This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an […]
As all MSU students, professors, and staff know, MSU is continually improving their roads, sidewalks, sporting fields, etc. Each spring through fall, MSU’s campus is scattered with constructions sites with the goal of bettering the physical campus environment. While this activity is very visible, there […]
For much of this summer the CAP field crew was busy surveying the area surrounding the East neighborhood (Akers, Fee, Hubbard, Conrad). Beginning in March 2018 Wilson road will be altered, creating an additional exit onto Hagadorn, a traffic light on Shaw, as well as additional parking.
The areas highlighted in green will all be changed/impacted by the construction. CAP had not previously excavated in this area so we were excited to see what was there.
Historically this area was part of the Biebesheimer farm. The Biebesheimer family lived in the Ingham county area since the late 1860s (Adams 1923:379). A majority of the farm was sold to Michigan Agricultural College in 1925. However, the Biebesheimer and Roney (Mary Biebesheimer’s married name was Roney) families retained a portion of the original farm until the 1950’s. During the years the family owned/worked this farm land they uncovered several important prehistoric and contact era archaeological artifacts. The artifacts have been donated to the MSU museum and are housed in the Paul S. Roney collection.
The construction of the river trail neighborhood (McDonel, Owen, Shaw, Van Hoosen) and east neighborhood began in the mid 1960s (although the grouping of these buildings into neighborhoods is a much more recent university initiative). So although these buildings, roads, and parking lots of a much more recent timeframe than the areas of campus we are typically called upon to investigate, it is important to remember that we are also charged with preserving and documenting the entire history of the area. So we set out to determine if anything prior to the campus development remained undisturbed. We were looking for signs of both the farm and prehistoric sites.
So we conducted a survey and excavated shovel test pits along the entire green highlighted area in the above map. A shovel test pit is a hole, typically dug by a shovel, that is roughly 2 times the width of the shovel head with a goal of a 1 meter depth.
The field crew dug 312 shovel test pits for the Wilson road realignment. Unfortunately much of the area was comprised of highly compact soil, resulting in some difficult conditions for the field crew. Additionally, only 90 of the test pits had any cultural material (artifacts). Most of which were recent objects near the top third of the test pit. The most surprising elements were probably the animals the crew encountered.
What these weeks of hard work tell us is that the area is highly disturbed. Any intact deposits are likely much deeper than we could get with the test pits. It’s also important to remember that the absence of artifacts also tells the specific story of that area. Once construction begins in March 2018 we will monitor the parking lot and road demolition, and likely excavate additional test pits once the ground surfaces have been removed.
Adams, Franc L. Pioneer History of Ingham County Volume 1 Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Company: Lansing Michigan. 1923
We had a busy summer here at CAP. We were able to excavate at some interesting and important places such as the Abbott Entrance and Beals first botanical lab. Our last project area for the summer was behind the Old Horticulture building on north campus. IPF […]
Today is the 2016 Day of Archaeology. The goal of the Day of Archaeology project is to provide a window into the varied lives of archaeologists around the world. You can see our contribution at: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/summer-msu-campus-archaeology/ Head on over and check it out. You can browse all […]
Since we last checked in we’ve had a busy week and a half. The Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project is coming to a close, so we’ve been able to finish work there and move onto testing other research questions.
U.S. Weather Bureau
Although the rejuvenation construction was not directly impacting the north west corner of the Abbot entrance, I wanted to conduct a survey in this area so that we could consider the entire west side of the road surveyed. The NW corner was home to the U.S. Weather Bureau. The building was constructed in 1909 and demolished in 1948. Dewey Seeley and his family occupied the building, while Mr. Seeley recorded daily weather data and provided forecasts for the area. As the campus, and East Lansing, grew around the Weather Bureau Mr. Seeley complained about the encroachment near the bureau. He petitioned the federal government for the construction of a new weather bureau in a different location, and a new structure was built by the federal government on land leased by the college. That building is today known as the Wills House, located just west of Mayo Hall. From 1927-1940 the old bureau building served as the music center, from 1940 to approx. 1943 it was the Works Progress Administration Headquarter, and finally the Placement Center until its destruction in 1948.
The bureau was demolished by George Boone of Jackson MI, who paid the college $400 to remove the building. Because Mr. Boone paid the college, rather than being paid by them, our investigation sought to discover how much of the weather bureau remained after he salvaged/scrapped the building.
We were unable to locate any intact foundation walls or floors. However, a dense layer of rubble does cover that entire area. Artifacts were mostly building related including bricks, nails, roofing slate, and concrete. One curious artifact category were bricks made out of concrete, something we had not encountered before. Two of the concrete bricks were sent to Civil Engineering for inspection.
