dig one up.

During CAP’s 2017 field school at Station Terrace, just such an event occurred. In Unit F, placed within the interior of the building, a large shovel blade was recovered by students (Bright 2017). At about 14 inches wide, 17 inches long, and 4.5 inches deep (give or take a quarter of an inch or so of rust), this was a large metal shovel that, based on its deep well, was designed for scooping (McLeod n.d.). Due to its scoop appearance, this shovel may have been a large-scale mover of things, such as coal, grain, gravel, mulch, etc. But this begs the question: why was this type of shovel in Station Terrace?

Station Terrace in the winter, date unknown.  Note the walkways cleared of snow around the building

Station Terrace in the winter, date unknown.  Note the walkways cleared of snow around the building. Image source

Station Terrace, which stood on campus from the early 1890’s until 1924, served many functions during its relatively short life as part of MSU. Early on, it was used as housing for visiting researchers and then for unmarried male instructors, during which it received the great nickname of “the Bull Pen.” From 1903 to 1923, Station Terrace was used as the East Lansing Post Office, while a front room served as a trolley car waiting room. In 1921, the waiting room was turned into a small café, known as the Flower Pot Tea Room (Bright 2016; Michael 2017). Thanks to a house fire in 1903, exterior photographs and the one existing photograph of one of the bedrooms, we know that the building had at least one chimney pre-1910 and two post 1910 expansion(Bright 2016); indicating it had fire places and possibly some other source of internal heating, but there is no mention of a large coal-burning stove that would have required a large shovel for moving coal. It also does not appear that any of the buildings many functions would have required the movement of large amounts of scoop-able materials, unless the post office moved letters and packages by shovel.

Photo of the room of F.B. Mumford c. 1894. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

So why was this shovel kept in Station Terrace? To me, the mystery of how objects were used in the past can be just as much fun as uncovering tidbits of history that have been lost for thousands of years. Humans are an amazingly creative bunch, meaning that we use objects in many different ways. For example, my wife uses a high-ball glass not for drinking, but for cutting dough to make pierogis. We rarely use this glass for anything else at home; it is reserved for a purpose that many people would not expect. I think the Station Terrace shovel was used in a similar manner. While it may have at one point served to shovel coal, grain, or other materials, I think it was used as a snow shovel at Station Terrace. Being located in Michigan, MSU gets a lot of snow. As Station Terrace served as a post office and trolley stop, moving vehicles, people, and mail carts would have regularly needed access to the building. Snow and ice would have impeded this accessibility, so snow removal was, and still is, essential. As this blog by Tim Heffernan attests, old coal shovels make great snow removal devices thanks to their weight and their metal blades. In the end, it is very difficult to know exactly how this object was used, but context clues suggest that it might have completed a number of jobs in its life, some that are easier to imagine, others that will continue to be a mystery.

References Cited

Bright, Lisa
2016   “Station Terrace: A Building with Many Identities.” Campus Archaeology Blog.

2017   “2017 Field School Recap: Station Terrace.” Campus Archaeology Blog.

McLeod, Danielle
n.d.   “Types of Shovels: Your Complete Guide to What Works Best Where.”

Michael, Amy
2017   “The Flower Pot Tea Room: A Female-Run Student Business on the Early Campus.” Campus Archaeology Blog.

An Electrifying Discovery: Early Batteries on MSU’s Campus

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.

Diagram of the interior of a modern zinc-carbon battery, found on the UPS Battery Center blog

Diagram of the interior of a modern zinc-carbon battery, found on the UPS Battery Center blog. Image source

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.

Image of an early zinc-carbon battery, produced by the National Carbon Co. at the end of the 19th century.

Image of an early zinc-carbon battery, produced by the National Carbon Co. at the end of the 19th century. Image source

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.



References Cited

Frood, Arran
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.


