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 […]
Hi, I’m Jasmine Smith, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester. I’ve been working with CAP since I participated in the Summer 2015 field school. I also did an internship during Fall 2015 where I examined the laboratory glass found at the Gunson site. […]
For the Midwest Archaeology Conference (November 5-7, 2015) this year, I’m going to be co-authoring an oral presentation on how we maintain continuity in the MSU Campus Archaeology Program when we have a consistently shifting group of graduate and undergraduates working for it. This is my sixth (that’s right, sixth) year working with CAP as a graduate student, so I have a unique perspective on how the program has maintained its goals, expanded its reach and developed over the last half decade. The presentation will discuss the roll that students, particularly the Campus Archaeologist, plays in running the program effectively, and the ways in which we promote continuity through selecting students with a strong commitment to CAP, ensuring overlap between campus archaeologists, and maintaining a strong record of prior work through field notes and digital media.We maintain continuous institutional memory, and promote a strong sense of collaboration and teamwork among both the current students and alumnus of the program.
When I arrived here back in 2010 as a first year graduate student, my first project was using a geographic information system (GIS) analysis to determine the most likely locations for prehistoric sites on campus. At this point, we had not found good evidence for prehistoric occupation of the campus, it wasn’t until summer 2011 that we found our first site and solid evidence. The model used a number of variables to determine where prehistoric sites may be found- settlements and human activity were most likely to occur within 300 meters of water, within a slope less than 5% steepness, near edible vegetation, and we were more likely to find material in areas that weren’t disturbed by prior construction. Overall, the project was not very successful, but it did get me started working on the CAP GIS database, and since then I’ve developed a more robust GIS database for the program, taught an undergrad to do GIS analysis and data input for CAP, and have helped to maintain the database as we add new layers and shapefiles when new excavations and surveys occur.
The CAP GIS database is one of the important tools in creating continuity and maintaining the program despite changes in students involved. Our CAP GIS database was first created by Chris Stawski, and since then Josh Schnell and myself have been active in maintaining it. Having an up to date and accurate spatial database is critical for archaeological work. It demonstrates where we have and have not excavated, what areas need further attention, areas that might be good for future field schools, and allows us to analyze the materials we uncover broadly in space. As each new Campus Archaeologist begins their work- the GIS database provides an important source of information for learning about the archaeological landscape of MSU. Further, this spatial information is important when communicating with broader MSU departments like Infrastructure, Planning and Facilities, and Landscaping. By showing them areas of high sensitivity, we ensure that they help to protect our heritage.
This year is my last year as a graduate student, which means it is my last year in the Campus Archaeology program. Part of my goal this year, is to make sure that my six years of work with the CAP GIS gets recorded accurately so that the next person in charge of the GIS database will know how it is organized, the coding for our files, where new files get placed in the database, how they all relate to one another, and so on. Part of ensuring that CAP has continuity means planning for when you are no longer part of the program and making sure that the next person will be able to access, use and expand your work without issue. This morning, I took time to audit our GIS database, make sure all the files were in their correct places, find bugs and issues, and I am now in the process of writing down everything that went into creating this. My goal is not to create a final product- my goal is to leave behind a spatial database that will be used and expanded in the future.
Well over half of CAP’s last two weeks of summer work involved an extensive survey of People’s Park. People’s Park, for those who have never heard the term, is the open area between Wells Hall, the Red Cedar River, Erickson Hall, and the International Center. […]
This semester I have continued to work on the GIS for Campus Archaeology and will be presenting a poster at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) this coming spring. In deciding on a research topic and a question I wanted to answer, it occurred to me to look at the most important areas on campus. I decided to focus on a historically significant area of campus, the heart, or the space located within West Circle Drive. Historically the first dorm hall, Saints Rest, and the second dorm hall, Williams Hall (the original Williams Hall) stood here; along with College Hall, MSU’s first laboratory, classroom, and administrative building. This area today supports our oldest buildings, the MSU Museum, Beaumont Tower (which is built over College Hall), Cowels House, and the now oldest building on campus, Linton Hall. This area also is important because of the picturesque area known as the “Sacred Space”, or the green space north of the museum. MSU has forbidden any structures to be built in the Sacred Space. Because this area has the greatest antiquity on campus it is of great importance to Campus Archaeology and in turn, the artifacts we find there can shed the most light MSU’s history; therefore, I decided to use the data we have for this area and create a GIS project.
Various GIS analysis tools that help to visualize, interpret, and understand data, can reveal relationships and patterns that would otherwise be unknown. I want to look at the spatial and temporal patterns of deposits in the archaeological record within the Sacred Space. I’ll use two types of GIS analysis, hotspot analysis and exploratory data analysis. These tools can be used to reveal two very different relationships. A hotspot analysis will reveal spatially clustered areas of high or low artifact values, allowing us to see geographic locations with high densities of artifacts, versus those with low, or no artifacts. With those areas pinpointed using hotspot analysis, I can then overlay those findings with a historic map of campus, revealing spatial relations between known locations of historic buildings and the artifact hotspots. Using the exploratory analysis tools, I can statistically analyze artifact data to further illustrate the relationships between today’s finds and the historical layout of campus. Ideally, all of this would illustrate changes in the heart of MSU through time in a consolidated image.
