Tag: survey

A Look Back at CAP’s 2022 Field School

A Look Back at CAP’s 2022 Field School

This past summer, the Campus Archaeology program had the opportunity to offer a field school to archaeology students from MSU and across the state—our first field school since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Directly taking part in ongoing CAP research into life in the 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Greetings! For those of you just joining our blog for the first time, I am Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am entering my 5th year here at MSU, and my 13th teaching as a tenure track faculty member 

What’s New CAP Crew? An Update on archaeology at MSU

What’s New CAP Crew? An Update on archaeology at MSU

Wow! Our summer season in 2021 was a complete turnaround from the 2020. The MSU graduate student archaeologists who joined CAP Crew this year worked on four major field and laboratory projects.

From May to late-August members of the CAP Crew completed a federal compliance shovel test survey, excavated a mid-20th century feature at Spartan Village, monitored construction projects and the planting of commemorative trees, surveyed under MSU’s sidewalks, began research projects, and cataloged artifacts into a new on-line database. Looking back, I only now realize how busy we truly were this summer and how much our magnificent CAP Crew accomplished.

CAP Crew 2021:

  • Dr. Stacey L. Camp (she/her) – Director
  • Jeff Burnett (he/him) – Campus Archaeologist
  • Benjamin Akey (they/them) – Archaeologist
  • Jack Biggs (he/him) – Archaeologist
  • Rhian Dunn (she/her) – Archaeologist
  • Aubree Marshall (she/her) – Archaeologist
  • Amber Plemons (she/her) – Archaeologist

In this blog I will provide a quick synopsis of the projects and the work done for each. This will serve as an update for all those interested in the cultural heritage of MSU’s historic campus and provide a glimpse into the type of work we do at CAP.

Red Cedar Greenway

A lone sifting screen sits among the trees and lawn in the project area
A lone sifting screen sits among the trees and lawn in the Red Cedar Greenway project area

This project, known to CAP as the Red Cedar Greenway Project, involved the use of federal funds to improve and expand walking and bike paths in two areas of Campus along the Red Cedar River.

For CAP, this project began in December 2019 when Dr. Camp and I were contacted by MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) and were asked to perform the work necessary to ensure that the project was in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA).

Teaming up with MSU Professor Jessica Flores, an Architectural Historian in the Department of Interior Design, we completed an application for Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Section 106 Consolation. For CAP, this application included a study of past archaeological work, our assessment of the project’s impacts on archaeological sites, and our plans to survey the area ahead of construction.

Staring on May 4, CAP Crew conducted a shovel test survey in the areas where ground disturbing construction would occur. In the end we excavated, or dug, a total of 130 shovel tests and found no historic properties within the project area.

using a tablet and gps device to record a flagged shovel test pit.
Using a tablet and gps device to record a flagged shovel test pit during the Red Cedar Greenway survey.

What we did find were artifacts and soil stratigraphy, or soil layers, that showed evidence of past construction activities in the area. These included the construction of Shaw Hall, ca. 1949, the continual installation and replacement of utilities, and work to build up the river bank. We also encountered evidence of what may have been an asphalt road used to access the old WKAR radio station building ca. 1941.

Following the shovel test survey CAP Crew, led primarily by Jack Biggs and Aubree Marshall, washed and cataloged the artifacts we recovered and monitored construction activities.

By the end of August construction crews had completed all of the major ground disturbing work and CAP Crew ended out monitoring activity just in time for the start of the Fall Semester.  

Construction Summer 2021

Shovel Test Dug during Yakeley Hall Patio Replacement. Shows soil and measuring tape
Shovel Test Dug during Yakeley Hall Patio Replacement

While the Red Cedar Greenway project took up most of our time, CAP Crew still had to respond to other construction projects on Campus. These projects included shovel testing at Yakeley Hall, Beaumont Tower sidewalks, Shaw Hall sidewalks, the Veterinary Medicine Building, and for the numerous commemorative tree plantings that occur throughout the year at MSU.

CAP’s relationship and ongoing communication with IPF employees and contractors ensures we can effectively mitigate these smaller projects ahead of, or alongside construction. The results of this work shows, unsurprisingly, evidence of archaeological sites relating to Campus at both Beaumont Tower and the former site of Beal’s Laboratory. No evidence of archaeological sites was found at any of the other project areas.

