Tag: fieldwork

Campus Archaeology in the Time of COVID-19

Campus Archaeology in the Time of COVID-19

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 

Update on the MSU Sugar House Project: Fieldwork has Begun!

Update on the MSU Sugar House Project: Fieldwork has Begun!

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 

CAP Update

CAP Update

Happy 2019! The spring semester has started at Michigan State University and that means that the Campus Archaeology Program is back in action, preparing for all of the events and projects for the spring and summer! Below is an update on the projects we will be working on and what events we will be participating in and hosting:

In a few weeks we will be at the Bennett Woods Elementary School Science Night with a table full of artifacts, our stratigraphy game, and some of the tools we use for excavations.

This April, we will be participating in the Michigan State University Science Festival Expo Day, where you will be able to screen for artifacts, play our stratigraphy game, participate in our #ColorCAP coloring page competition, and check out some artifacts we have uncovered on campus!

Starting in May, CAP will be hosting an archaeological field school on the corner of Shaw and Hagadorn Roads on MSU’s campus. We will have a public day where everyone is welcome to stop by and ask us questions, get a site tour, and learn more about CAP and the research that is taking place.

For any MSU alumni grandparents, we will also be hosting a session during MSU’s Grandparents University! If you are interesting in participating, please check out their website: https://alumni.msu.edu/learn/on-campus/grandparents-university/.

Our CAP Fellows will also be continuing work on a number of projects, including the early food project, researching the historic sugar house in the Sandford Woodlot, photogrammetry/3D modeling for our #artifactoftheweek posts, alumni interview blog series, creating new outreach activities, and researching database management strategies! Stay tuned for our weekly blog posts to learn more about the projects!

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

MSU at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

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, 

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 

Auditorium Plaza Debrief

Auditorium Plaza Debrief

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 unassuming space really, and without much in the way of benches, shade, or activity space,  the little grass and concrete clearing doesn’t receive much foot traffic despite facing the relatively busy auditorium road sidewalk. As such, one of the goals of the construction project is to rebuild the plaza into a more comfortable and habitable outdoor space.

Kresge Art Center 1959, courtesy MSU Archives
Kresge Art Center 1959, courtesy MSU Archives

With the construction of the MSU Auditorium in 1940, and the later opening of the Kresge Art Center/Museum nearly two decades later in 1959, the Auditorium Plaza was created. As such, while the plaza has not had as substantial of a history as other parts of MSU, its location in the older section of campus maintains the possibility that this construction project will disturb cultural materials from the earlier period of campus history, necessitating that we survey the area prior to its disturbance.

With a large portion of the plaza covered by concrete sidewalk however, we needed to wait until the construction crew had used their excavators and backhoes to break up and haul out the massive pieces of pavement. Once we were able to get to work though, we quickly found that our test pits were coming up empty. As we shovel-tested the area by digging 40-60cm deep holes in a 5 x 5 m grid, one after another each successive pit was turning up nothing.

Auditorium C. 1950, courtesy MSU Archives
Auditorium C. 1950, courtesy MSU Archives

Aside from a sparse few nails (both modern and historic), pieces of brick, and a fragment of ceramic electrical conduit, the whole plaza seemed largely devoid of any cultural materials. Supporting the theory that the plaza was most likely highly modified before construction, wiping away all previous occupation/use debris. The plaza had several tiers, indicating the space was built, and rebuilt, leaving no original stratigraphy. With this in mind, the construction crews were able to proceed with their work to renovate the plaza knowing that they would not unknowingly damage any historic materials. When the project is finished and if these renovations are successful such that the space becomes more heavily used, who knows what future generations of MSU students will leave in the plaza’s archaeological record.

Also, with the 4th of July holiday coming up, take a look at this picture of an MSU student taking part in her hometown independence day parade C. 1949 that we found in the MSU online archives.

Cisterns: MSU’s History of Water

Cisterns: MSU’s History of Water

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 

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 

Foundation Beneath our Feet: Uncovering the Old Vet Building

Foundation Beneath our Feet: Uncovering the Old Vet Building

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 a waterproofing-cement type of covering. Our initial guess was that this was some sort of patio, but it was pretty deep for a patio foundation.We mapped the feature and took plenty of pictures, but since no artifacts were found, we couldn’t do much more.

Portion of "patio feature" that was found in front of Ag Hall.
Portion of “patio feature” that was found in front of Ag Hall.

The construction crew also had found a “few bricks” south of the patio feature, across Auditorium Road, where they were starting to dig the trench for the West Circle Steam Renovation project. Upon further investigation, these “few bricks” turned out to be a foundation layer layer with a substantial amount of brick rubble on top. The foundation was composed of large stones and while most of the bricks were jumbled, and not structured, we soon found an intact corner of the building. Measurements and photos were quickly taken, but with our skeleton crew (just two of us), we didn’t have the manpower for any more excavation.

Portion of foundation and brick rubble found south of Ag Hall
Portion of foundation and brick rubble found south of Ag Hall

We decided instead, to turn our attention to figuring out what the building could have been.  Unfortunately, MSU Archives was closed last week, so we had to rely on only the resources CAP had. Our research revealed that the first foundation feature by Ag Hall (the patio feature) was most likely the remnants of the original Ag Hall, which burned in 1916. We also discovered that the brick jumble and foundation to the south of Ag Hall may be the remains of the Veterinary Lab, which was built in 1885 or possibly the old carpentry shop.

1885 photo of the Veterinary Lab
1885 photo of the Veterinary Lab

Using old campus maps, we had we were able to overlay those maps onto our GIS map of campus. Based on the overlay and the GPS coordinate taken at the site, we determined that the building was most likely the “Old Veterinary Lab” as it was labeled on the 1927 campus map. Additionally, the artifacts we recovered (animal bones and a metal tag) also pointed us in the direction of the Old Vet Lab.

Luckily, we were able to test our hypothesis further because the following day we found even more of the brick rubble when the steam trench was being expanded. The newly exposed debris show heavy signs of burning, evidenced by huge charred beams along with melted window glass.

CAP crew working side by side with the construction crew.
CAP crew working side by side with the construction crew.

West wall of Old Vet Lab
West wall of Old Vet Lab

We really wanted to know the extant of the building, so we dug a trench to the west, in an effort to find the wall. The wall was discovered at the end of the day, so we asked the construction crew to halt digging of the trench for another day.

The following day, with a much larger crew, we continued to chase the wall in hopes of finding a corner. Further to the north of the construction trench we could see a corner of the building (which was not going to be excavated further) so we knew we were on the right track. Finally, with the help of a mini-excavator removing the overburden, we found the southwest corner of the Old Vet Lab.

 

Now that the MSU Archives are open this week, we will continue to research the history of this building; when is was destroyed/burned is our biggest question. So expect another blog post soon with some more answers.

Archmamas: Archaeology, Motherhood, and Path to PhD

Archmamas: Archaeology, Motherhood, and Path to PhD

By Blair Zaid The roles for women in the academy are ever expanding. We continue to achieve high levels positions in institutions that have been exceptionally male dominated.  However, one role continues to be a bit daunting for women in the academy and particularly archaeology: