Maps and Mysteries

About three weeks ago we learned that MSU Landscaping was going to be re-doing the sidewalks above Saints’ Rest, the first dormitory on campus. While we’ve had a number of excavations near this area, we never got the opportunity to see what was underneath these areas. Now they are finally removing the concrete in order to redo them, and we have a week’s worth of access to this historic site. The sidewalks being removed go right through the middle of the now demolished building, and will yield important information on the site as well as fill in the gaps we currently have. Since we learned about this, I’ve been doing research to acquaint myself with Saints’ Rest and come up with an excavation plan. My first goal was to find a good map of the 2005 excavation so that I could begin the planning. It was here that I ran into problems.

MUNSYS Map of Saints’ Rest (Shown in Orange), West of MSU Museum

We use a system called MUNSYS to produce our campus maps for excavations. This handy tool is used by MSU’s Physical Plant and Landscaping. It shows all of the sidewalks, streets, buildings (current and razed), and most importantly the utilities that are underground. I printed off a MUNSYS map of the area so that I’d have an idea of potential electrical wires or sewer lines that we may run into. Under the suggestion of Terry Brock, the first campus archaeologist who worked on all the Saints’ Rest digs, I went to the excavation reports for Saints’ Rest. These included the book “Beneath the Ivory Tower: Archaeology of Academia” edited by Skowronek and Lewis, and a masters dissertation by Mustonen on that first 2005 excavation. Both had detailed maps showing the location of Saints’ Rest and the excavation units. This is when I hit a snag. The map for Saints’ Rest didn’t match my current map. Even with the help of Terry we couldn’t figure out how to match them up. We tried matching up the sidewalks from the 2005 dig to the modern map of sidewalks with no luck.

Map of Saints’ Rest 2005 Excavation, via Mustonen 2007

I looked up photos and maps from the first dig, hoping that a different drawing or different map would bring a new perspective that would solve the discrepancy. That’s when I found an earlier version of the Campus Archaeology website with some reports of the first digs we completed as a program. One of them was the Saints’ Rest 2008 project that involved some test units being opened prior to the planting of new trees.

Google Earth Map of MSU showing Saints’ Rest and the 2008 Sidewalk Configuration

The report has a number of maps, one from Landscaping and one from Google. Comparing these with my current map shows something very clearly: they’ve changed the sidewalks in this area since 2008. The configuration present in the 2005 and 2008 digs is completely different from my 2012 map. By matching these three together, I was finally able to figure out where the building is and start planning the dig in more detail. I also found that the configuration of Saints’ Rest in MUNSYS is not the actual configuration of the razed foundations.

Now that I’ve solved that little mystery we can move forward. Check back next week to learn more about this dig and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get live updates!

Author: Katy Meyers Emery

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