A large machine dug hole dug in West Circle
A large machine dug hole dug for a commemorative tree planting in the West Circle part of campus

Spartan Village Monitoring

After surveying the Spartan Village site twice during the 2020-2021 academic year, CAP Crew continued work there in the summer, monitoring ground disturbing construction. We focused on an area where a farmhouse stood from ca. 1930 to ca. 1956. In June, construction crews removing the topsoil uncovered several foundation walls where historic maps indicated farm outbuildings would be. CAP Crew excavated a foundation we believe may be a cistern or cesspool.

We defined the foundation and the soils within it as a feature, or a non-moveable element of an archaeological site, and excavated half of it, while leaving the other half intact. This process is known as “bisection” and allows us to take out part of a feature while preserving the internal stratigraphy, or soil layers. Many, many artifacts came out of this feature, including metal toys from the 1950s / 1960s, glass bottles, jars, and cups, and lots of metal artifacts. CAP Crew washed these artifacts in the summer and plan to analyze and catalog them this fall.

  • The foundation of a farm outbuilding set up with string to be excavated.
  • The cistern or cesspool feature excavated to bottom, over two and a half feet deep. Three walls are concrete while one is the dirt in the other side of the feature. There is a broken ceramic water pipe in the south wall.
  • A dirty, red and white painted metal toy car.
  • A chrome painted metal toy gun designed to look like a revolver. It is decorated with ranch and equine motifes.

Laboratory Work

Very little of an archaeologist’s work is done in the field. The process of washing, analyzing, and cataloging artifacts and deciphering fieldnotes is where archaeological investigations truly come to life. This summer CAP Crew continued cataloguing the artifacts recovered from 2020’s Service Road Recovery survey, washed and cataloged artifacts recovered in this summer’s excavations, and entered old artifact records into our new online catalog database.

Ben and Aubree began a research project exploring the glass bottles and hotelware ceramics collected from last years Service Road recovery. With these artifacts they dated the site to the 1930s – 1960s, identified four patterns of hotelware vessels used at MSU, explored the soda and medicine consumed on campus, and much more.

This work is ongoing, CAP Fellows may work on parts as part of their yearly research projects. Other parts will be taken up by undergraduate interns as they gain hands-on experience working with real archaeological collections recovered from their Campus community.

A large ceramic artifact recovered from the Spartan Village site. It is a brown earthenware vessel, with botanical decorations and may be the base of a large flowerpot, a birdbath, or something else.
A large ceramic artifact recovered from the Spartan Village site. It is a brown earthenware vessel, with botanical decorations and may be the base of a large flower pot, a birdbath, or something else.

We are looking forward to processing all of the data and artifacts collected this summer and adding that to our growing understanding of Michigan State’s historic campus.  

The Many Faces of Cowles House, MSU’s Oldest Building

The Many Faces of Cowles House, MSU’s Oldest Building

This summer, Cowles House, MSU’s oldest standing building, is due to get a facelift. As part of this remodeling, crews will remove a few trees from around and inside the building and expand the west wing.  In preparation for this work, I have been researching 

How to Prepare for a Summer of Construction on MSU’s Campus

How to Prepare for a Summer of Construction on MSU’s Campus

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 

Summer Field Crew Update: Wilson Road Realignment

Summer Field Crew Update: Wilson Road Realignment

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.

Wilson road extension planning. Image source
Wilson road extension planning. Image source.

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.

Closeup from Michigan State University Land Acquisition map c. 1966. Source: MSU
Closeup from Michigan State University Land Acquisition map c. 1966. Source: MSU Library

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.

CAP field crew excavates shovel test pits in IM East field.
CAP field crew excavates shovel test pits in IM East field.

Jeff and Autumn Painter document a shovel test pit in the IM East field along Wilson road.
Jeff and Autumn Painter document a shovel test pit in the IM East field along Wilson road.

Jeff and Autumn Painter excavate a test pit in front of Conrad Hall.
Jeff and Autumn Painter excavate a test pit in front of Conrad Hall.

Becca Albert and Jasmine Smith excavate a test pit in the Vet Med field.
Becca Albert and Jasmine Smith excavate a test pit in the Vet Med field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field crew excavate test pits in the IM East field.
The field crew excavate test pits in the IM East field.

Autumn and Jeff Painter excavate a test pit between lot 32 and the tennis courts.
Autumn and Jeff Painter excavate a test pit between lot 32 and the tennis courts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

A pesky woodchuck infiltrates the field site.
A pesky woodchuck infiltrates the field site.