Welcome to the Jungle… of Nails

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 had discovered were washed and placed into bags that identify the unit, and the level of said unit, each artifact had been recovered. As a result, CAP now has over sixty bags of unsorted artifacts collected from both this summer’s field school and the shovel test pits (STPs) conducted at Station Terrace in 2016. Now, as an intern for CAP, my primary responsibility is to go through each of the six units and additional STPs – one by one, level by level – and sort through and catalogue all of these artifacts.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

Josh and Kaleigh excavate the Unit A feature.

Ask anyone involved in the excavations at Station Terrace, and they will assure you the most commonly found artifacts at the site were corroded construction nails. Seeing as how the building experienced fire damage and was subsequently remodeled, plus an expansion in 1910, our discovery of an overwhelming number of nails is not completely surprising. As a result, after all the artifacts have been sorted based on material type – i.e. ceramic vs. bone vs. glass vs. metal – the nails are then further categorized based on their typology. This means that I am sorting the nails based on their length, whether they are square cut nails vs. wire nails, and whether they are common flat head nails vs. brad or any other type of specialized nail. Each of the six excavated units contained a significant number of nails, but Unit A’s Feature 1 and Unit B’s ‘Layer o’ Nails’ by far contain the most. Needless to say, sorting through and categorizing the hundreds of excavated nails is proving to be an extremely time-consuming task. For example, it has taken me an entire month –working three hours a week in the lab– to sort through Unit A in its entirety. Furthermore, at the time of this publication, I have been sorting through Unit B’s Layer o’ Nails for three weeks now, and expect to finish this level during my next scheduled lab day.

Kaleigh Perry sorts nails from Station Terrace.

Kaleigh Perry sorts nails from Station Terrace.

The nails we recovered from Station Terrace are being given an unusually large amount of attention. At historic sites  nails are typically found in large quantities, and are used for diagnostic dating  but typically they are not the focus of larger research questions. As a result, they are usually placed in a single bag and simply counted and weighted. However, since nails were the primary artifact discovered during the field school, and thus practically the only material we have in our possession to further study Station Terrace, they require a detailed analysis.

Nail profiles can be immensely informative in determining the general timeframe in which a structure has been built or remodeled. Given this fact, I have decided to conduct a research project on these nails in which I will attempt to use nail typology to focus on modifications made to Station Terrace over the building’s lifetime. In addition to examining nail typology, I am planning to use portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) on a handful of nails to determine which type of metal – iron, steel, or perhaps something else – these nails are composed of. Through combining these methods, I am hoping to test the plausibility of determining which nails were likely used in the original construction of the building and which ones were likely used during the renovations following the 1903 fire. However, the experiments using the pXRF are not likely to occur for another few weeks, which means I have some more time to continue sorting through the nails and selecting samples I believe will be the most informative in my analysis of the building’s construction.

Historic nail typology. Image source.

Historic nail typology. Image source.

Despite how long it is taking me to categorize these artifacts, I find myself enjoying the work. Since nails are such a common commodity that is so often overlooked, reading literature on how this technology has evolved over time is rather interesting. By combing through said publications, I am becoming proficient in identifying different types of nails, in addition to learning what kinds of tasks these different types were typically used for – whether it is to mount siding to the exterior of a building, installing roof shingles, or securing floorboards. I will admit that out of all the archaeological topics to become well-versed in, or even in which to develop a fleeting interest, construction nails may seem like an odd subject matter. However, society’s oversight of this simple, yet indispensable, piece of technology has sparked my curiosity about how nails can be productively used to interpret archaeological sites. Thus, as strange as it may sound, the research I am conducting on the Station Terrace nails is turning out to be rather fascinating and informative.


2017 Field School Recap: Station Terrace

Stone wall from Station Terrace basement

Stone foundation wall uncovered by 2016 survey.

The 2017 Campus Archaeology field school is done! This year the field school ran from May 30th – June 30th.  The goal for this field school was to excavate at the site of Station Terrace. CAP surveyed this area in 2016 ahead of the Abbot Entrance rejuvenation project. One of our test pits uncovered a stone foundation, so we opened up a 2 meter x 2 meter test unit to investigate further.  The stone wall started almost 1 meter below the ground surface, and terminated just over 2 meters below ground surface.  The east side of the wall was filled with large boulders, but had a cement floor (including a pair of men’s shoes!), leading us to believe that this was likely the interior of the building.  The west side of the wall contained a large area of burnt material and cultural debris – including the complete Sanford library paste jar.  There were also two large ceramic pipes running along the bottom of the foundation wall.

