The last two weeks began our first official start to summer survey and excavation. We have lots of projects this summer to juggle, so we will be bouncing around campus trying to get to them all. Here are some updates from the work we did …
This summer, Campus Archaeology is going to be very busy doing archaeological surveys and monitoring various construction projects. There are eight different projects occurring over the summer that we will be a part of in some manner. Over the past couple months we’ve been meeting …
You may have noticed a large amount of construction going on around Beal Street and Michigan Avenue, in fact there are three different construction projects going on. Two of these have already begun around the Beal Street Entrance to campus, and are of major interest to Campus Archaeology Program in order to protect materials of potential cultural heritage. The first is MDOT’s reconstruction of Michigan Ave between East Grand River and Harrison Roads. The second is the West Circle steam distribution repair, which is in its second year of construction. It was because of the MDOT project that we were on site Thursday early morning for a preliminary survey to determine whether CAP needs to intervene further.
This project, which can be found on MDOT’s website, is aimed at reconstructing the intersection between Michigan Ave and East Grand River Road. The goals are to resurface approximately 4 miles of pavement, upgrade the signals in this area, and improve the intersections. The project officially began on March 11th, and is expected to continue until October. The roadways will continue to be accessible throughout with at least one available lane. One portion of this involves the reconstruction of the intersection between the Beal Street entrance to campus and Michigan Ave. This involves turning a green space into a roadway, which Campus Archaeology decided required investigation.
We arrived on site at the Beal Street Entrance to campus ready to survey the green space and sidewalks near the current phase of construction with shovel tests and screening. The survey consisted of a number of shovel tests in 5 meter intervals. Our historical research did not reveal any specific historic use of the area. This initial survey supported the research, and did not indicate that this property would have been used extensively. No historic artifacts were found, and it appeared that the soil had been highly disturbed. We know this because the stratigraphy was clean brown silty soil with no inclusions, suggesting it was fill. We also assessed the current state of the construction project to get an idea of their progress and observe their methodology.
We will continue to update our readers on surveys and digs for these projects as they continue in the summer and through the remainder of the year. We are committed to maintaining a presence to ensure any important cultural materials are not destroyed and our cultural heritage is preserved.
You may have noticed that the area around Michigan Avenue from Harrison Road to East Grand River Road is completely covered with construction equipment, orange cones, and various people in neon yellow. In a half mile radius there are three different construction projects that are …
When I arrived to work last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we would be surveying the old Botany Greenhouses, particularly since I’ve walked by them for several years and, in passing, have always wondering about it’s “story.” The old Botany Greenhouses …
This week we are doing two surveys for Campus Archaeology on MSU’s campus. This first is part of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) and the second is part of the demolition of the Old Botany greenhouses.
The FRIB project was awarded to MSU by the US Department of Energy Office of Science. FRIB will enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand elements. This project is important not only because it will allow us to study rare isotopes in a new way, but it also is an honor that MSU was able to get the project. At this point in the project, the area is ready for construction and awaiting approval from the US Department of Energy. Since the project has begun, Campus Archaeology has been a pivotal part. As part of the bid to get the project, it was required that an archaeological survey and historical research would be completed.
Now that the project is underway, we are beginning our part. We are currently surveying the location where all the dirt from the project will go. The actual footprint of the building isn’t that large, but it is extremely deep. You can watch the progress live on their webcam: FRIB Webcam of Construction. The dig for the actual building will create thousands of trucks of dirt that must all go somewhere. You may have already noticed that along Mt. Hope Road near Farm Lane, there are new piles of dirt. This entire area, from the new MSUFCU to the railroad track will be filled in with dirt. Before this happens, Campus Archaeology will conduct a survey of the area. Prior to the 1950’s, this location was a farmstead complete with a farmhouse and outbuildings. Survey done last week and this week will determine where those buildings are and check for any unanticipated historic or prehistoric features.
The second project is the documentation of the Old Botany Greenhouses. You probably have noticed these rather run down structures if you’ve walked through the parking lot near Natural Sciences and Laboratory Row. The greenery that is within the greenhouses right now is not actually part of research, it’s natural growth! The buildings haven’t been officially used in a while, and have been taken over by the plants which were once pruned and part of the botany program. The greenhouses were constructed 80-100 years ago, and have outlived their use. They also present a health issue since the windows themselves are caulked with asbestos. Over the next year the greenhouses and headhouse will be removed and made into green space. Prior to the demolition of the building, Campus Archaeology will be documenting the building itself. There aren’t actually good maps of the building or pictures of it, so we will be taking measurements and photographing it. This way, we have a record of what the building once was so previous archaeologists won’t be surprised! We have already done a survey around the green space, and actually found a number of artifacts.
