CAP at MSU Science Fest 2017

This month, Campus Archaeology is participating in MSU’s fifth annual Science Festival. Science Fest celebrates STEAM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics—by bringing exploration and discovery out of the laboratory and into the public eye. From April 7-23, MSU is hosting a series of free events for people of all ages including demonstrations, panel discussions, tours, open houses, hands-on activities, and science cafes aimed at connecting campus researchers with curious members of the community.

This past Saturday, April 8, CAP participated in the Science Fest Expo Zone Day event. For the Expo Zone, STEAM researchers from all over campus developed hands-on activities with the goal of “sharing the science that inspires them” with aspiring young scientists and their families.

CAP fellows Susan Kooiman, Jeff Painter, and Autumn Beyer help young archaeologists use real screens to sift through buckets of sand for artifacts.

CAP fellows Susan Kooiman, Jeff Painter, and Autumn Beyer help young archaeologists use real screens to sift through buckets of sand for artifacts.

CAP has participated in Science Fest since it began in 2013. Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, we brought two hands-on activities to the Expo Zone that we knew would spark the interest of kids and parents alike. On Saturday, our screening station activity drew big crowds and lots of curious onlookers. CAP volunteers “excavated” buckets of sand and asked visitors to help sift the sand through screens to look for “artifacts.”

We selected a variety of objects to keep things interesting and to represent the types of artifacts we expect to find when excavating on campus: toy plates and cups stood in for dinnerware found across campus; plastic combs represented personal hygiene items, like the privy beard comb; and bone-shaped dog biscuits represented butchered animal bones like the ones CAP Fellow Autumn Beyer is working on analyzing. We also included some fun items for kids to find, like matchbox cars and plastic turtles.

Dr. Heather Walder and undergraduate archaeology student SarahJane Potter explain that archaeologists are interested in people, not dinosaurs.

Dr. Heather Walder and undergraduate archaeology student SarahJane Potter explain that archaeologists are interested in people, not dinosaurs.

After they sifted through all the sand in their buckets, we asked visitors to describe, count, and sort artifacts for us. Finally, they collected them into a box to “take to the lab” for additional analysis. Even though this was a fun activity, we wanted to make sure it resembled real-life archaeology, not “treasure hunting.” At the end of the activity, we paid our budding archaeology assistants for their hard work with chocolate coins or temporary tattoos. If we accomplished nothing else, we successfully indoctrinated the youth with the idea that archaeologists should be paid for their work.

Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright prepares Science Fest visitors to play the artifact matching game.

Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright prepares Science Fest visitors to play the artifact matching game.

When they were done screening, we sent visitors over to the artifacts table to look at some of the real-life objects we’ve excavated right here on MSU’s campus. Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright showed visitors several interesting items including a jar of library paste, porcelain dolls, and uranium glass that glows under black lights. Visitors were allowed to touch and handle some of the sturdier artifacts like laboratory keys, a protractor, and a pocketknife rusted shut. These examples of campus artifacts tied in with the second activity CAP brought to the Expo Zone: the artifact matching game.

The artifact matching game required visitors to play a 3-dimensional game of memory matching, where they matched four historic artifacts with their modern counterparts. Visitors of all ages enjoyed comparing and contrasting modern objects they see and use every day, like light bulbs and pop bottles, with similar items used by MSU students and faculty decades ago. Since many of the Science Fest visitors work on campus or have family members that do, they were excited to make these kinds of connections with campus history.

Archaeology undergraduate Amy Hair shows Science Fest visitors some examples of archaeological tools and artifacts found on MSU’s campus

Archaeology undergraduate Amy Hair shows Science Fest visitors some examples of archaeological tools and artifacts found on MSU’s campus

The Science Fest Expo was a lot of fun, but it also served an important purpose in that it provided a space for us to bring our work into the public sphere. Now, more than ever, scientists have to think about how we can bridge the gap between the public and the academy and make our work relevant and accessible to everyone. While this is a complicated issue, a good first step is to make sure members of the community are familiar with what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. One visitor said they had worked on campus for years and had no idea we did archaeology here!

These in-person events also give us a chance to address common misconceptions about archaeology. When visitors arrived at our booth, we asked them if they could tell us about what archaeologists do. Before doing the activity and talking to us, most people—kids and parents—thought that archaeologists dig up dinosaur fossils! We were able to have one-on-one conversations and explain that paleontologists study dinosaurs, while archaeologists are interested in learning about past people based on the objects they leave behind.

