Construction: a word dreaded by most individuals, especially during these summer months when it seems to be the most prevalent. Like many other people, archaeologists dislike construction for the fact that it makes it extremely difficult for us to get to work; however, construction can…
This past Tuesday, the Campus Archaeology Program completed their testing at College Hall, in an effort to determine whether or not a summer field school would be possible at the site. Unfortunately, the results are not favorable.
The extensive historical survey, and the photographs that were discovered, certainly indicate that much of the material culture that would have been located just south of Beaumont Tower were removed in 1918 and prior to the construction of the Tower in 1928. Archaeological work indicates that after much of the building was torn down in 1918, it was transferred to an area located off the intersection of Beal and Kalamazoo Street to serve as fill along the river. The leftover foundations were used to construct an artillery garage that stood for nearly 10 years. This shed housed 16 army trucks, and used part of the walls of College Hall. It was probably taken down in the mid to late 1920s, as minutes from Board of Trustees meetings in 1927 ask for the foundations of College Hall to be removed.
The photographs of Beaumont being built in 1928 provide the best evidence supporting the lack of remains. The first photo, taken of the Southeast corner of Beaumont Tower, shows that the sidewalk under which we discovered the northeast corner of College Hall was in tact during the construction of Beaumont. This explains the walls preservation. The second photo, taken from the Southwest corner of Beaumont Tower, shows that a good deal of earth was removed along the West side of the sidewalk, in order to provide a deep footing for the Tower. This is where the interior of College Hall would have been.
Our test units attempted to locate the West and South walls of the building. What resulted was some rubble of possible foundations stones, but nothing in situ. It is likely that much of the building was cleared out when Beaumont was built, and then redistributed across the site when the began to fill in the area that was excavated. The Northeast corner, however, was preserved underneath the sidewalk. Along the South end, a good deal of disturbance also came from the installation of steam, irrigation, and communication lines, limiting the areas possible for excavations, and further disturbing the deposits.
All is not lost, however. The discovery of the northeast corner, provided further insight into the difficult, early phases of the Agricultural College. The poor construction of the foundation, as evidenced by the use of small river stones and poor mortar, corroborate the historical record which indicates that the building was poorly built. The graffiti covered walls showed how manual labor by the students was a regular part of student life. This was further emphasized by the work done by the football team in 1918, who moved the remains of College Hall to their current resting spot at Kalamazoo and Beal Street.
This movement of the building’s remains also provide a glimpse into a period of transition and expansion, as Michigan Agricultural College became Michigan State College in 1925. Symbolized by the falling down of College Hall, and made permanent by the construction of Beaumont Tower, this transition included the construction of new, larger buildings such as the Memorial Student Union, the new Library (now Museum), and the addition of larger athletic facilities South of the Red Cedar River. Remains of College Hall were, therefore, discovered in two places, each a critical piece of this transition from MAC to MSC. The first is underneath the 1920s version of the Bridge to Future: the bricks of College Hall support the Kalamazoo Street Bridge, built as a link to South Campus. The foundation of College Hall rests in the shadow of Beaumont Tower, which symbolizes the advancement of Michigan State College as the founding Land Grant College, and continues to stand today as a reminder of our Univerisity’s heritage. Despite the fact that a field school at College Hall will not be possible, a significant amount of detail can be gleaned when what was discovered is put in a larger context.
Regarding a field school, we are still investigating other possibilities, so all is not lost in that regard as well. Additional opportunities are available, and will make an announcement soon. Stay tuned!
For those of you who follow us on Twitter, you may remember this tweet photo from the left. We found this piece of mortar while we were working at the Beal Street excavations. These excavations uncovered an extraordinary amount of brick rubble that was being…
Last week, Campus Archaeology performed survey at Beaumont Tower, to investigate the area below sidewalks that were being replaced. Underneath sidwalks located under the southeast corner of Beaumont, foundation stones were located. There is little doubt that these stones are the original foundations of College…
Much (although not all) of the archaeology that is done at the Campus Archaeology Program is what is called Historical Archaeology. This type of investigation deals with what is considered the “historical” period, or, in America, the period after European Contact with the “New World”. It is at this point that written accounts about this continent become abundant. Often, Historical Archaeology is contrasted with Prehistoric Archaeology, which deals with the material past of cultures that predate contact.
