Summer fun with “Spartan Solar”
This last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of CAP Crew, the group of MSU Archaeology (or archaeology-curious) students that conduct the compliance archaeology during the summer. Although, there is significantly more paperwork and lab work than there is fieldwork – alas, such is the life of an archaeologist. So, by the time we began work on the “Spartan Solar” project, we were all itching to get our trowels dirty.
The “Spartan Solar” construction project is planned by MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, and encompasses ~100 square acres of pastures between Jolly and Bennett off of Hagadorn. CAP researched the historical background of the area and identified several areas of high historic sensitivity. This brought those of us that were working on CAP crew away from non-air-conditioned classrooms and endless artifact forms (thank goodness) and finally out “into the field”.
When we got out there, we spent a few days walking and driving around each pasture to identify which area we would conduct our survey that season. Next, we established a survey grid in the pasture between Beaumont Road and Cattle Drive. Shovel test pits (STP) were placed at 15m intervals and when we found a significant level of materials in an STP, we dug radials at 7.5m intervals in cardinal directions from the positive STP. We excavated 61 shovel tests from June 22 to July 12, 2022. As someone who had dug very few STPs before the summer ’22 season, there was a decent learning curve when it came to digging efficiently.
Digging somewhere that is actively being used to raise animals is always super fun – you get to have many cute and fuzzy coworkers. Perhaps the highlight of the season was watching the farmers move a herd of cattle from one pasture to another, right through where we normally parked our cars!
As is typical in archaeological field work, one of our STPs was interesting enough to warrant us opening a full unit on the second to last day of the season. It seems that all the “cool” stuff hides until we are nearly out of time, which is frustrating and leaves you wanting a longer season! We spent the last day and a half excavating unit 1, taking turns practicing our shovel skimming in the different quadrants. Eventually, the amount and size of artifacts became too dense, and our trowels came out (finally). Even though hearing the word “archaeology” tends to make people think of Indiana Jones, we are certainly no treasure hunters. That said, it is always rewarding to find more than dirt and rocks!