Author: Campus Archaeology Program

CAP Update: Spring 2022

CAP Update: Spring 2022

Here at Michigan State we welcome winter as we return to classes and our labs. I would like share what we have been up to over break and provide a preview of what CAP will be working on this semester. What We Did Over The 

Meet the 2021 – 2022 Campus Archaeology Program GRADUATE FELLOWS

Meet the 2021 – 2022 Campus Archaeology Program GRADUATE FELLOWS

Photo by ©Nick Schrader, All Rights Reserved In September Michigan State’s Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) archaeologists wrap up our summer field work here on campus and return to the routine of classes, personal research, and teaching that each semester brings. The start of a new 

CAP Crew 2021: Start of a new field season

CAP Crew 2021: Start of a new field season

This week marks the start of CAP’s 2021 summer field season; we have completed trainings, designed survey and outreach projects, and finished our academic year. This all means we can now get out into in the field! Over the next few months, we will be out on campus working to preserve and share Michigan State University’s below ground cultural history. Unlike last summer, we have approval from the University to have our full crew out and we are all fully vaccinated, so you may see a lot of CAP this year. CAP has a number of mitigation projects planned due to sidewalk work and construction projects. We also have a new outreach project that we will reveal later this summer. This season, our CAP Crew includes new and returning staff: Jack Biggs, Ben Akey, Rhian Dunn, Aubree Marshall, and Amber Plemons. Jeff Burnett is in his first summer as Campus Archaeologist, while CAP Director Dr. Stacey L. Camp will, you guessed it, be directing the CAP work this summer.

The biggest mitigation project we have this year is a Section 106 compliance survey prompted by a construction project that utilizes federal grant funding. “Section 106” refers to a section of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, a U.S. federal law, which requires all federal agencies to assess the effects of any project on historic resources and consider public concerns about the historic preservation. What this means for archaeology specifically, is that any project that utilizes federal funds or is under a federal agency must assess if the work will disturb any known or unknown archaeological sites. The Section 106 application is the intensive process through which these effects are assessed. This work includes historical research, reviewing past archaeological surveys, engaging with project developers, and possibly conducting novel archaeological survey.

Working with our partners at MSU’s Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities (IPF), MSU professor of Interior Design Jessica Flores, and the project developers, CAP successfully submitted a Section 106 application to the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Approval of the application depended on CAP completing a shovel test survey, an archaeological method which is explained in this great blog post, before construction starts. Once SHPO gave word that IPF could move forward with the project, then even more partners became involved, including the 12 federally recognized Tribal nations in Michigan, the Federal Highway Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the City of East Lansing. These conversations helped shape our work and will continue throughout the project.

Even when excavations are completed members of CAP will wash, catalog, and analyze artifacts, monitor construction, write the report, and provide updates to various partners. Unlike most of CAPs work over the years, all of this is federally mandated due to the involvement of federal funds and Section 106. So, the pressure is on, but we are sure we can manage!

We are excited to get out into the field and to begin our work – especially with so many exciting projects already on our radar. If you see us on campus give a wave, or like our feathered friends, a honk!

Starting the New Semester and Attending SHA 2021

Starting the New Semester and Attending SHA 2021

Over the next few days MSU will be welcoming some students back and opening up for some in-person and many virtual classes.  For CAP, the beginning of a new semester would typically mean welcoming new undergraduate interns, preparing outreach events, and jumping back into our 

CAP Fellows Reflect on a Society for Historical Archaeology Anti-racism Training

CAP Fellows Reflect on a Society for Historical Archaeology Anti-racism Training

In this blog post CAP fellows share our reflections on an anti-racism, anti-bias training we took on Friday October 30th . The training was sponsored by the Society for Historical Archaeology and dozens of archaeologists, educators, and heritage professionals participated in the four hour session. 

