This year we have two undergraduate interns working in the Campus Archaeology Program lab. These two students both attended the summer 2019 archaeological field school. Below you can read a little more about them! Reid Ellefson-Frank is an undergraduate student at MSU working towards a…
The site where Brody Hall stands today (intersection of Harrison & Michigan Ave) was once used by the city East Lansing as a landfill. There is little historical documentation on the landfill, which made it difficult to find information about the site. What we do…
If you’ve been following the blog you may have noticed the many interesting artifacts, mostly bottles, found during the Brody Hall and Emmons Amphitheater area excavations. Since the Brody complex is built above the old East Lansing Landfill, these excavations provided us with an array of items that provide some insight into what life was like during the early 20th century in East Lansing.
As an intern for CAP this past semester, I’ve been given the task of going through these bottles to catalog and re-examine them. These bottles held everything from cosmetics to cleaning products to condiments that reflect everyday life in East Lansing during this the early 20th century. This landfill was active from the late 1910s to the late 1940s, which gave us a general range for a probable date on these bottles, but part of my task as an intern has been trying to get a more specific date. This has been interesting because I had never really thought about bottles in this way before. Researching the various shapes of historic bottles and using clues to find out how the bottle was used and when it was made has been a very educational experience. For some of these bottles, figuring out a date was relatively easy when you know the code they sometimes stamp on the bottle. However, many of the bottles had little to no markings that could be used to determine a date. This meant many hours of researching bottle shapes and looking through catalogs. Since many of the bottles were like this, it has taken us some time to get through all the bottles. Now, of course, I use bottles every day, but historic bottles are much different. I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times while researching to discover a bottle’s intended use.
Researching these bottles has also got me thinking a lot about trash and how we treat trash. Reading literature on the history of garbage and waste management was surprisingly very interesting and made me realize why archaeologists love trash so much. When I take the trash out, I don’t see where it goes. All I know is that someone picks it up and it’s not my problem anymore. Although I try to be eco-friendly and recycle, it’s the same deal. I put my recycling or trash in bin and someone takes it far away from me. No one wants to see trash, but we throw away everything. During the time that this landfill was active, municipal trash pick-up was a relatively new thing but since then, not much has changed in terms of how we deal with garbage after we throw it away. Realizing this got me thinking about sustainability on campus and if anything has changed. While the fact that these complete bottles are still here after 70 years has been helpful for our research, it’s daunting to think about how much of our trash will long out live us.
In the past, CAP has used archaeology to investigate how sustainable practices were used on campus. Many of these sustainable practices can be traced back to events like war or recession – being sustainable because it is necessary for survival. Building from the previous research on MSU’s sustainable past, I’m using these artifacts to assess how sustainable practices in waste management have changed and examine if we are truly more sustainable today. Although these bottles are made of glass which is not considered to be “eco-friendly” when thrown away, examining how they were used could be helpful in assessing sustainable practices at that time.
During this past summer’s field school, our six-person team excavated the remains of a building known as Station Terrace, which once stood on Abbot Road, just a stone’s throw from where the MSU Union currently stands. Following the field school, all of the artifacts we…
The 2017-2018 school year has just begun here at MSU. Several large changes are in store at CAP this year, including the pending retirement of CAP director Lynne Goldstein and the addition of associate professor Stacey Camp. We’re excited to continue working on several ongoing…
Hi, I’m Becca Albert, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester. I participated in the 2015 field school, volunteered in the CAP lab last year, and worked on the field crew last summer. My internship project for this semester includes testing to see whether seeds found in the West Circle privy in June 2015 will germinate. These seeds were identified as raspberry seeds (id courtesy of Dr. Katie Egan-Bruhy) it will be difficult to determine what species they are until they grow (if they grow!) The privy is dated to campus’s Phase I (1855-1870), with diagnostic artifacts dating to the 1860’s and 1870’s. University archival records of the Board of Trustee meeting minutes from 1875 indicate that Beal ordered around 300 raspberry bushes to be planted on campus. Whether these were for botanical experiments or for food sources is unknown, however it is unlikely that these weren’t used as a food source, as foraging for berries in the area and farming was a great contributor of food for the students. Financial records from Saint’s Rest also indicate that the boarding hall was purchasing upwards of 130 quarts of berries a week during the summer. Again, no specific species is indicated, but this does provide archival evidence of berry consumption. These seeds were found in association with a flower pot, so although these could have been digested, these could also have been the product of a failed botanical experiment.
The seeds I am using for my experiment were first separated from 10 grams of night soil by hand and then weighed. The total weight of all the seeds was 0.2 grams, so not a very hefty sample size. These seeds were evaluated under a stereomicroscope to make sure what we picked out were actually seeds, and were counted. The total number of seeds from this sample was 174 seeds – that’s about .001 of a gram for each seed. To test whether these seeds germinate, we will be using two experimental methods. The first method is a simpler experiment, like one that you might try as an elementary school experiment – this follows some of the thinking for an experiment I tried with Lima beans in third grade! Several seeds will be placed in between some damp paper towels, which will then be placed on a plate, and sealed into a plastic bag. This bag will then be placed somewhere warm, like on top of a refrigerator, and will be checked periodically to see whether some of the seeds germinate. The sealed plastic bag will allow the moisture and humidity inside the bag to stay constant, however after a week or so, these paper towels will be replaced with new moist paper towels both to prevent mold, germinated seeds from attaching to the paper towel, and to increase the humidity inside the bag periodically. These methods are adapted from this article from the SFGate Home Guides Website, however many modes of basic seed germination follow steps similar to these.
