Tag: survey

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 

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 the history of this building, as well as what previous CAP excavations have recovered in the area.

Completed in 1857, Cowles House was one of four homes built to house the earliest faculty members and administrators of MSU.  Some of the most prominent individuals in MSU’s history, such as Williams, Abbot, Beal, Bessey, Hannah, and McPherson, all lived in this house during their tenure at the college (Brock 2009; Kuhn 1955).  From 1857-1874, Cowles House served as the residence of the college president.  After 1874, Cowles House, then known as Faculty Row No. 7, functioned as the home of the professor of Botany (Beal 1915:35, 267; http://archives.msu.edu/collections/buildings.php).

A View of Cowles House ca. 1920
A View of Cowles House ca. 1920. Image Source.

During these early decades, Cowles house was not only a place of residence, but was also a hub of campus entertainment. Early on, no organized social life existed on MSU’s campus.  Students instead gravitated towards faculty homes, where faculty and staff would regularly host small get-togethers (Kuhn 1955:127). The Abbot’s, who lived in Cowles House during their time at the college, frequently invited students and guests into their home. As documented by Kuhn, Abbot had students come to his home weekly to read and discuss literature.  They also entertained on the weekends: “On Saturday nights the Abbot home was open to students; twenty or thirty would gather about the fire to eat apples and to talk of politics, of ethics, and of literature” (Kuhn 1955:90).

By the early 1900s, Cowles House had been repurposed to serve a broader function.  On a 1927 map of campus (MSU archives: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-114F/map-of-msu-campus-and-buildings-1927/), Cowles House is labeled as “Secretary’s House,” indicating a switch from residential space to a more administrative one.  I have not been able to discover more about what this label entails, such as if the house was entirely office space during this time, but it is clear that the space was no longer reserved for faculty use.

In 1941, under the Hannah administration, Cowles House once again became the home of the president of the university.  As such, the building underwent major renovations after the end of World War II, during which much of the building was rebuilt and a new wing was added to the west end (Kuhn 1955:402).  Recently, Cowles House has functioned as an entertainment and banquet space, as recent presidents have decided to live off campus (Brock 2009).

A View of Cowles House Today
A View of Cowles House Today. Image source
Artifacts from south of Cowles House, Shovel Test Pit G1
Artifacts from south of Cowles House, Shovel Test Pit G1

Cowles House has been of great interest to Campus Archaeology due to its location within the Sacred Space.  As little has changed in this part of campus, this area has the potential for preserving intact archaeological deposits from the earliest days of campus.  CAP has conducted numerous surveys around the building, including in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2014 (CAP Reports 7, 11, and 15), but we are yet to find any clear features or concentrations of materials. Instead, only a diffuse scatter of artifacts has been found around the building. Brick fragments, window glass, nails, and other construction debris are the most common objects found, while a few ceramic sherds, animal bones, bottle glass, and two golf balls have also been recovered. In general, this record is likely the result of construction and remodeling episodes, mixed in with trash from everyday life.  While CAP has tested extensively around the building, we have not investigated every area, and plan to survey and monitor intently as renovations take place this summer.  We are always on the look-out for that rare deposit that can provide us insights into the lives of the early MSU faculty and presidents!

Author: Jeff Painter

References Cited

Beal, W.J.
1915   History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors.  Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing

Brock, Terry
2009   “Survey Spot: Cowles House”  Blog posted on CAP website, Sept. 9, 2009.

CAP Report 7
2009   Music Building and Cowles House Survey.  Campus Archaeology Program.

CAP Report 11
2011   Walter Adams Field Survey: Archaeological Report.  Campus Archaeology Program.

CAP Report 15
2012   West Circle Steam I Survey: Archaeological Report.  Campus Archaeology Program.

Kuhn, Madison
1955   Michigan State: The First Hundred Years.  The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.

MSU Archives and Historical Collections:

Gone but Not Forgotten: Campus Buildings that No Longer Exist.  Online Exhibit. http://archives.msu.edu/collections/buildings.php

Map of MSU Campus and Buildings, 1927. http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-114F/map-of-msu-campus-and-buildings-1927/

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 

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 were called out to do some survey underneath the bike lanes alongside the south side of the River Trail between Wells Hall and Erickson Hall.

Newly renovated River Trail sidewalks. Photo courtesy Nikki Silva
Newly renovated River Trail sidewalks.

The bike lanes were pulled up in preparation for a renovation of the river trail on the south side from the Sparty Statue all the way to Erickson Hall and Farm Lane. If you haven’t been on the trail recently, I hope you’ll be surprised to see a completely re-done trail with newly laid ‘green’ sidewalks and a smoother bike path running adjacent to the sidewalk! There are even ‘No Pedestrian’ signs painted into the bike path! This was all in an effort to streamline traffic south of the river where renovations were much needed; the gradient of the trail was also re-worked so as to reduce flooding throughout the year.