Sanford's Library Paste Jar discovered at Station Terrace - Image Source: Lisa Bright

Sanford’s Library Paste Jar discovered at Station Terrace – Image Source: Lisa Bright

Even with extensive research there was still many things we still didn’t know about Station Terrace.  We don’t know the exact construction date (it’s sometime between 1890-1895), no blue prints have been found, and although we know generally what the building was used for (extension faculty housing, bachelor faculty housing, East Lansing post office, trolley waiting room, Flower Pot tea room) the details remained elusive.  So, it was decided that the 2017 field school would excavate more of Station Terrace. Thankfully IPF was incredibly helpful this year, and had a backhoe remove the first 2 1/2 – 3 feet of overburden and dig OSHA compliant terracing around the site.

We had a small group of students this year but much was accomplished.  A total of six units were excavated.

Unit A

Unit A was placed with the unit’s west wall along the building foundation.  This unit also slightly overlapped with the 2016 test pit in the northwest corner.  In addition to more of the foundation wall (including a corner), a concentration of large boulder debris, Kaleigh and Josh uncovered the ceramic pipes along the foundation base, and hit more of the burn feature.

Josh Eads and Kaleigh Perry work to excavate under the large ceramic pipes located along the foundation wall in Unit A.

Josh Eads and Kaleigh Perry work to excavate under the large ceramic pipes located along the foundation wall in Unit A.

Unit A West Wall - showing foundation wall, builders trench, and ceramic pipes.

Unit A West Wall – showing foundation wall, builders trench, and ceramic pipes.

Unit A North Wall - Amazing stratigraphy showing prior unit, burn feature, and fill.

Unit A North Wall – Amazing stratigraphy showing prior unit, burn feature, and fill.

Unit B

Unit B was placed at the southern end of the field school excavation area.  Though this unit did not hit any structural portion of the building, they had a dense layer of nails directly below a layer of clay, a brick concentration along the northern wall, and a large cement pad along the south wall.  The cement pad will require further research, but it’s possible that it is associated with the trolley.

Unit B south wall - large cement pad.

Unit B south wall – large cement pad.

Unit B west wall - brick concentration and gravel layer.

Unit B west wall – brick concentration and gravel layer.

Unit C

Unit C was placed near the eastern limit of the field school excavation.  This unit was closed early as it became apparent that a modern trench transected most of the unit, and there were very limited amounts of artifacts.

Unit C floor - modern trench disturbance visible.

Unit C floor – modern trench disturbance visible.

Unit D

Unit D was opened after Unit C was closed.  This required the manual removal of the extra over burden as the excavations in Unit’s A and B allowed us to target the interior of the building, as well as follow the corner of the wall in Unit A.  Unit D, excavated mainly by Jerica and Alex, had the foundation wall bisect the unit. The south side of the wall is likely a builders trench full of mostly sterile sand. The north side of the wall had many large boulders (likely wall fall from the building being moved). This side also had the cement floor and more intact artifacts closer to this floor; a complete Curtice Brothers ketchup bottle and part of a rubber boot were recovered. There was also a capped drain through the cement floor.

Unit D during excavation. Stone foundation wall and boulder fill.

Unit D during excavation. Stone foundation wall and boulder fill.

Unit D after excavation. The cement floor, foundation wall, and builders trench pictured.

Unit D after excavation. The cement floor, foundation wall, and builders trench pictured.

Unit E

Unit E was opened between Unit D and B to determine if any further structural components of the building were present. Unit E did hit the brick concentration found in Unit B, but artifacts were sparse so the unit was closed to concentrate on our units.

Unit E - brick concentration in upper left corner.

Unit E – brick concentration in upper left corner.

