We are all familiar with Michigan State University’s (MSU) status as a part of the top ten conference (Go Spartans!) and for its place as a top tier research university (recently ranked in the top 8% nationwide). In fact, MSU offers 170 degrees for undergraduate …
Tag: college hall
If you’ve been following CAP for a while you’ve probably seen us post about the “Moor” artifact: a small piece of mortar sporting the letters “Moor” in handwritten cursive script. Despite its unassuming appearance, what makes this artifact so fascinating is the incredible story behind …
I’ve recently presented my research at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum. (UURAF) My research involved analyzing ceramics sherds (recovered during 2010 & 2011 summer archaeology field school) to develop interpretations about those who once lived on MSU. The majority of the ceramic sherds recovered were undecorated earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.
Interpreting data included the determination of socioeconomic indicators by using Miller’s price-scaling index method. This is a classification system that identifies the type of ware and decorative technique, then cross-references data with a variety of pricing guides by maker and merchants. Index scale ranges from 1.0 – 4.0. The least expensive, such as undecorated ware would have score of 1.0. The second least expensive, such as decorated ware would have a score of 2.0. The second most expensive, such as transfer print would have a score of 3.0. Finally, the most expensive, such as porcelain would score a 4.0.
Other interpretations about the ceramic types is that earthenware was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries. Undecorated earthenware is the most commonly occurring ceramic type. This category includes whiteware, pearlware, and terracotta. The majority are undecorated; however there are a few printed earthenware sherds in this category. Porcelain is the second most found ceramic type. Porcelain is thin and translucent and is often considered a luxury item. The majority were undecorated, but one had a blue transfer print of the marker’s mark. There were also a few transfer blue floral designs which appear to be from the same vessel. Stoneware is the third most common ceramic type recovered. The stoneware pieces include undecorated industrial pottery, possible kitchenware and unidentified pieces of vessels. Stoneware is denser than earthenware, it is chip resistant, water tight, and can withstand high and low temperatures. Semi-porcelain with and without a print. Semi-porcelain looks like porcelain except it has little to no translucency. Production of semi-porcelain ware began in the 19th century. We only found a few pieces of this type of ceramic. Yellow-ware (earthenware) with Rockinghamware design was popular in the 19th century. We found two pieces of this category. Mochaware (stoneware) is worth more because of its decoration. Used from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. We found only one piece.
The ceramics sherds found during the CAP 2011 field school were from a trash dump from the 19th century, and could be associated with College Hall or some of the early dormitories. College Hall housed classrooms, offices, laboratories, etc. The majority of the ceramics pieces most likely represent dishes, and possibly laboratory items. Most of the ceramic pieces were undecorated earthenware, which according to Miller’s index has a rating of 1.0 or least expensive. Even though a few sherds represent more expensive ceramics, the total assemblage is consistent with what we might find from a dormitory dining hall and possibly some faculty housing. The porcelain was the second most commonly found ceramic, which is rated a 4.0 on Miller’s scale or worth the most. These ceramic pieces could have been from the dining hall, but could also have belonged to professors.
It’s difficult to look at any object the same without coming up with analytic interpretations on its context. I’ve attended the field school in which many of the sherds were recovered, this made my experience even more meaningful and rewarding. It is interesting to find so many sherds that together support the date of the trash area as well as the origin of the trash. CAP dares us to think “what is beneath our feet?” Items as simple as ceramics can teach us a lot about our past, and through research we are able to preserve our cultural heritage as well as educate others.
I am currently working on an individual research project for the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). My project focuses on how we could use ceramics to understand MSU’s past.I first had to read basic information determining the different types of artifacts that …
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 …
For those of you who follow us on Twitter, you may remember this tweet photo from the left. We found this piece of mortar while we were working at the Beal Street excavations. These excavations uncovered an extraordinary amount of brick rubble that was being used as fill to prevent the river from flooding. We were unsure as to where these bricks were coming from. We could deduce two things: first, it was one of the older buildings on campus because of the presence of cut nails and campus-made bricks; and second, it was a building that existed into the 19th century, because we also found wire nails. There was so much construction happening on campus during the first part of the 19th century, however, it was difficult to know for sure what building these bricks were from. This piece of mortar was picked up among this brick rubble. It is a fascinating piece: clearly some graffiti of the letters “Moor” written a plaster wall in this mysterious building. Such a find is incredibly rare; it is not often that you discover writing of any sort archaeologically.
Fast-forward to the past week. We have been getting ready for phase II excavations at College Hall, in an effort to determine whether or not a field school would be appropriate for this coming summer. This has required some more work in the archives, focusing primarily on when College Hall was torn down. This happened after the south part of the building collapsed in 1918. The MAC football team helped to remove the rest of building. What we discovered in the archives was fascinating, in particular the photo to the right, which was written by a group of students who were doing repairs on College Hall in 1887. The graffiti reads, “Darn Hard Job”, and then lists seven students who did the work during the week of May 13-20. As you can see, the first name on that list, Alexander Moore, matches the piece of graffitied plaster that we found at the Beal Street excavations this summer (click on the image for a closer look!).
I can’t emphasize how rare this is. The odds that we would find the artifact at Beal Street in the first place is rare. The fact that someone actually took a picture of the same artifact in its original context in 1918 is equally rare, let alone the fact that the photograph was preserved in the MSU Historical Archives. This is incredibly important for our analysis because it solidifies the identification of the bricks that were found at Beal Street: they were the remains of College Hall.
This is a find that also speaks to the typical life of a student in 1887 and in 1918; a life that accounts for the taking of this photograph. In 1887, these students were working on renovating College Hall; a typical occurrence for students of that time period. Part of a Land Grant education at that time was to provide three hours of manual labor every day. Repairs on buildings, it could be surmised, would be part of that work.
In 1918, students were yet again put to work on College Hall. Members of the football team removed the remains of the structure, presumably redepositing the remains at the site of our Beal Street excavations.No doubt, this was difficult work, leading them to snap a photograph when they realized they were not the first MAC students to have worked on that building, commiserating with the description of that work as a “darn hard job”.
Things have obviously changed: although our Land Grant values are still evident in the difficult work that many of our students do in the field and through their practical education, it is rare to find the football team shoveling walks, or the student body out raking leaves, repairing the utilities, or painting offices, under the watchful eye of faculty members. Now, this work is left in the dutiful and capable hands of the MSU Physical Plant, who, I can attest, put just as much care and effort into their “darn hard jobs”.
If we do have the chance to do a field school again this summer, however, students will yet again be working on College Hall, continuing the legacy of those students who preceded them. They will be rediscovering, as those students did in 1918, the tradition of hard work and manual labor that this university was founded on, carried out by students such as Alexander Moore and his friends.
Special thanks to the MSU Archives and Historical Collections for access to their goodies, and for the reproduction of the photograph above.
Author: Terry Brock
A couple weeks ago, the Campus Archaeology Program discovered the northeast foundation of College Hall, the first building built on MSU’s campus. Next week, on Thursday the 22nd and Friday the 23rd, the Campus Archaeology Program will return to the site to see just how …
Last week, Campus Archaeology performed survey at Beaumont Tower, to investigate the area below sidewalks that were being replaced. Underneath sidwalks located under the southeast corner of Beaumont, foundation stones were located. There is little doubt that these stones are the original foundations of College …