CAP’s next Scincefest outreach event will be a Campus Archaeology Historical Walking Tour on Saturday, April 15 from 1-2 PM. The first 50 people to arrive at the MSU Union will receive a guided tour of archaeological locations important to MSU’s history, led by CAP Director Dr. Lynne Goldstein and Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright. The tour is free and suitable for all ages!


CAP CAFE! The Public and MSU Archaeology

Last night was the first official CAP Cafe with a presentation by Dr. Jodi O’Gorman, chair of the MSU Department of Anthropology. We are excited to launch this series of public oriented lectures about some of the archaeology projects from our department and gather with archaeologists here in the area. Here are our dates for this semester:

February 25th: Dr. Lovis
March 31st: Dr. Watrall
April 14th: CAP

All presentations are at 7pm. February is in McDonel Hall C103, March is in the LEADR lab, and April is part of ScienceFest!
So come and join us to interact with archaeologists at MSU!

Here is a recap of last night’s CAP Cafe:

Dr. O'Gorman presents

Dr. O’Gorman presents Breaking Bread and Building Bridges

Dr. O’Gorman’s presentation, “Breaking Bread and Building Bridges: A Foodways Perspective on Negotiating Pre-Columbian Conflict in the Midwest” was based on her long term research project at Morton Village in central Illinois. This project is near and dear to our hearts here at MSU because most students join the site to work on the various projects and to develop their archaeological training. This 14th century village is related to a cemetery and mound complex in the Central Illonios river valley. The site is located in a region that overlaps the indigenous Mississpian cultural groups to the south and the Oneota from northern Illinois and Wisconsin.

The presentation focused on the relationships between changes in foodways and the development of multiculturalism in the Midwest during the 1300s. Dr. O’Gorman used a variety of approaches; lipid analysis, statistical analysis, and shape/form analysis to understand the production and use of bowls and plates at the site. This information may reveal that these two cultures developed an integrated way of manufacturing, preparing, and displaying food. Dr. O’Gorman highlighted a particular deep rimmed plate style that had typical Mississipian cultural form but used Oneota stylistic motiffs. She suggested that the persistence of the shape type for both groups can demonstrate a need to maintain some cultural element in the face of change as “community and group persistence were important.” Dr. O’Gorman suggested that these instances of integration and separation that occured in this boarder region can ultimately reveal how and when these two groups developed multicultural behaviors during their interactions.

After the discussion we visited the laboratories to see the artifacts up close and get a sense of the different shapes and motifs of the Misssisspian and Oneota cultural groups. This hands-on experience was a bonus addition to the presentation, a unique asset of our CAP CAFE series.

Ceramic frags in the lab

Ceramic frags in the lab

Oneota and Mississippian Jars

Oneota and Mississippian Jars

Dr. O'Gorman and Amy Michael discuss a poster presentation

Dr. O’Gorman and Amy Michael discuss a poster presentation

The first presentation of the CAP CAFE series was a hit! We learned about foodways, Oneota culture, and were able to see the artifacts up close. Be sure to join us next month to learn more about archaeology at MSU!


Introducing CAP Cafe

This year CAP will be introducing a new public outreach series called CAP Cafe. This will be a monthly series geared towards the general public, and it will explore all things archaeology. While Campus Archaeology regularly presents for public outreach events, such as MSU Science Festival and Grandparents University, it often ends up being for a limited audience. CAP Cafe will allow us to educate and entertain the public about the awesome world of archaeology.

The first CAP Cafe will be our second annual Apparitions and Archaeology Campus Tour, on October 29th, 7pm. This free event will give a historic tour of MSU’s campus, stopping at the most haunted locations. MSU’s Paranormal Society will join CAP for this event and test areas for any paranormal activity. Join us in this haunting experience to learn about the spooky history of MSU, the archaeology of each historic site, and maybe meet some of MSU’s historic residents, i.e. ghosts.

Because we want the CAP Cafe series to be engaging to the public, we’ll be switching up the content and format every month. Some months  will be structured as a discussion on an archaeological topic and some months will be geared more towards kids with hands-on activities. Our goal is to engage the entire spectrum of the general public. While a majority of the CAP Cafe series will revolve around Campus Archaeology and our collections, we’ll also have other MSU archaeology professors and grad students present their archaeological research.