Unit F

Unit F, a 1×2 meter unit, was opened directly north of Unit D in order to investigate more of the building interior.  Unfortunately due to spacial restrictions from the road and newly planted trees limited areas additional units could be placed.  Similar to the northern portion of Unit D, Unit F encountered several large boulders and the cement floor. This unit also had several large artifacts, including a metal bucket and a coal shovel.

Unit F - large stones, in situ shovel.

Unit F – large stones, in situ shovel.

High school volunteer Spencer W holds the shovel from Unit F.

High school volunteer Spencer W holds the shovel from Unit F.

The artifact cleaning, sorting, cataloging and report writing had just begun. Stay turned for more posts this fall about things learned from the field school.



Wrapping up the official field school

Jerica working in Unit D.

Jerica working in Unit D.

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.


Wrapping Up (For Most of Us, Anyway)

Lets just have a little wrap up of what the site looked like when we left today, what I did this week, and what’s happening next.

This week I continued to excavate in Unit D with help from Jerica on Tuesday and Wednesday and Becca today (Thursday). At the end of today we were down a bit shy of 70cm on our fourth level. Level four has been particularly difficult because it has a lot of larger rocks in it. In fact, when Jerica and I were digging 20cm guide holes at the start of this level we ended up starting skimming without having a Northwest corner guide hole at all because I got down to about a 60cm depth and hit rocks covering the entire bottom of the hole. Expanding the hole just led to finding more rocks so Dr Goldstein and Lisa decided we could just go on without it.

While Becca was helping me skim down this afternoon, holes started opening between the rocks (of which there were 15-20 depending on where you draw the line between a small rock and a big stone). Becca had to leave early today so after she left I mapped out where the rocks currently exposed were and then Lisa removed the majority of the rocks that were in the level so we’d be able to keep going down past them to finish out the level.  There were two or three that were in so deep that they were in the next level some so we couldn’t remove them yet but there is actually enough space to fit a shovel in across the majority of the level which is a change from before it.

Unit D large stones in level 4.

Unit D large stones in level 4.

Unit D after the larger stones were removed (after mapping).

Unit D after the larger stones were removed (after mapping).

At the end of the day…

  • Unit F has only produced a few small artifacts per level despite Josh B. and Spencer’s best efforts.
  • Unit E stayed closed all day with no one to work in it (though Susan Kooiman and Becca were working in there yesterday).
  • Unit B is so deep that Dr Goldstein had to bring in a step ladder for Cooper and Desiree to use to get in and out. They feel very isolated in their unit, you can’t see them most of the time and the walls muffle all of the sound from outside of it so they can’t easily participate in any of the conversations going on across the other units.
  • Unit A has passed their own large rock layer and found two pipes. One is a broken off terracotta one in the wall that’s strange flat bottom that implies that it is an old sewer pipe (a realization that came about after Kayleigh had stuck her hand in it to clean it out). The other pipe, a bit lower than the first, was also terracotta but wasn’t broken off. It ran all the way across the western wall of their unit.

What happens next


The field crew and a few members of our group including Cooper, Becca, and both Joshs will be returning to the field on Monday to spend a week or so finishing up everything we didn’t get done during the month we’ve been working.

CAP Field School: The Final Countdown

Unit B brick feature.

Unit B brick feature.

The field school is coming to a close soon and although we’ve made a lot of progress in Unit B, we still have a lot to accomplish during this last week. We are currently over a meter deep, which has made getting in and out of the unit difficult, and we are still finding things. We haven’t found many artifacts, but we did come across a brick feature and the bottom of the cement wall mentioned in my previous blog post.

The brick feature was found in our northwest corner while we were digging our level 7 guide holes. It consisted of many bricks that seemed to be clustered together in no particular pattern and were different colors. Many were clustered in the northwest corner but a few other bricks were also found near the north wall. After mapping the brick feature, we realized that some bricks were stuck in the wall. Besides those stuck in the wall, we pulled the bricks out and checked to see if any of them had makers marks. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any makers marks on any of the bricks, however we did notice that most of the bricks were pretty light and seemed cheaply made. This caused us to speculate that these bricks could have been made locally. However, without any makers marks, there isn’t much that we can do with these bricks in the lab. However, they seem to make excellent tarp weights! The fact that this brick feature was found so deep is interesting and I’m curious to find out if we will find more as we dig deeper.

Cement feature along south wall of Unit B.

Cement feature along south wall of Unit B.

Finally finding the bottom of the cement wall in out unit has raised some more questions about its place at Station Terrace. It seems to be too thick too be a walkway or sidewalk and where it stops doesn’t seem even. Now, this could be due to erosion. However, from what we can see, a mold wasn’t used which further supports the theory that this was not a walkway. Also, the gravel layer we found along our west wall seems to be related to cement but it’s a little unusual. The gravel layer is only visible along the west wall despite the fact that the cement wall extends across the entire unit and is very distinct. This has lead us to believe that the cement wall could have been part of the trolley turn around and gravel was placed leading up to the wall. It’s still very unusual that it’s only along the west wall.

Gravel layer along west wall of Unit B.

Gravel layer along west wall of Unit B.

Throughout my time as a CAP field school student I have learned a lot about what archaeology is like in practice. I’ve learned the basic procedures and how to think about context. Most importantly, I think I’ve learned to think about the bigger picture and ask questions when I find something. (How does this connect to other units? What does this mean in the context of Station Terrace? What does this mean in the context of MSU?) Although I knew that those questions were important, it was hard for me to think about them when finding artifacts. Things that we may not think are significant can be significant in certain contexts. Our nail layer just seemed like a bunch of nails, but it became something noteworthy because of the context. This experience has helped me to think more like an archaeologist and I can’t wait to see what we can discover in this last week.

Final Week

Working hard at the field school!

Working hard at the field school!

After completion of nearly five weeks of the field school, it is finally coming to an end. Since the first day, our work area, the pit, has changed quite a bit. Unit C has come and gone and has been completely filled up with screened dirt, and three more units have popped up near the Station Terrace wall where we have been excavating. The process has truly been something else. For starters, my body aches, my knees hurt, and I’m constantly tired, so this is some pretty tough labor. Secondly, working with other people in the pit is kind of an intimate process. You definitely get to know the people around you to some degree, especially the squadmate in your Unit. It’s an interesting experience. I know that if this wasn’t a class, we would probably go out to a bar or get something to eat, so our time together is coming to an end and hopefully I’ll see my fellow pit buddies throughout my last semester at MSU.

The limitations of starting this project with only six students has also been apparent. I’ve felt the pressure to do my job quickly and accurately to make up for our small group, but and even though the process has been slow, it has also been sweet. The number one thing that I try to keep in mind is that I’m partaking in archaeology’s greatest past-time, digging. My trowel and my body are both acting in tandem to uncover secrets of the past. Sure, I may not be in Egypt or South America, digging in an un-excavated tomb,  but I am still traveling through time, learning about what it was like on campus in the late 1800’s.

Kaleigh and Josh map a level floor.

Kaleigh and Josh map a level floor.

This is a class, and as such I’ve learned quite a bit. Firstly, I’ve learned to take care of my body. I don’t want my knees to explode and I want to be a healthy old man one day, so now I know I need to stretch and I need to keep weight and tension off of my knees while I work. Secondly, I learned that the feelings of my fellow classmates/workers matters greatly. Having someone or something negatively impact the mentality of a fellow coworker can be disastrous, both for the mindset of the archaeologist and also in regards to how much work can and will be done. Working together, being patient, caring about one another, and understanding where everyone comes from is crucial for the sake of the project and for the sake of the humanity of the people you are around for 7 hours a day.

And the final thing I’ve learned is something that hasn’t necessarily been taught directly. I’ve learned how important archaeology is to history and culture. We would be lost without the understanding of who people were in the past through analysis of their material culture. Even if written documents exist in a particular time period, excavation of artifacts yields such a tremendous amount of knowledge about who people were and what they did that I honestly believe that we would be blind about history without archaeology. I’ll take what I have learned from Anthro and apply it for the rest of my life, and hopefully, if you have read these blogs from these humble students, you have learned something too.