The area alongside the Red Cedar River has been a high activity area historically, and prehistorically. Native American groups often utilized the natural resources of the river, and CAP has found evidence for prehistoric occupation. From around 1900 to 1925, the era of campus history that CAP refers to as the Expansion Period, the area alongside the river became a focal point of campus. Several campus activities revolved around the river, including Homecoming floats which were sent down the river. Additionally, there are numerous pictures in the archives of students canoeing down the river and lounging by the riverside.

Red Cedar tug of war- rivalry between freshman and sophomores, 1913. Courtesy MSU Archives
Red Cedar tug of war- rivalry between freshman and sophomores, 1913. Courtesy MSU Archives

With this information in mind, we knew that systemically shovel testing the River Trail could tell us more about the historical use of the river. As the old trail was being pulled up we put in a shovel test pit every 10 meters from Wells Hall all the way down to Erickson Hall. Unfortunately,  the survey wasn’t altogether super interesting, we found some nails and glass as usual. But towards the end of the day when we got down by Erickson Hall, we found a small piece of decorated transfer print whiteware and in another test pit we found an unusual number of nails, a rusted metal water pipe, and some engraved masonry. The increase in artifacts at Erickson Hall makes sense, because of the proximity to the Farm Lane Bridge. That Farm Lane Bridge is one of the oldest on campus (obviously the bridge itself isn’t original, but the location of the crossing is) therefore it is logical that artifacts would be more prevalent closer to a water crossing. Additionally, the riverbank closer to Wells Hall shows evidence of modification, which was most likely done to prevent flooding.

We look forward to more River Trail renovations so we can discover more about MSU’s use of the Red Cedar.

 

Author: Josh Schnell

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.  

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 CAP, and Munn Field has offered us some interesting finds.

Munn Field is the designated spot for Sparticipation, the beginning-of-the-year gathering meant for new freshman to find on-campus groups and clubs to join. Of course, once a year you can find enthusiastic Spartan basketball fans grouped together at Munn Field for the Izzone Campout.

Students camping at Munn Field for Izzone tickets. photo http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20130927/GW0201/309270051/Izzone-advantage-Thousands-camp-out-coveted-MSU-men-s-basketball-tickets
Students camping at Munn Field for Izzone tickets. photo. Image source

However, most of us think of Munn Field as a central area for football tailgating. Located right next to Spartan Stadium, it’s the perfect place for Spartans to park their cars, set up their crockpots and grills, and throw around a football.

With this in mind, we started digging with the anticipation that we would find a varied collection of bottle caps (what’s tailgating without beverages?) but surprisingly, we’ve found very little. I found one bottle cap on the surface, and Kate happened upon six caps of the same brand, all in the same spot (six pack?). Some modern nails have been dug up, along with a couple of plastic bottle caps, as was expected.

Quonset village 1950, near Munn Field. Courtesy MSU Archives
Quonset village 1950, near Munn Field. Courtesy MSU Archives

While no permanent building has been erected on the surface of Munn Field, it has been used in the past for temporary buildings. In the earlier years of the college, barns had been built to house some of the school’s animals, including sheep and horses, but those barns no longer stand. Ian and I found a plank of wood about 30 cm deep, which we at first thought may have been a remainder of one of the barns. However, we compared the location of the plank find to where the barns used to stand, and the two areas of the field don’t match up. Right now it’s a mystery as to what the plank of wood had been used for, but perhaps with more research we’ll find out more.

Munn Field was also used to house married students in the temporary quonset villages built after WWII. These buildings no longer stand. Because of its use as housing, we hope to find habitation debris while digging this week. What was life like in a quonset village?

The CAP team spent some time at the MSU archives looking at aerial photos of the campus throughout the years, and it is clear that Munn Field changes in use, from a marching field for ROTC cadets in the 30s, to quonset villages in the 50s, to tailgating in the 60s.

Munn Field aerial photo from 1930s
Munn Field aerial photo from 1930s courtesy MSU Archives
Munn Field aerial photo from 1940s
Munn Field aerial photo from 1940s courtesy MSU Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Munn Field aerial photo from 1950s
Munn Field aerial photo from 1950s courtesy MSU Archives
Munn Field aerial photo from 1960s courtesy MSU Archives
Munn Field aerial photo from 1960s courtesy MSU Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll continue to dig at Munn Field this week, so if you’re walking by be sure to say hello!

 

Author: Bethany

The Final Morrill Hall Survey

The Final Morrill Hall Survey

It is fall 1900 and you are eagerly awaiting your first steps into your new home.  Like many freshman you are nervous, anxious, and ready to taste some independence.  You join the other 59 female students, and as you enter the brand new red sandstone