A few ideas for our upcoming CAP Cafes are:

“What we did this Summer”- Learn about CAP’s awesome discoveries on campus this summer, which include MSU’s first privy, and our excavations of Professor Gunson’s garbage.

Flint Knapping- Ever been curious about how stone tools are made? Join us for an instructional tutorial on making a projectile point.

Map Making- Every archaeologist needs to know how to create a site map. This workshop will explain the importance of maps in archaeology, show the utility of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and explain how to make a sketch map with only a compass.

Since we want the CAP Cafe series to engage the public, we want to hear from you. What specific archaeological things would you like to see, or learn about for the series? Are there areas or time periods that interest you? Do you want to know more about the archaeological process? Do you just want to meet some really cool archaeologists? Give us your comments, find us on Facebook (, or Tweet us @capmsu.

Expecting the unexpected for summer construction projects

As students begin to file out of campus, the orange cones start lining up as a sign of the upcoming summer construction projects. This will be my second summer as Campus Archaeologist and I feel much more prepared this year to expect the unexpected. We’ve been researching in the archives for the past couple of months to make sure we are prepared for every historic feature that may be potentially disturbed throughout the summer. While last year I was caught off-guard with our early discovery of the first Vet Lab, this summer I have a full crew on deck and historic maps in my pocket, so we’re ready to tackle the summer.

The main summer construction project that will occupy CAP is the Phase 4 (final phase) of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvements, or the West Circle steam tunnel renovations. This project will occur in the area between the MSU Museum, Olds Hall and the Library, a very old part of campus. There are three historic buildings that will most likely be affected: the first Williams Hall, the second Wells Hall, and the mechanical engineering shops. CAP is working closely with Granger Construction to insure that we have time to properly survey these areas, and if necessary excavate.

If you’ve been following our blog you know that the second Wells Hall, built in 1916, was torn down in the 1956 to accommodate the new library. Part of the footprint of the second Wells Hall is under the Library’s east parking lot. This parking lost is slated to be torn up and resurfaced, so CAP can sneak in during this process and shovel test. When we shovel test for Wells Hall we want to see if any of the foundation is buried, or if it was completely removed when is was razed. Also, we’re hoping to find artifacts that tell us about the early days of dorm life at MSU.

A new area that we haven’t surveyed too much is the area of the mechanical engineering shops. These shops would have been located to the east of Olds Hall and used for the mechanical engineering program. Associated with the mechanical shops was the power plant, built in 1884, to provide steam forced heat for the university. Previous research on the history of MSU’s power plants indicated that at its inceptions, MSU students were required to feed the coal burning power plant. This adds an interesting element to the potential archaeology of the area since student activity and use of the area was mandatory in order to keep the university heated.

Finally, the West Circle steam tunnel renovations may disturb the foundation of the original Williams Hall. Williams Hall was built in 1869 and burned in 1919. This building housed 80 students and the basement was the cafeteria that fed the university for decades. CAP found a cornerstone of Williams Hall back in 2009, so we know the foundation still exists.

We’ll keep you updated as the construction gets underway.

Campus Archaeology and Outreach: MSU Science Festival

My previous posts this semester have focused on Campus Archaeology’s involvement in community and educational outreach and the pros and cons of these types of activities.

East Olive students playing the "Old or New" game

East Olive students playing the “Old or New” game

Last Friday, members of Campus Archaeology gave an in-school presentation for MSU Science Festival at East Olive Elementary in St. Johns. There were two sessions for fourth and fifth graders, with kids split into groups of four or five for each. We modified many of our previous activities to function as mini-stations in order to better fit with learning objectives and the structure of the event. Overall, this outreach event was a success, and gave us a better idea of how to approach these types of community engagement and what events we should be focusing on.

Katy explaining stratigraphy to East Olive students

Katy explaining stratigraphy to East Olive students

For this event Kate, as Campus Archaeologist, began with an overview of what is archaeology and what archaeologists do (“think humans, not dinosaurs or fossils”). This introduction proved useful for many of the students, as it got them to think about the artifacts as more than just being “cool” but to view them in terms of past people. This was evident from many of their thoughtful answer when we asked them questions about the artifacts.

We modified our “match the old and new artifact” game to give only a few examples, and have them identify old and new and then brainstorm reasons why artifacts would change through time and how archaeologists use this knowledge to help answer questions about the past. Our stratigraphy map and sticky tape artifacts demonstrated how archaeologists find artifacts and how they interpret them in terms of chronology.