The second method is one that is more scientifically rigorous, and includes following methods that are used in Beal’s famous seed longevity experiment. Beal’s experiment essentially asks the question of how long can a seed lie dormant before it cannot germinate. This experiment is in its 137th year, with the next experiment occurring in 2020. The previous testing year for the Beal seed experiment reported three species as germinating, with around a 46% success rate for one species, a 2% success rate from a second species, and a 4% success rate for the third species (Telewski 2002). CAP is working under the assumption that the privy was likely damaged in the 1876 fire that destroyed Saints Rest, making these seeds 3 years older than the Beal seeds.
My experiment includes placing approximately 50 seeds in a growth chamber for a specified day/night cycle, humidity, and temperature. The seeds themselves are placed in a pre-determined soil mixture and kept in damp soil. The seeds will be checked periodically to see if germination occurred, and to keep the soil damp. Following the methods used for Beal’s experiment will not provide an opportunity to test their methods, but is also an homage to the man who provided a lot MSU’s more interesting early history.
Several scientists around the world have been able to germinate seeds from prehistoric contexts (Sallon 2008, Yashina 2012). Archaeologists in the United States have found seeds in historic privy excavations however, germination experiments have not been attempted because they are generally larger assemblages with a variety of species and a greater importance has been placed on determining the species present (Trigg 2011, Meyers 2011, Beaudry 2010, Dudek 1998). If these seeds germinate, it would be an interesting addition to the germination of seeds well past their prime.
Stay tuned for updates as the experiment progresses!
MSU Archives & Historical Collections:
– Madison Kuhn Collection Volume 82, Folder 11, Box 2531, Collection IA 17.107 (Records for July 1870).
– UA 1 State Board of Agriculture/Board of Trustee Records. Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1875
Meyers, Ciana Faye, 2011. The Marketplace of Boston: Macrobotanical Remains from Faneuil Hall. Thesis.
Beaudry, M. C, 2010. Privy to the feast: eighty to supper tonight. Table Settings: The Material Culture and Social Context of Dining in the Old and New Worlds AD, pp. 1700-1900.
Dudek, Martin G., Lawrence Kaplan, and Marie Mansfield King, 1998. Botanical Remains from a Seventeenth-Century Privy at the Cross Street Back Lot Site. Historical Archaeology, pp. 63-71.
Meyers, Ciana Faye, 2011. The Marketplace of Boston: Macrobotanical Remains from Faneuil Hall. Thesis.
Sallon, Sarah, Elaine Solowey, Yuval Cohen, Raia Korchinsky, Markus Egli, Ivan Woodhatch, Orit Simchoni, and Modechai Kislev, 2008. Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed. Science 5882(320), pp. 1464.
Telewski, FW and JAD Zeevaart, 2002. The 120-yr period for Dr. Beal’s seed viability experiment. American Journal of Botany, 89(8), pp. 1285-1288.
Trigg, Heather, Susan Jacobucci, and Marisa D. Patalano, 2011. Parasitological and Macrobotanical Analyses of a Late 18th Century Privy, Portsmouth New Hampshire.
Yashina, Svetlana, Stanislav Gubin, Stanislav Maksimovich, Alexandra Yashina, Edith Gakhova, and David Gilichinsky, 2012. Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000 y-old fruit tissue buried in Siberian permafrost. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109(10) pp. 4008-4013.
How to Germinate with Paper Towels. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/germinate-paper-towels-22813.html
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.…
My project involves examining where, what company, and the timeframe the different marker’s mark, collecting from the excavation from the Admin/Gunson site, came from. As we wrapped up with Unit A on Monday, I finished taking and collecting pictures of the marker’s mark found from…
As we continue to sort and catalogue artifacts from the Admin/Gunson assemblage we’ve come across a lot of lab equipment, mainly glass. My project involves examining lab glass we found at this site and trying to figure out what it is.
The main type of equipment we have found while cataloguing unit A are hollow glass tubes. Some of these tubes have a rounded end like a regular test tube, while others have a strange bubble-like end. After looking through books on laboratory glass blowing I was able to identify these bubble-like ends as a “bleb” or bleb test tube. We’ve found these tubes in a number of different sizes.
Other interesting lab equipment we’ve found includes parts of beakers, a microscope slide, and a syringe stopper.
We’ve also found pieces of bottles that have chemical formulas (possibly ammonium hydroxide) labeled on them. We identified them as coming from the Wheaton glass company.
During our trip to the MSU archives I didn’t find much that helped me identify the lab glass or what it was used for. However, from looking through insurance papers I found that laboratory glass equipment was specifically listed as not insurable. This tells us that maybe lab glass was inexpensive and easily replaceable or that lab equipment was too expensive and dangerous.
As the semester comes to a close I hope to gain more information by visiting the glass blower on campus that blows glass specifically for the chemistry department. Hopefully they can tell us more about what we have found and what this glass was used for.
Some of the questions I hope to answer going forward with this project are: What lab did this equipment belong to? Why was it mixed in with the various other types of things we found at this site such as dishes and perfume bottles? Was it tossed out as garbage? If so, why?
You’ve already meet the CAP fellows, now meet our awesome interns and volunteers. Alissa Lyon: Howdy! I’m Alissa Lyon, undergraduate senior majoring in both Anthropology and French and minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. Currently I’m working as an intern for the Campus Archaeology Program after…