Tag: fieldwork

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: […]

Archmamas: Archaeology, Motherhood, and Path to PhD

Archmamas: Archaeology, Motherhood, and Path to PhD

Part II: By Blair Zaid and Erica Dziedzic      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 […]

Archaeology and Motherhood: Thoughts from the Trenches

Archaeology and Motherhood: Thoughts from the Trenches

My decision to have children came at a time when my graduate career as an archaeologist started to move forward.  I had successfully defended my dissertation proposal and I wrote several dissertation research grants in a very short timespan.  I also had high hopes of spending a year in Peru doing fieldwork for my dissertation.  But sometimes, the best experiences in life are the ones that cause you to veer off your chosen course.  As a new mother, this path led me to take a break from my research and devote myself to stay-at-home motherhood for two and a half years.

I felt fortunate that I had the opportunity to stay at home with my infant daughter, but when she was two years old, I decided it was time to finish my dissertation.  This transition back to archaeology and academia, while exciting, also inadvertently started a “crash of confidence”.  I had spent the last two years changing diapers and watching Sesame Street.  When I reconnected with my archaeology friends and professors I found that I had forgotten most of the lingo and skills that I once considered second nature.  I am currently re-learning everything about archaeology and my research.  It often feels like I am a first year graduate student all over again, except this time with a toddler firmly, and constantly, wrapped around my leg.

During this second go-around at building a career as an archaeologist, I have been reading about other women, some archaeologists and some not, who are mothers following their passions.  In the book, Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself, Amy Richards dispenses some valuable advice: decide what you want, OWN it, and build a support network to achieve it.  I argue that building a supportive network is most crucial because as a mother, accomplishing your own goals is best with help from a trusted, reliable community.  Furthermore, one cannot build a supportive community without speaking up and sharing experiences.  Being an archaeologist in academia comes with special demands that are not realized in most career choices.  There are the daily demands, such as articles to write and classes to teach.  Moreover, the demands of fieldwork and conference attendance can mean frequent and extended trips away from home.  Being a mother comes with its own unique demands and responsibilities; my daughter loves, adores, and tortures me in a way that is unmatched by her relationship with other loved ones in her life.  This often means late nights, early mornings, and special time devoted to her regardless of any deadlines that may be looming for me.  As a single woman, I could handle the demands of my budding career.  However, once I became a mother, I had doubts as to whether I could be both a mother and an archaeologist – the requirements of both seemed too much.  To say that mothers need support, is not to say that mothers are weak – quite the contrary; it is to say that no one should mother alone.  In our community, as archaeologists navigating the rigors of academia and as graduate students learning the ropes, it is important that mothers talk about their experiences without feeling chastised.

My daughter is now three years old and I am pregnant with our second child.  Currently, I am writing my dissertation and active in public outreach.  I am very lucky to have a supportive spouse, my family, my friends, my professors, and colleagues.  Recently, I had my first experience of the collision of my family life and professional life when I was late to a meeting because my daughter threw a tantrum because she didn’t know how to use dental floss.  This is the first of many collisions, I am sure.  Archaeologists who are parents go through this (and worse) all the time; they survive, move on, and go about their day.  It is knowing that we are not alone in the daily process of career and family life that is important.

 

The Cold Days of Archaeology

The Cold Days of Archaeology

Generally when you think of archaeology, you think of slinging dirt in 100 degree heat with the sun’s rays beating down on your broad rimmed hat. While I’ve had many a summer excavations like this, Campus Archaeology does not always have the option of scheduling […]