We also had an “artifact assemblage” station, using artifacts that were found on campus in order to explain how archaeologists identify past human behavior through artifacts. The assemblage included a horseshoe, brick fragments, test tubes, and faunal remains to represent the Old Vet Lab on campus. The students then hypothesized why these items would be found together. Many used their knowledge gained from other activities, such as the stratigraphy game, to think about how the story would change based on where the objects were found in the ground. There were so many creative answers and students seemed to enjoy that they could come up with so many options!

Nicole showing East Olive students the assemblage game

Nicole showing East Olive students the assemblage game

Finally, we used the “garbage game”, which consists of sifting through modern trash in order to hypothesize who the person was who created the trash. We asked if the kids could figure out if the person was male or female? What they liked to eat? What the persons hobbies were, etc…? We got a lot of “crazy cat lady” as an answer, which may say something about me, since it was my trash.

Overall, it was agreed that this event functioned much more smoothly than past outreach opportunities. This is because it was much smaller groups, in a set amount of time, and with multiple activities that challenged their thinking. Additionally, because the participants were all of the same age group, it was much easier to alter activities to fit their age range. We now have a better idea of how to approach these types of outreach opportunities in the future.

Thanks again to East Olive Elementary!

MSU Science Fest will take place on campus April 15th-19th. For more information visit:

Campus Archaeology and Public Outreach Part 2

Cowritten by Nicole Geske and Lisa Bright

Students at the Bennett Woods Elementary School Science Fair

Students at the Bennett Woods Elementary School Science Fair

In our last blog, we discussed some of the pros and cons of K-12 public outreach. On Wednesday, Campus Archaeology participated in the Bennett Woods elementary school Science Fair. This event was held for several hundred K-4th graders along with their parents, guardians, and other family members to participate in a wide-range of science activities.

We brought several hands-on activities, as well as many artifacts that Campus Archaeology excavated on campus. We brought our match the artifact game, which we’ve used at past events, such as Michigan Archaeology Day. This is like the card game memory, but here you match an archaeological artifact found at Michigan State University, such as an old medicine bottle, with its modern day equivalent.


Students play the artifact matching game

Students play the artifact matching game

Amy explains an artifact to a student

Amy explains an artifact to a student

We also brought a new game designed to explain stratigraphy where you place pictures of artifacts at appropriate levels. Additionally, we had an archaeologist’s tool kit, containing items such as trowels, brushes, and a screen to demonstrate how archaeology is actually conducted. Overall, the event was a success as we able to interact with a large number of children about archaeology and we received positive feedback.

A student plays our new stratigraphy game

A student plays our new stratigraphy game

Close up of stratigraphy game. Artifacts drawn by Katy Meyers

Close up of stratigraphy game. Artifacts drawn by Katy Meyers

Although we enjoy engaging with the public, it is still a significant investment of our time and resources. As members of the Campus Archaeology Program, we are also graduate students and it is often hard for us during the week to secure enough volunteers for these events. For example, on Wednesday we had five people and it was still difficult due to the large number of participants.

As we explained in our last blog, we’re now exploring the option of training teachers about how to integrate archaeology into their curriculum. After Wednesday’s event, it appears that this is the best route for Campus Archaeology. If we educate teachers, they will have the ability to continue to teach archaeology to multiple cohorts, making it a sustainable practice. Conversely, our ability to participate in these large events can be highly variable depending on the members of Campus Archaeology, as it may vary from year to year.

Therefore our next step is to create toolboxes that will function as mini-lessons. We discussed some options for these in our last blog and will update you with future progress.

Planning for Summer Construction

This coming Thursday CAP has a meeting with MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) and Granger construction to discuss the upcoming summer construction projects. Most importantly, Phase 4 (final phase) of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvement, a.k.a the steam tunnel project. This project began in the summer of 2012, in an effort to upgrade the 100 year old steam tunnels. CAP has worked closely with this project because a) it is taking place in the heart of historic campus, West Circle; and b) it gives CAP the opportunity to explore huge areas of buried MSU.

Unfortunately, this project is quite destructive to any potential archaeology, so my job is to do the proper research so CAP can preemptively excavate, or at least be prepared for any findings. Last summer, during Phase 3, you may recall that CAP discovered the foundation of the original Vet Lab, built in 1885. This discovery caught us off guard, and though we were able to hold off construction so we could excavate, it was not an ideal situation. I’ll be much more prepared this summer.