Thank you.

Finishing up the Field School

Our last week has certainly been eventful, we have all been working hard to finish up before Friday, while also having a lot of visitors come by to learn more about what we were excavating.  Last Wednesday a Vacation Bible School group came to learn about Archaeology and looking at artifacts that we had found.  They had a great time screening dirt and finding artifacts like nails.  Today Dr. Goldstein hosted a lecture for Grandparents University so some grandparents and their grandchildren also came out to see what we were working on, some were really interested in our unit and some of the artifacts we were finding like the bone in our west wall.

Northwest corner of Unit B showing gravel layer and brick concentration.

Northwest corner of Unit B showing gravel layer and brick concentration.

While shovel skimming to get deeper we started finding a large number bricks in the northwest corner and there were a few more following the north wall.  They mostly seemed to be broken fragments.  There was one large, intact brick running along the middle of our eastern wall.  We had to map each brick, and then pull them up while troweling so we could try and find a mark identifying who made it.  We were hoping the one brick not broken would be the one to tell us, but it too had no mark.  When we pulled it up, we could see another brick that was laid beside it going into the eastern wall.  The intact brick and a few other pieces seem to have small breaks almost like stress fractures as if it used to support something heavy that was laid across it, one theory is that it could have to do with supporting the trolley.

Cooper and Desiree excavating Unit B.

Cooper and Desiree excavating Unit B.

We finally got to the bottom of the cement structure that could be a piece of the trolley turnaround, has told us that it is most likely not a sidewalk because of how thick it is.  We are deep enough that we can see how interesting our stratigraphy is.  The gravel layer seems to come out from the middle of the cement feature, suggesting that it could have been poured as a walkway or at least at the same time the feature was built.  In the northwest corner near the bricks it looks like it could be connected to the gravel layer, almost like the bricks were dumped first and the gravel was poured over it.  We also found a piece of glass right outside the pile of bricks near the northwest corner.

IPF came out again to help with roots in the newly opened Unit F.  The roots were so thick that they actually broke the first axe they brought so someone ended up having to come back with another later in the day.    Unit A found a piece of a pipe coming out of the center of the southern wall, which if it is not just a broken piece, could continue into Unit E, which also could have more pieces of our brick feature and the gravel layer.  We should finish up our next level early in the morning, hoping to find out more answer about what our cement feature could be.


Goodbye Unit C, Hello Unit D

Beginning of the wall in Unit D.

Beginning of the wall in Unit D.

After working in Unit C for three weeks, with unsuccessful attempts at finding much of anything, it was decided that the unit was going to be closed. My field school partner and I were moved to Unit D. Unit D features a perpendicular wall that intersects the wall found in Unit A. This wall averages 50 centimeters in width and runs west/east. We think that it is an exterior wall because of how wide it is. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make new discoveries that will provide us with more information.

As I reflected on the transition from Unit C to Unit D, I was able to see Unit C as my “test-run” unit, where I was able to learn the steps of excavating and practicing until I could get it right. Once I started working in Unit D, I had a better understanding of the skills and what was expected. This allowed for me to finish tasks in less time and maintain a rhythm so I would not lose focus.

One of my proud moments this week was being able to match all the colors of the soil to the correct color on the Munsell Test. It required some concentration but I was able to get them right.

Kids from a local summer camp stopped by the field school.

Kids from a local summer camp stopped by the field school.

Another highlight from this week was getting a group of children visitors from a christian school. They came to learn a little about archaeology and try screening dirt. I was one of the volunteers who got to help show the kids how to screen. I work with children at my regular job, but this time, it was different because I was showing them one of the skills related to my major. So it was a great opportunity to share with them what I have learned and hopefully I inspired one or two of them to pursue this profession.

As we near the end of the field school, I can look back and compare how much I have learned and how many new skills I have acquired. I has definitely been challenging but worth that sweat. This job requires a lot of physical work and discipline in order to advance at a steady pace. Determination to look ahead to the final goal and a positive attitude to endure the hardships and overcome them.