Tag: west circle

An Unexpectedly Old Artifact: The Paperclip

An Unexpectedly Old Artifact: The Paperclip

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 

The MSU summer “field guide”

The MSU summer “field guide”

Navigating campus this summer has been an adventure. While Construction Junction has posed some challenges for drivers and pedestrians alike, we at Campus Archaeology love these opportunities to excavate alongside construction crews: surveying under sidewalks is made considerably easier with their helpful removal of pavement, 

Solving Puzzles on MSU’s Sacred Space

Solving Puzzles on MSU’s Sacred Space

As archaeologists, we often appear as curious creatures to those individuals who are unfamiliar with our work. Unlike most professions whose employees call a cubicle their home base, archaeologists spend their days out in the field digging holes or trenches, but only when our heads aren’t buried in books or in front of a computer; however, one never sees that glamorous part of the job. Anyway, when we are out in the field we are often seen with a shovel in hand and a screen by our side, slaving away either digging holes (STPs or shovel test pits) or actual test units. As visitors come by to observe our activities, we are often asked various questions. Among the common “Finding any gold?” , “Are there dinosaurs down there?”, or simply “What are you doing?”, we often get asked, “Well, how do you know where to dig…?”.  Well to be honest, we kind of don’t. Although we wish we all had X-ray vision to see what’s under the ground, that technology or genetic manipulation has not yet been created. I also wish I could tell you all that we are just THAT smart where we know exactly where everything is…

So how do we know where to dig when in the field? Archaeology is a big puzzle. We study maps, photographs, and other historical records as a way to gain a better understanding of the landscape on which we are working. Often times when determining where to excavate, we dig in a sweep of STPs, or shovel test pits, in an area that is known to have some sort of historical past or in an area that will be altered by construction (which is the case this summer on MSU’s campus). These 1ft wide by 3ft deep holes are meant to give us a glimpse into what is beneath the surface. Based on the artifacts recovered, the stratigraphy (different layers of soil or cultural material within the walls of the STP), and the consistency between the overall make up of these STPs, we are able to determine if there is the possibility of finding a larger site.

Eve hard at work in the trenches

In the last two weeks, we have transformed the area of two separate STPs into their own excavation units. In the first area, just north of Linton Hall, we found a series of STPs containing a lot of historic construction material (bricks, nails, window glass), a layer of brick and clinkers (burnt coal) in the stratigraphy, and artifacts such as animal bone and even a penny! The unique make up of these STPs encouraged us to open a larger 2m x 2m excavation unit in the middle of the holes in order to better understand what is going on in that region. Most recently, we have been working on a unit south of Morrill Hall. While digging underneath where there used to be a sidewalk, we had a series of STPs yield a great number of bricks. This mass amount of bricks could mean one of two things: this area was filled up with this material as a way to even out the ground, or it is the foundation of a historic building. However, the only way to actually see what is going on is to open the STP into a larger unit.

So…now you know the answer to the infamous question of “How do you know where to dig?”. We dig holes in regions we think are important and see what story they have to tell us. As archaeologists, we don’t have special powers but we sure do know how to read and solve a puzzle!
The summer “A Team” and some tantalizing beginnings

The summer “A Team” and some tantalizing beginnings

Campus Archaeology, like Santa Claus and your 4-year-old, never sleeps. Nor does work take a summer vacation, even when Campus Archaeologist Katy Meyers and Program Director Lynne Goldstein leave the country to pursue other research (you can read about Katy here). In these trying times, 

CAP Survey: Continuing West Circle Drive

CAP Survey: Continuing West Circle Drive

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Campus Archaeology will be excavating along the North side of West Circle Drive, across from Morrill Hall. As part of the West Circle Steam Tunnel Reconstruction project, the crews are going to be redoing a number of the 

Campus Survey Work: West Circle Drive

Campus Survey Work: West Circle Drive

You may have noticed that there is some major work being done on West Circle Drive over the next few months at MSU. For most of May and June, Campus Archaeology is going to be working with the construction teams to make sure that this historic part of campus is protected throughout the process. A couple weeks ago we began survey in this area by checking out the center of the circle, east of Music Practice. We didn’t find too many artifacts, and nothing that suggested that we were at a historic or prehistoric area of importance. We mainly recovered some old nails, broken window glass and terracotta sherds.