Plans detailing 2014's North Campus Infrastructure Improvements; courtesy MSU IPF

Plans detailing 2014’s North Campus Infrastructure Improvements; courtesy MSU IPF

IPF always gives us the construction blueprints, which detail every aspect of the construction process. From digging the 30ft deep steam tunnels to tree removal, these plans allow CAP to make a game plan for how we’re going to approach the construction, i.e. simple shovel testing or full excavation. For Phase 4, the final steam tunnel replacements will cut across Olds Hall and towards the MSU Museum. I’ve been compiling historic maps and photos to see if any of these cuts will impact historical features. Currently, I’ve discovered three potential structures: the Vet Lab, the Mechanical shops, and the original steam tunnels. The steam tunnels are too deep for us to shovel test or excavate, so we can only monitor until something is found. Most likely, we’ll shovel test beforehand to determine if the remains of the Vet Lab and Mechanical shops will be disturbed.

At the upcoming meeting on Thursday we’ll explain our findings, and our concern for the possible destruction of these historic features, then we’ll create a strategy that allows for archaeology, but does not severally inhibit the construction. IPF and Granger understand the significance of the cultural heritage of MSU and are always willing to accommodate our archaeology.

In addition to the steam tunnel project, there are a handful of other construction projects occurring on campus this summer. MSU’s campus is constantly being renovated and upgraded to accommodate the ever-growing university. It is CAP’s goal to discover and disseminate the history on which MSU has built its name.


Campus Archaeology & Social Media: What We’ve Learned Over the Past Seven Years

UntitledSince its official beginnings in 2007, social media has played an important role in the management of and education about cultural heritage on campus. Social media is part of a larger multifaceted communication plan that has been developed as part of this program for multiple reasons, and is not simply a tool for public engagement. Over the last seven years, we’ve changed, updated, and maintained a social media presence that has been pivotal in our success as a small group in a large university. At the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference on September 28, 2014- I had the opportunity to present on why our social media presence has been successful and how we have used it. Here, I want to share some of the ways we’ve creatively used social media, and the things that we’ve learned over the last seven years.

Whether its on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube, or other social media, we have used social media to accomplish four primary goals:

  • Engagement with our stakeholders, including MSU students, staff and faculty, as well as the broader public and MSU alumni
    • We share  updates about fieldwork, we invite people to come watch our excavations, and we share information about what we’ve found and how we’ve interpreted it.
    • This provides the public with knowledge that their shared Spartan heritage is being protected, gives them new information about this heritage, and it reveals the process of archaeology, improving the transparency of the work that we do and making it more accessible.
  • Communication and collaboration with the broader archaeological communities and groups around the world
    • Our work isn’t just for the local community- it is part of the larger public archaeology being conducted around the world!
    • We use social media to talk with other archaeologists about the work they are doing, and we also use this network to get help identifying artifacts, finding resources to aid in interpretation, and learning about new tools we can use.
  • Opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to gain digital and public engagement skills
    • As our world is increasingly online, it is important for our students to learn about digital tools and how to use them as an archaeologist. We provide an opportunity for our students to learn how to use social media and talk with diverse audiences.
  • Maintain a digital record of our work that can easily be accessed from any computer
    • By keeping digital records of the work we are doing, we can access photos, data, reports, and more from the different social media tools we use. Flickr maintains a photo record, YouTube has a video record, our blog has information about past interpretations, and Storify has records of the Twitter feeds from different events.

After seven years of using social media in this fashion, we’ve learned a number of lessons that will be helpful for those looking to improve their own program’s social media presence.

  • Use a wide variety of social media and digital tools: there isn’t one perfect tool that will allow you to reach everyone and engage with all the different groups. There are different audiences using different tools, which means that you need to find a range of tools that works for you. Often, we post similar things on Twitter and Facebook, because there are different groups reading them.
  • Be flexible and try new things: new types of tools and software are being released almost every day, so you cannot be wedded to one type of approach or a set of tools. We are constantly on the lookout for new ways to engage and collaborate online. Its important to look for what new ways people are using to communicate with one another, and be willing to take up new tools and abandon the old if it no longer serves its purpose.
  • Keep track of analytics: analytics tell you how many hits you are getting, how many people are looking at the site, what posts or tweets are the most engaged with, and more. From this, you can better adjust and maintain the success of your social media. Almost all social media have analytics tools that will help you see what is getting the most attention, and what needs to be changed.

If you’d like to learn more, Dr. Goldstein will be leading a webinar about this topic!