INTRODUCING OUR 2020-2021 CAP GRADUATE FELLOWS

INTRODUCING OUR 2020-2021 CAP GRADUATE FELLOWS

Thank you Autumn Painter, outgoing Campus Archaeologist:

Autumn Painter, Campus Archaeologist

As we say goodbye to outgoing Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter who, in her two years in the position, continued CAP’s legacy of creative outreach, education, and mitigation while also profoundly shaping the future of the program, we welcome in a new Campus Archaeologist and a cohort of new and returning graduate fellows.

Campus Archaeologist:

Photograph of Jeff Burnett sitting, hands clasped, at a table.

Jeff Burnett: Jeff (he/him/his) is a third-year Ph.D. student in the department of Anthropology. After two years as a CAP fellow, this fall Jeff begins his first term as the Campus Archaeologist. His research focuses on the archaeology African Diaspora in the 19th and 20th centuries and using community-based practices to explore the intersections of class and race in the construction, maintenance, and memorialization of place and space in the United States. This year Jeff will be working with other fellows on their projects, helping to rethink our outreach in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and studying the archaeological and historical presence of children on MSU’s campus.

Campus Archaeology Program Graduate Fellows:

Photograph of Benjamin Akey looking down at an artifact in their hands.

Benjamin Akey: Benjamin (they/them/theirs) is a second-year doctoral student and graduate research assistant, with a focus on North American historical archaeology. They received their BA in Anthropology from University of California Santa Cruz in 2018, where they wrote a thesis on identity formation and the (re)production of consent for capitalist modes of accumulation through patterns of alcohol consumption in the Santa Cruz lime industry. They currently focus on the intersection of company-town labor regimes and the formation of specific radicalized, classed, and gendered identities among Japanese-American communities in the early 20th century. Benjamin joined CAP as a fellow in Fall 2019, and is particularly looking forward to continuing to develop outreach skills, doing archival research, and report writing.


Photograph of Jack Biggs crawling out of the mouth of a cave.

Jack Biggs: Jack (he/him/his) is a seventh year Ph.D. candidate, specializing in Biological Anthropology and is a returning CAP fellow (after a year hiatus). His research is focused on the ancient Maya of Mesoamerica and how their cultural ideas of age, identity, and cosmology intersect and record themselves within their bones and teeth. As a big proponent of using 3D technologies to teach and show others about MSU’s cultural heritage, Jack is hoping to use this skillset to bolster CAP’s digital outreach during the current COVID-19 crisis so that anyone can have access to the rich history beneath our feet.


Photograph of Rhian Dunn hand-mapping at a table.

Rhian Dunn: Rhian (she/her/hers) is a second year biological anthropology doctoral student, focusing in forensic anthropology. Her research interests include human variation and improving aspects of the biological profile (i.e., human identification). Rhian is starting her second year as a CAP fellow and hopes to continue getting more experience in archaeological surveying and with identifying historical artifacts. She is also interested in public outreach and archival data used to provide context for archaeological work. 


Photograph of Emily Milton with a camera in front of a vista of the Atacama desert.

Emily Milton: Emily (she/her/hers) is a second-year dual-degree doctoral student in Anthropology and Environmental Science and Policy. Her research combines archaeology and paleoclimatology to study how human use of mountain landscapes has changed since the last ice age. This is Emily’s first year as a CAP fellow. She is excited to engage with CAP’s existing public outreach events by helping to transfer in-person experiences online.   


Photograph of Amber Plemons using a total station to take measurements of a coffin.

Amber Plemons: Amber (she/her/hers) is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, focusing in Biological Anthropology. This is her third year serving as a CAP fellow. Her research focuses on understanding the causative forces of human variation in craniofacial morphology, specifically the impacts of climate and genetics. Amber assisted in building a database for CAP artifacts recovered and housed at Michigan State University and aims to continue to improve and modify the database and prepare a public searchable front end for the database this year. Additionally, she will continue her work with the Girl Scouts organization to teach the future women of archaeology by creating an online platform and help with other CAP duties, such as site research, report writing, and researching the history of minorities on MSU campus.

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Check Out “A Tour of MSU’s Historic Faculty Row,” Now Live!

