In December of 2020, CAP was proud to be included in the Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) Newsletter for winter 2020 (download here). In an article written by CAP director Dr. Stacey L. Camp, former Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter, and current Campus Archaeologist Jeff Burnett, …
Greetings from Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. This summer has been one of great concern for our community and nation as well as one where we have had to rethink how we approach Campus Archaeology amid a global pandemic. Under …
After receiving permission to conduct field work in the Sanford Woodlot, Jack and I (along with Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter) were able to start mapping and surveying the remains of the MSU sugar house. While our work was impacted by snow and falling leaves, we were able to complete a detailed sketch map of the architectural remains and remnant equipment. We were also lucky enough to locate a few artifacts as well!
During our explorations of the area, we were only able to relocate the northern edge of the sugar house. The extant architecture was composed of concrete and rebar and was roughly 26 meters long, east to west, with a northern projection of the building present on the west side. While wall foundations were still standing at the northern projection, the rest of the concrete was collapsed and may have been either wall segments or the remains of a concrete floor. Directly to the north of this wall/floor was a field of small concrete pylons, which, based on archival documents (Campus Parks Office Sanford Walking Tour), served as supports for a small sawmill. The building, located on the edge of a small flood plain, was built into the side of a gentle slope.
Overall, the construction of this building appears to match closely with the ideal building described in a 1949 report by Putnam Robbins, one of the researchers in charge of the sugar house. In this report, Putnam specifies that the floor and base of the walls should be constructed from concrete, and that the building should be built into a slope at the edge of the sugar bush, with a collection tank built at the highest elevation. This slope is very important, because this allows gravity to feed sap from the collection tank into the storage tank and then the evaporator without need of human or mechanical power.
But this work did provide one small mystery. In a 1942 map (MSU Map Library), the only map we have located that depicts an outline of the sugar house, the building is shown as a long rectangle with a projection on its south side. Our research, on the other hand, has found a projection of the building on the north side. Further, all of the images of the sugar house that we have, all showing the south side of the structure, do not depict a southern projection of the building, only a flat wall. Since the south side of the building is either buried or missing, it is not possible at this time to investigate this mystery, leaving the architectural design of the building unclear.
While mapping, we also recovered a few artifacts that we think were associated with the sugar house. Scattered to the northwest edge of the building are a number of large metal objects, presumably sawmill equipment that was left behind. Also found scattered around the edges of the building were three bottle bases, two shards of clear bottle glass, and one piece of electrical hardware. Two of the three bottle bases were old Coca-Cola bottles; one nearly complete Coke bottle is marked with a patent number of D-105529, dating the bottle’s manufacture to between 1938 and 1951 (See past blog). It also has an Owens-Illinois Glass Co. maker’s mark on its side, with the number 42 to its right, possibly indicating the bottle was manufactured in 1942 (https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm). The clear bottle base has a marker’s mark as well, a capital G within a square, indicating that it was made by Glenshaw Glass Co. (1904-2004, 2007-present). We can narrow its chronology down further based on the presence of stippling on the base, which was applied to bottles after 1940 (https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm). As the sugar house was in operation until the early 1960s, its possible both bottles relate to the use of the structure, but Sanford Woodlot is also a popular spot for nature walks and has accumulated its share of thrown away bottles over the years.
While we are currently taking a break in field work for the winter, we hope to continue survey work in the spring, so stay tuned for another update!
Author: Jeff Painter
2019 “BLM/SHA Historic Glass Bottle Identification and Information Website.” https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm
MSU Campus Parks Office
N.D. “Sanford Natural Area: An Island of Wilderness on the Campus of Michigan State University, Walking Tour.” MSU Archives and Historical Collections, natural areas file.
MSU Map Library
1942 Map of MSC Farm and Experimental Plots. http://archive.lib.msu.edu/maps/MSU-Scanned/Michigan/msu/msc%20campus%20300%20dpis/843-d-A-1942-planning-300.jpg
Robbins, Putnam W.
1949 Production of Maple Syrup in Michigan. Circular Bulletin 213, MSU Agricultural Experiment Station.
Next week is the annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (October 4-6, 2018) in Notre Dame. Below is a list of dates and times of all MSU presentations, posters, and discussants. Included in these are two posters on Campus Archaeology projects that you should check out! Friday, …
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
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.
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
Recently, a construction project began in the small plaza between the MSU Auditorium and the Kresge Art Center, which meant that we Campus Archaeologists got to go in first and see what (if any) historic materials were hidden beneath the topsoil. The plaza is an …
Earlier this week, a group of construction workers excavating trenches for the new campus steam tunnel network came across a circular brick enclosure on the south side of Cook Hall. Returning their call, we went to the site and exposed the circle of bricks to …
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 are very accommodating, but they still have a schedule to keep) we always aim to insure the safety of our crew, so we immediately called for assistance. Luckily Granger (the construction company in charge of the project) had an asbestos abatement specialist on site. The specialist explained that there was minimal asbestos still present on the pipe, but recommended that we still wrap the pipe. After the pipe was covered, we decided to tailor our excavation so as to avoid further exposure of the asbestos pipe. So, when you see the tube of plastic in our excavation photos, just remember, CAP always thinks safety first.
Author: Kate Frederick
By Josh Schnell, Erica Dziedzic, and Kate Frederick We began this CAP excavation season with an exciting find; on the first day of monitoring the construction work near Agriculture Hall revealed an old foundation! The layer was only about a foot thick and covered with …