Webinar: Campus Archaeology’s Social Media Approach

Through the Society for American Archaeology

Led by Dr. Lynne Goldstein

Tentatively scheduled: December 10, 2 pm (Eastern)

Look for SAA announcement!


Michigan Archaeology Day Recap


This past weekend Campus Archaeology took part in Michigan Archaeology Day. Every year the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), in conjunction with the Michigan Historical Center, hosts Michigan Archaeology Day at the Michigan Historical Museum. Michigan Archaeology Day is not only a day to celebrate archaeology and recognize the history of this Great Lakes state, but also a way to get non-archaeologists involved, and aware of the necessity of stewardship.

This event encourages the public to engage in all things archaeology; from flintknapping to excavation, and become informed on the happenings in Michigan Archaeology through the series of presentations on archaeological research in Michigan given throughout the day. Archaeology programs and anthropology/archaeology departments come from across the state to exhibit their fascinating research.

Lisa and Ian explaining the games.

Lisa and Ian explaining the games.

This year CAP offered a couple activities in addition to our usual informational table. We had the “Artifact Memory Game” which required participants to match the historic artifact with the modern equivalent, i.e. the ink well and the ink cartridge. This game was quite popular with the older kids, in fact, we had one kid in particular that was so enthusiastic about the game that she insisted we change up the order and start to time her every time she came around. I’m pleased to announce that her best time was 54 seconds! The other activity we offered was “Guess the Artifact.” We set out a few artifacts that we were not 100% certain about, and asked people to guess, or give their informed opinion on the identity of the object. This activity ended up being quite helpful in identifying our unknowns. It’s nice to get a fresh set of eyes and a second opinion.

As always, the organizers of Michigan Archaeology Day did an amazing job, and put together a wonderful event. We are excited to be a part of this every year and we look forward to next year.

To Valhalla and Beyond: Plans for CAP for 2014-2015

Viking Ship Funeral by Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia

Viking Ship Funeral by Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia

Greetings gentle readers. I have admittedly procrastinated the writing of this blog post. In my procrastination, I stumbled upon a post (link below) referencing a recent interview with actor Nick Offerman in which he was asked about his preplanned funeral arrangements. His brilliant response involved an elaborate, if inventive, recreation of a Viking burial ritual, flaming arrows, and Chris Pratt. Last year I read a book chapter that cited a detailed eyewitness description of a Viking funeral, but one which included neither fiery missiles nor a burning longboat welcoming the deceased to the Great Beyond (Parker Pearson 1999). I am a touch disappointed that history seems to lack this dramatic theatrics, but I digress. I was reminded of the never-ending discussion among archaeologists regarding the public’s perception of archaeology and the past. We are often mistaken for paleontologists or are asked even more frequently if we own a fedora and/or bullwhip.

The Campus Archaeology Program at MSU has consistently maintained a visible presence, whether by social media or fieldwork on campus. By frequently updating the website with our findings or participating in events such as the annual Michigan Archaeology Day, we not only inform the public about what it is that archaeologists do, but also generate interest in MSU’s rich history. I remember my excitement at learning about CAP when I first came to MSU. My undergraduate institution did not have a similar program, nor have I heard of other universities having archaeology programs that focus work specifically on university history. I have only conducted fieldwork with CAP a few times and was initially a bit surprised but always excited when passersby visited our work areas. Some would briefly stop and ask if we had found anything exciting before continuing their day, but many would stay for several minutes and ask questions about what we were looking for, why we were excavating in a given space, etc. A few even participated in screening soil for artifacts. It was always apparent that students and non-students alike take a special interest in Michigan State’s heritage and hold it as a source of university pride.

My primary project for CAP this year involves determining a suitable location to hold the 2015 Campus Archaeology field school. The project will involve a combination of archival research and shovel testing across campus. Current areas of interest include the botanical gardens, the Forestry Cabin once located at People’s Park, and an area of the River Trail near the administration building that yielded what appears to be a large trash pit comprised mostly of discarded lab equipment. In the weeks to come, you may see us around campus with our shovels and screens digging away. If you do, feel free to stop by with any questions or if time permits you could even help us uncover, preserve, and share our university’s heritage.

We hope to see you soon.


Parker Pearson, Mike. 1999. The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Texas A&M University Press,

College Station.

Link to Buzzfeed article:

*Disclaimer: The Offerman interview includes a single instance of profanity at the end.