Check Out “A Tour of MSU’s Historic Faculty Row,” Now Live!

Even during a quarantine, archaeology does not stop. While we have not been able to get out into the field until recently, we at CAP have been working hard to create historical background summaries of areas that will be impacted by construction (a critical part 

World Anthropology Day 2020!

World Anthropology Day 2020!

To celebrate world anthropology day, the current CAP graduate fellows wanted to share how they became interested in anthropology, and some current or favorite projects they are involved in! Grace: As a first-year PhD student moving to a new state and school, I initially came 

Stranger in the Lab

Stranger in the Lab

“What were you thinking?!” I asked myself a cool day in September. I kept my eyes down toward the black tabletop to avoid making eye contact with the trowels across from me that seemed to be staring back and whispering “you’re in the wrong building!” I wondered what a first-year sociocultural anthropology student with minimal background in anthropology and no background in archaeology was doing in a graduate archaeology fellowship. Friends, and family have also questioned why I chose to explore the world of archaeology when my research interests clearly lie in the sociocultural realm. If the response to my participation in CAP is not an Indiana Jones joke, it is confusion and intrigue. To be honest, I do not have a definite answer as to why I officially signed on to be a CAP graduate fellow and I have come to realize that might have served me well this first year. 

The instinct for most students at the doctoral level would likely be to reserve their limited time to organizations that have a clear link to their research or at least their subfield. I certainly considered this as I made my decision but I realized that I wouldn’t feel right in my field if I did not have at least some idea of what everyone else was doing. Part of my motivation to join CAP was to pay respect to the discipline I was new to and to get acquainted with the interplay between the subfields. I was also especially drawn to CAP’s outreach-oriented mission which I believe is too often overlooked in academic environments. During my first semester, I got to participate in creating innovative ways to connect with our community and understand what CAP, and archaeology, could be about. Events such as the ones mentioned in our previous blog post showcased the dedication CAP has to moving beyond the bounds of MSU’s campus and get the greater mid-Michigan community engaging with the land we all occupy in a thoughtful manner that highlights the the rich history of the area. 

Since joining CAP, I have come to see the places in which the subfields of anthropology overlap. My experience thus far has shown me the benefits that a four-field approach can bring to such an interdisciplinary practice. An example of this has been my research with historical anthropology student and CAP colleague Benjamin Akey where we have been conducting archival research on the history of Asian American graduate students at MSU. This collaboration has allowed me to expand my own understanding of archaeology to recognize the ways in which archaeology can be a powerful tool to address overlooked histories. Our research will conclude this spring with an oral history that reflects on the formation of the Asian Pacific Graduate Alliance (APAGA) at MSU. As a non-archaeologist CAP fellow, I feel that my background has also supported CAP’s work to deconstruct narratives that reduce archaeology to digging for buried treasure. Through the inclusion of oral histories as a CAP project and an emphasis on archival research, I feel that I have been able to serve as an example to myself and hopefully to others of the way the anthropological community can benefit from cross-subfield collaboration. 

As the second semester picks up, I still find myself raising my hand during our weekly meetings to clarify what are probably concepts the archaeology students could explain in their sleep but I feel excited to learn the answer instead of nervous that too many questions will make them regret taking on someone with such minimal expertise. What I didn’t know, I have learned thanks to the patience of the rest of the CAP fellows and our fearless leaders Dr. Stacey Camp and Autumn Painter. In addition to the many laughs, professional experience, and kind people CAP has brought into my life, I have also become more well-rounded in my own practice which I believe can only aid me in the future. 

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the MSU Archives who have been extremely helpful throughout our research process and please stay tuned for our APAGA oral history coming later this spring!


Author: Grace Gerloff

Introducing our CAP Undergraduate Interns

Introducing our CAP Undergraduate Interns

This year we have two undergraduate interns working in the Campus Archaeology Program lab. These two students both attended the summer 2019 archaeological field school. Below you can read a little more about them! Reid Ellefson-Frank is an undergraduate student at MSU working towards a