This is not only going to be my first presentation at UURAF, but also my first academic presentation outside of class! I’m definitely very excited and hope that this project 1) turns out okay and my analysis reveals something useful and 2) is interesting for those to come see it! I’ll also be continuing to maintain the GIS for CAP in general throughout this semester. Right now we’re working to get all the initial projects CAP did into the GIS, which is proving to be more taxing than originally thought. Transferring and translating field notebooks into a GIS database that requires pinpoint locations can be tricky!
But anyways, keep an eye out for my next blog that will discuss my findings and I look forward to seeing some of you at UURAF.
The large amount of rain East Lansing has experienced over the past three weeks has deeply affected the construction and archaeology on campus. This delay in work has allowed us at the Campus Archaeology Program to turn our attention to the other side of archaeology: finds […]
As anyone even remotely connected to the field of archaeology can tell you, we record EVERYTHING. Note-taking and record-keeping is just as much a part of archaeology as the iconic trowel, perhaps even more so! Archaeologists must keep track of and record as much as […]
The Day of DH is a national celebration of the range and variety of people, projects, and groups involved in digital humanities (DH). This year the event is hosted by MSU’s own DH center: MATRIX: The Center for the Digital Humanities & Social Sciences. It is a community sourced online publication and project to bring together scholars interested in DH. This year, Day of DH is taking place today, April 8th. Participants answer questions about what digital humanists do, how they work together, and provides them a chance to document their activity on this one day.
You can follow along today by visiting dayofdh2013.matrix.msu.edu or through Twitter with the hashtag #dayofdh.
Campus Archaeology is going to be participating through the blog, facebook, and twitter, so make sure to follow us on our day of DH! We use a number of digital resources to aid in our research and surveys, but also to communicate with the broader public.
Today, in celebration of the Day of DH, we are going to be working on two projects that will aid with preserving the archaeological heritage of MSU. Our intern Josh is working on adding all our archaeological surveys and excavations to a geographic information system, and I will be working on updating our OMEKA museum website. Stay tuned for updates and photos on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day!
Update from our #DayofDH
8:00am EST: Good morning!
8:15am EST: Working with Katie to get one of the undergrad posters done for the upcoming UURAF, a symposium for undergrads to show off their research. Their poster is on classifying the Saints’ Rest material we excavated in the Fall. It is interesting to see all the artifacts and what they’ve learned from them. When we make posters, we actually use powerpoint to design them, and then save them as large PDFs. It is an easy way to make posters because it is drag and drop, and can be set to the specific large size of the poster.
8:56am EST: Finished with draft #1 of the poster.
9:45am EST: Last year, we designed an OMEKA museum site for Campus Archaeology. We haven’t fully used this program- partially because there is so much to do and partially because I still have problems sometimes making it work properly.
Today my goal is to finally add spatial data to the artifacts. This means assigning a geolocator (longitude and latitude) to every artifact we have online. Shouldn’t be too hard since many are located in the same area! Check out the progress here at campusunearthed.matrix.msu.edu/.
11:00am EST: I was able to update a dozen or so of the items on the OMEKA with their geolocation, and it seems to be working pretty well! In addition to this, Katie has been able to get the next draft of her poster done and added in some sweet photos of the Saints Rest collection from the 2012 excavation. However, if you want to see that work you’ll have to head over to the undergrad symposium this friday at the MAC Union!
Thinking about DH and CAP: Here at Campus Archaeology, digital tools are integrated into every stage of our workflow- it is inescapable, but in a good way. At every stage of the work we do there is a strong digital and analog component. Any dig we begin starts with research online and in the archives. We investigate GIS maps, both our own and the one created by the university’s Physical Plant so that we can prepare an excavation or survey plan. As we learn more about the work we are going to be doing, we share this information through social media and our blog. Once we are out in the field, we tweet and photograph everything that we are doing. When the dig in complete, we catalog every artifacts into a database, add the new excavation data to our GIS, and write up everything for our blog. It is incredible that even as a discipline so concerned with the past, our methods and techniques are constantly being updated with new technology. But what does this have to do with the digital humanities? If you followed along with others on their Day of DH, you know that it is an inclusive and highly varied field that is loosely based on the intersection between digital technology and humanities related disciplines. DH is exciting, not because it is finding new ways to display data or share information, but because it is based on values of innovation, engagement, and community interaction. We at Campus Archaeology are committed to these- we are always searching for ways to improve our research and better share our findings through new digital tools like OMEKA, we strive to engage with people on a number of both digital and analog levels through social media and engagement events, and we are dedicated to interacting with the MSU, East Lansing, and broader community interested in learning about and preserving history.
This year my Campus Archaeology Program project is going to be incorporating information from recent Field School’s into the pre-existing GIS map made of the Campus. This will include mapping Shovel Test Pit and excavation location and detail information. The ultimate goal of this project […]