Historical Archaeologists view the written record in a slightly different way than historians. From our point of view, the written account is an artifact in and of itself. All artifacts are products of human manipulation: a projectile point is a piece of rock manipulated to become an arrowhead, a nail is a piece of metal manipulated to join wood, and a document is a piece of paper used to convey information or to communicate. All were products that existed in one form, but were manipulated by humans to become and to do something different. This is an artifact.
The written word, therefore, carries the bias of the person who created it. It carries within the written form the bias of its historical context. For example, documents written by the founders of Michigan Agricultural College will refer to “students”, which carries a different meaning to them than it does to us. Our students can include any person, regardless of gender, class, or race, whereas their students were upper class, Euro-American men. Using historical documents, therefore, must be approached with as much caution as any other piece of material culture that is pulled from the ground. The historical record should never, ever be considered “fact”. It is always evidence.
The Campus Archaeology Program works with the University Archives and Historical Collections in order to gather much of our historical data. The Archive is the repository for the University’s documentation and historical record, in the same way that the MSU Museum houses pieces of MSU’s material culture. Often, trips to the Archive for the Campus Archaeologist includes looks at old maps and photographs, in order to get an idea as to where old buildings were located, what materials they were made of, and how the landscape may have differed. Since the Campus has (and still does) undergone so much change in such a rapid period of time, the Archive allows an opportunity for us to gain an idea as to what was located where.
Additionally, the Archive presents us with written records: land sales let us know who may have owned the property before MSU; diaries provide an insight into the lives of the earliest students. The latter is important because it may help us link the artifacts we find with the people who used them, or the activities they preformed while at the College. Sometimes, the material record does not match up with the historical record. The best example being the rules banning alcohol and smoking on campus. Our excavations at Saints’ Rest, MSU’s first dormitory, turned up alcohol bottles and smoking pipes…some things are a constant for college students!
Also, there are parts of the material record that the historical record doesn’t take into account. Much of our work on campus has been excavating trash deposits from the earliest periods of campus. These do not show up on maps, photographs, or in diaries. People typically hide their trash from view, and certainly from posterity. A person’s trash is often more truthful then what they write down. Much can be learned about eating habits, nutrition, and ways of life through these deposits, and can give a greater insight into issues such as class, gender, and race than the often biased view of the written record.
Our partnership with the MSU Archives and Historical Collections has been greatly beneficial for our Program, and has allowed us both the opportunity to investigate more thoroughly the cultural past of Michigan State University.
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Next week, the Campus Archaeology Program will be taking part in Grandparents’ University, an event at MSU where alumni grandparents and their grandchildren sign up to take various courses throughout campus. The objective is to have a fun and interactive workshop about a topic…in our…
Over the next few weeks, the Campus Archaeology Program will be conducting field survey along the banks of the Red Cedar River. Landscape Services is engaging in a variety of projects, including tree planting and fence building. The areas included are along Kalamazoo Road and…
A small contingent of archaeologists will be out surveying in front of Brody Hall this Saturday (find Brody on the campus map). The Brody Complex, one of the largest dormitory complexes in the world, is undergoing significant remodeling this year, including an addition to the front of Brody Hall and a water line running along the South side of the building. Groundbreaking on this project will commence in the beginning of May.
Much of the construction work done here in the past has pulled up noticeable amounts of trash. Before the Brody Complex was built, the land was specifically used for farming. Maps indicate that the land was owned in 1895 by “Mrs. Montgomery”, and that there was a farmhouse on the property (See 1895 map above). However, the structure appears to have been located along what is now Michigan Avenue. Our excavations will be occurring in the middle of that plot of land, as indicated by the arrows on the modern map to the right.
As will become the norm, updates about our discoveries at Brody will be posted here at the blog. Additionally, you can follow reports from the field by following Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock at Twitter, or doing a Twitter search for #CAPMSU.