Lansing State Journal
While we were excavating the weather bureau a reporter from the Lansing State Journal came by to write a story on CAP. We even made it on the cover of the journal! The complete article, along with a short video, can be found on the journal’s website.
Beal’s Botanical Laboratory
The location of Beal’s first botanical laboratory is marked with a large historical plaque. We did some brief investigations in this area in 2009 or 2010, but aside from probing have just assumed that the building foundation was still present. Earlier this week we opened three 1×1 units on the eastern edge of the grassy area to determine the extent of the foundations/artifact presence. We were also trying to determine the orientation of the building.
Our excavations were exploratory in nature, and we limited the disturbance to three units. One unit appears to be outside the extent of the buildings footprint, but two units located walls.
Unit one locate a large field stone wall just below the modern ground surface. This wall section ran almost due N/S (4 degrees), and was 80 cm in total height. The wall was surrounded by sterile fill sand, most likely a builders trench from the construction of the building. Interestingly, although this unit had melted glass, they did not have a burn layer.
Unit two located a smaller, possibly interior, wall made of medium size cobbles with a mortar layer on top. On one side of the wall was sterile fill sand, while the other side had a larger rubble and burn layer. This unit also encountered large amounts of burned and cracked glass, as well as hand cut square nails.
Finding these two walls, as well as discussing the presence of a third known wall with people that work in the Beal Botanical Garden, helps us better understand the orientation and current state of the structure.
Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes October 21st, 1948: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-43F/meeting-minutes-october-21-1948/
Spring classes have ended, thousands of people have graduated, and a relative calm has spread over the campus. While many people kick back and relax over their summer vacation, this is the busy season for us here at CAP. During the summer we’re busy excavating, […]
Earlier this summer, the Campus Archaeology team surveyed the green spaces behind Jenison Fieldhouse, next to the Red Cedar. We weren’t finding much, just the occasional nail or piece of glass, but regardless, we still wanted to know more about the building and the land […]
Summer 2013 has provided MSU’s campus community with many changes. While students are partaking in various summer activities away from campus, MSU has push forwarded with various construction projects to revamp an aging campus infrastructure. Returning students in the fall may not recognize parts of the campus that they left in the spring. In particular, campus north of the Red Cedar has been subjected to various projects throughout these spring and summer months. This means that MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program has been out in full force ensuring that MSU’s rich historical past is preserved and to make sure that we mitigate any potential damage.
On this particular day, we found ourselves working on around fifteen shovel test pits, while monitoring and documenting the continued demolition of Morrill Hall. The area we focused on was a small grass triangle formed by sidewalk borders that were due to be taken up in the next week for reconstruction. This location was of importance to us due to the proximity it had with both the original dorm, Saint’s Rest, and the second dorm, Old Williams Hall. The area of interest is located next to the MSU Museum and the MSU Museum parking lot. The modern day grass triangle is located to southeast of where the Old Williams Hall existed and to the southwest of where Saint’s Rest existed. A potential prime spot for historical artifact concentrations.
Our initial shovel tests (STs) began closes to the east part of the museum and its parking lot, or the west part of the triangle. Most of our test pits showed regular stratigraphy and small or no artifact densities. As we moved to the east of the triangle, closer to Saint’s Rest, we began encountering higher artifact densities. Our test pits closes to Saint’s Rest provided interesting finds. One test pit provided evidence of animal butchering, while another had a high enough concentration of whiteware, stoneware, pipe pieces, and glass that we decided that we should open it up to a one meter by one meter test unit.
As we dug the test unit, the concentration of artifacts began to wane. This high concentration was only present in the A horizon and the very top of the B horizon. Once we made our way through this artifact concentration we came upon some unique, linear soil lines. One line, separated the north third of the unit from the middle third. The north third of the unit was the natural B horizon, a dark orange loam. This was right next to the middle third of the unit, which was a light tan fill. The south third of the unit was the same as the middle third but had been mostly removed by the original STP. This strange anomaly left us contemplating what might have caused this. Original thoughts were that prior excavations had all ready happened in this area. Why would there be such a distinct, linear line?
As the modern day archaeologists that we are, we decided to turn to Twitter to see if our follow archaeologists could help us solve this mystery. With the help of past Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock, we were able to determine that the light tan fill of the middle third and south third of the unit was likely due to a backhoe, presumably for a utility trench. To make sure that we were not dealing with a feature of a different kind, we put in test pits about half a meter to the north and south of our test unit. Both of these units had little to no artifact densities, as well as a natural stratigraphy. These final two STP’s helped support the idea that the soil lines in the test unit we were dealing with were due to a utility line disturbance.