Come out and visit us at Old Botany Greenhouses on Wednesday morning or the Mt Hope survey on Friday morning and afternoon! The weather reports say we might get some snow, but that won’t slow us down!
Author: Katy Meyers Emery
If you’ve been following our twitter feed or facebook, you know that we are hard at work surveying beneath the sidewalks around Linton Hall and Beaumont Tower. As part of the campus construction, a majority of the sidewalks within the sacred space are being renovated. …
Over the next three days, Campus Archaeology is going to be doing an archaeological survey of the soil underneath the sidewalks North of Beaumont Tower. As part of the constant campus construction, they are going to be replacing sections of the sidewalks within the Sacred …
This past week we collected a number of bottles from the recent construction at the Brody Complex. This isn’t the first time we’ve been called out to this area, and it likely won’t be the last. The Brody Complex is built on the site of the historic East Lansing landfill. Since the site has been revealing high numbers of bottles and other artifacts, we can’t collect everything. As you can see from Terry’s earlier post on our first excursion to the site (See post here: Better Call Campus Archaeology…), we have a good sample already of the types of bottles found from this period.
However, we do collect things that have value to the history of MSU or East Lansing, such as MSU Creamery bottles, and anything that will benefit the education of students and the community. To this latter point, we look to recover bottles that can be identified or classified, and that will aid in better understanding the past. These include bottles with embossed or paper labels, and bottles with easily recognizable or unique shapes. Since we recovered the bottles on Tuesday, we have been analyzing our finds and doing background research on their origins.
The process of identification in some cases is quite easy, especially if there is a label or embossing. For example, one of the artifacts recovered was a small blue bottle with a metal lid. There was no label to the sides of the bottle, however the white residue on the lower half of the bottle also suggested that at one point it did have a label. There was also embossing on the bottom that read: “VICKS” and “NOL”. The portion between these two groupings of letters was damaged and couldn’t be read. However, this was enough evidence to get started. This small type of bottle is used primarily for medicines, and Vicks is a well known pharmaceutical company that has been producing congestion relieving medicines since 1891.
Looking at historic advertisements and bottles revealed a product known as Vicks Va-Tro-Nol, which were nose and throat drops. Some of the earlier forms of the bottle closely mirror the bottle that we recovered from the site. Even though we were missing the label, the lid was damaged, and the bottom embossing was incomplete- we were able to make a quick identification!
Not all are this easy. It becomes quite difficult trying to identify a bottle that has nothing more than an embossed image and some difficult to read text. In some cases, there is no product name present. We, as archaeologists, must always be up for the challenge of trying to identifying the most difficult things. The bottle we were investigating contained generic federal warning text at the top, an obscure picture of a man embossed front and center, and some decorative embossing along the edges.
Based on the text at the top: “Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle”, the distinctive shape of the bottle, and the presence of some type of grain embossed on the sides, we could automatically denote that we had an empty liquor bottle on our hands. These facts allowed us to begin a search online for “antique liquor bottles with image of a man”. After panning through various websites and constantly refining the searches. This meant looking at a variety of antique and glass resource websites, looking at bottles with presidents faces and various proprietors of liquors to no avail. However, we did find a similar face and bottle on an antiques dealing website. The size and shape of the online bottle was a bit different from ours, but the images were the same. Their description of their bottle noted that it was an old Wilken’s Whiskey bottle. Further research into this company revealed that our bottle was also that of Wilken’s Whiskey. The company was started in the 1880’s and was a family run business. The face on the bottle was Pa Wilken, who ran the distillery until his death in 1936. We were able to narrow the date of our bottle to pre-1940, as after this date the label was changed to Wilken’s Family Whiskey and featured the faces of Wilkens and his two sons on a paper label.
The process of identification can be difficult, but it is also fun. Throughout our search for information on these seemingly mundane objects of the past, we learn more about daily life in the early 20th century.
Author: Katy Meyers Emery
On June 7th during an excavation in West Circle Drive we recovered a paperclip. Now, you should know that we don’t keep anything that is definitely modern. We don’t keep the crushed beer cans from tailgating or the McDonald’s straws from littering. We did keep …