Autumn Painter got to meet a horse being treated by the MSU Large Animal Clinic.
Autumn Painter got to meet a horse being treated by the MSU Large Animal Clinic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Sources:

Adams, Franc L. Pioneer History of Ingham County Volume 1 Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Company: Lansing Michigan. 1923

 

 

 

Digging Underneath the River Trail

Digging Underneath the River Trail

CAP took the last two weeks off of work due to the holiday and a lack of major construction needing our presence as we prepared to start the major accessioning project we are currently working on. However, at the tail end of last week, we 

Auditorium Plaza Debrief

Auditorium Plaza Debrief

Recently, a construction project began in the small plaza between the MSU Auditorium and the Kresge Art Center, which meant that we Campus Archaeologists got to go in first and see what (if any) historic materials were hidden beneath the topsoil. The plaza is an 

Summer CAP Crew

Summer CAP Crew

Meet the summer CAP crew.

Ian Harrison

As the summer field season begins, I would just like to introduce myself as one of the undergraduate campus archaeologists. I am dual majored in Anthropology and Geography, and am going into my final year here at MSU.  While taking summer classes on campus, the CAP program wound up being the perfect fit for me to be able to simultaneously take classes while still being able to stay involved with archaeology (ie. not missing a field season and learning more than I ever thought I could about our campus’ history to boot). Otherwise, I am looking at graduate programs in underwater and Mediterranean archaeology that will ideally land me somewhere off the coast of Southern Europe searching for sunken bronze and iron age shipwrecks in another 4-8 years, but, one step at a time. I have already greatly enjoyed this summer in the field on campus thus far, and look forward to spending the rest of the summer with everyone.

 

Bethany Slon

As a recent graduate of MSU, I am happy to say that I will be working with CAP for one last summer before leaving East Lansing. I started working with Campus Archaeology in the summer of 2012 as a volunteer, and the following fall semester I began work as an intern under the direction of Dr. Goldstein and Kay Meyers. My research involved looking at the early years of the Women’s Building (later called Morrill Hall) and gathering information about the first female students who lived in this dorm. I presented this information at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, linking it to Campus Archaeology and what the demolition of Morrill Hall meant to us. I’ll be working with the CAP summer team until July, and ten I’ll be leaving for a six month stay in Mexico, in which I’ll be assisting in an excavation outside of Mexico City. Additionally, I have hopes of someday using what I’ve learned from my experiences to continue my research of the ancient Maya in a bioarchaeology graduate program. Archaeology has always been a passion of mine, and I am lucky to have found this experience with Campus Archaeology, both to broaden my skills as an archaeologist and to do what I love.

 

Caroline Dunham

I am unusual here in the Campus Archaeology crew in that I am not an anthropology student, or even an MSU student. I am a student in LCC’s paralegal program, but archaeology is a big interest of mine. I also have been doing it since I was a kid because my dad is Dr. Sean Dunham, a recent Ph.D. grad from MSU’s Department of Anthropology. This is my second year of working with CAP; my first was in 2012.  I have also worked on numerous Cultural Resource Management (CRM) projects through CCRG. After I get my associates degree, I am considering either law school or an anthropology degree.

 

Josh Schnell

I just finished my sophomore year at MSU as an undergraduate Anthropology student with an additional Religious Studies major. I have been working with Campus Archaeology since February of 2013 when I began an internship learning how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software in an archaeological context. This my second summer working as a member of the Campus Archaeology summer team. This past year, I expanded my GIS experience and skills and presented the results of a GIS-based project investigating MSU’s Sacred Space at UURAF in the spring. This summer, we are looking to further expand CAP’s GIS work in a series of map overlays that will enhance our pre-digging research. I eventually want to be a bioarchaeologist working with the ancient Maya. My desire to become an archaeologist was actually fueled by my fascination with the ancient Maya sparked by a freshman year World History class. I am particularly interested in ritual and how it is expressed on the landscape and in power systems with an emphasis on mortuary contexts. I was recently awarded an assistantship next year for a research project under the direction of Dr. Goldstien that will allow me to further investigate these topics. I hope that this summer with CAP will give me another opportunity to further develop my field skills.

Diggin’ Up Munn Field

Diggin’ Up Munn Field

It’s week three of our summer CAP work, and we’ve spent it digging test pits at Munn Field. I’ll admit, I was a little jealous that I missed out on the cool Vet Lab find two weeks ago, but now I’m finally back working with