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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 and analysis. Back here at our homebase in MSU’s Consortium for Archaeological Research, we’re working on analysis and interpretation of our artifacts and integrating this with our maps.
Artifacts found on this campus vary from types of ceramics and metal fixtures found within homes to industrial pipes and building materials. After the dig, the collected finds are returned to the lab and processed. This means that all of the finds are washed and dried. Following this process, members of our team work to identify the artifacts and input them into a database. Our team notes the type of artifact and the presence of identifying characteristics such as decorative styles, any wording or maker’s mark (trademark stamps), and/or if the piece is a specific part of a vessel such as rim, handle, or base. This allows us to look at just what types of things were being used in the early days at Michigan State College.
In the meantime, another type of analysis is occurring upstairs in the archaeology computer lab. It is here where a slightly more technologically literate group (with skills I personally envy) works on the digital side of Campus Archaeology. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) members input the location of our digs on to real satellite images of the area. This creates a multilayered map with extensive information on the site. At current, these maps show the location of all our shovel tests (ST) (a surveying technique where a small pit is dug to sample the area). Each shovel test is associated with the archaeological project site it is within, who dug it, and a positive or negative indication of whether finds were collected. This process helps us located the areas of early activity on Michigan State’s campus.
So far these two important processes have been separated. While the rain has kept us off site and stuck indoors, we have been inspired to initiate an integration of the two forms of analysis into one helpful mapping system. Our goal is to create a more robust and useful purpose for the Campus Archaeology Program’s GIS maps. The result of this will be the creation of a way to integrate the catalogue of artifacts into the map.
In order to represent the artifacts in the GIS system our team needed to come up with a list of artifact types that not only fully incorporates the variety and cultural relevance, but also is not overwhelming to the system. This took a rather tedious meeting and lots of debate in order to develop the shortest and most complete list. We debated whether we should focus on broad types such as pottery or metal, or more specific types like whiteware, stoneware or pearlware. A second debate was whether we should assess them by presence or absence, a technique that works well if something is broken within the pit, or by the frequency of finds, which works well with lots of little artifacts. We also debated how to classify artifacts, like whether we should separate items by function or material used, which becomes problematic with items like buttons that are all different materials but same function. We came up with a semi-finalized list of around 25 artifact types will be inputted in to the GIS system. From here, each ST will be associated with either a presence/absence or item amount for each of the 25 types.
Once this is done we will be able to use the GIS maps to show where artifacts were collected, and further look at the location and concentrations of artifacts by statistical analyses. This process, which is one of the most intensive off site projects, will with all hopes be fruitful to the knowledge of your Campus Archaeology Team.
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 […]
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 is to integrate all the previously gathered data obtained during CAP excavations and Field Schools to determine the predictability of finding artifacts at specific locations on campus.
GIS stands for Geographic Information System and works as a means of storing, analyzing, and displaying digitized data in a spatially meaningful way. This means that a wide variety of data can be mapped spatially including cartographic information and statistical information. This allows maps to be developed not only in a two dimensional way with street and building information, but also three dimensionally with elevation and topographic information. Statistics can also be incorporated into this as well, for example, allowing mapping of different demographics.
Data is put into digital form through two main types of data storage, raster and vectors. A raster is a pixel. The data is stored is rows and columns of cells. Each cell, or pixel, is assigned a value that could be anything from elevation, temperature, land use, etc. All these pixels come together to form a larger image. The value of storing data in raster cells is that is allows data to be displayed continuously, for example, elevation models are best displayed as a raster model because it allows for discreet continuous changes in elevation to be shown.
Vectors are a way of displaying data in three different types. Points, which allow for representation objects that require only a single point reference. Another data illustration that vectors allow for are lines, which allow for information such as roads, rivers, and topographic lines to be displayed one-dimensionally. The final type of data display is polygons, which allow for two-dimensional image depiction. Vector is usually seen in more in illustrating roads, lakes, sites, and other information in polygons.
When we use GIS at Campus Archaeology, we use both raster and vector layers. For aerial photos or elevation models we use vector data because it creates pictures. For information about the campus itself and our sites we create vector data. By combining the two we can create a model of campus that we can analyze.