Mystery object
Mystery object

We started our survey of the southern edge of the northern half of West Circle this morning. Over the next few days, we will continue to work our way around the circle. The finds from this morning included some heavy industrial glass, bottle glass and an interesting hard plastic portion of a circular object (see picture). This last object hasn’t been identified, although guesses from twitter include the protective covering on the leg of a chair or a bouncy ball. My current guess is a plastic knob. Once we get it cleaned off we will be able to get a better idea of what we have.

Survey along this area is important because it was one of the historic areas of campus, and we have also identified prehistoric material in this area. Along the northwest portion of West Circle Drive there used to be the Faculty Row structures. It consisted of a long row of houses that were built for faculty during the 19th century, stretched along West Circle Drive. This Row ran from the corner of now Gilchrest Hall to Morrill Hall. By the 1910s, these building began to change function. Some became music practice houses, while others were turned over to the Home Economics department and used as practice houses. In the 1940s, when the West Circle Dormitory complex was completed, most of these buildings were torn down, except for the still standing Cowles House and the building under investigation this week, which became the first International Center. It is highly likely that historic material from these homes will be buried in the area we are surveying.

Thursday we will be continuing our survey along West Circle Drive, working eastwards on the northern half of the circle. You are welcome to come visit us during the dig, and check out our twitter feed which will be updating live on our progress, @capmsu

CAP Survey: Sacred Space

CAP Survey: Sacred Space

On April 12th to 13th, Campus Archaeology is going to be doing an archaeological survey within the Sacred Space. We will be digging East of Cowles House and the Music Practice building, and West of Beaumont Tower. As many of you know, there is extensive 

Field School Update: Weeks 3 & 4, let the games begin…

Field School Update: Weeks 3 & 4, let the games begin…

After weeks of survey, getting used to working together,learning the note taking process, and getting to know the space, our field school students were ready to begin the next step of archaeological methods: opening up full scale excavation units. We opened up six units at in three spots 

Field School Recap: Week 2, In the Shadow of Beaumont

Field School Recap: Week 2, In the Shadow of Beaumont

In the Shadow of beaumont tower
Excavating in the shadow of beaumont tower

Our second week of field school moved us from the Old MSC Power Plan to just west of Beaumont Tower, across West Circle Drive from the Library. Although we continued to dodge raindrops for the entire week, we managed to survey an enormous area in just over three days. Digging shovel test pits became a regular act for the students, and we began to reap some interesting rewards in the forms of bottles, nails, and, as is the norm here on MSU’s campus, brick.

Based on our finds, we have decided to focus our excavations in three different spots west of Beaumont Tower. The first is located directly under Beaumont Tower, where we located a number of foundation stones and construction material. Expanding the units will allow us to determine if there are any intact features or walls located here, which would be related to College Hall, MSU’s first building. The second is a bit further to the west, where a number of STPs were turning up a layer of cultural material, including some intact bottles and an interesting knob, possibly a piece of an old microscope, which had a patent date of 1889 stamped on it. The third spot is along the path leading to Sleepy Hollow, where a number of STPs produced a variety of artifacts along the slope. These included bottles and brick; we are hopeful that more trash deposits will be turned up.

One of the benefits of working on campus at MSU is that there are a number of in-house experts on a variety of things related to archaeology and MSU’s history. We had two guest lectures during week 2. Frank Tewlewski, a Professor of Plant Biology and the Curator of the Beal Gardens, gave us a lecture about the historic trees and gardens located on MSU’s campus. Dr. Bob Brinkmann, a professor of Geography from the University of Southern Florida, gave students an introductory lecture on soils, and their relationship to archaeology. Special thanks to both of these lecturers!

In addition to our new units, we will begin posting a number of blog posts written by the students about their first week at field school, like this firstone from Kayla Habermehl. Please give them a look, a read, and ask questions! We also added two new students from Kalamazoo College, who will be with us for the rest of the season.

We also got a bit of press this week: The State News wrote an article about our excavations, and MSU News came out and did some fantastic photography!

As always, please follow along on Twitter and Facebook, and check out (some less professional) photos from the second week on Flickr!

College Hall Testing Complete

College Hall Testing Complete

This past Tuesday, the Campus Archaeology Program completed their testing at College Hall, in an effort to determine whether or not a summer field school would be possible at the site. Unfortunately, the results are not favorable. The extensive historical survey, and the photographs that