This academic year has allowed me to explore several digital methods I had little to no knowledge about. This is partially due to my teaching position at MSU in the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR). While in this position, I …
by Juan Carlos Rico Noguera Michigan State University (MSU) CAP “is a program that works to mitigate and protect the archaeological resources on Michigan State University’s beautiful and historic campus.” CAP is also an initiative that contributes to the public understanding of MSU’s history, enabling …
In CAP this year, we’ve been brainstorming about public outreach activities. We’ve been focusing on activities for kids – who sometimes need a little extra help engaging with archaeological materials. This is my first year as a graduate student at MSU, and my first year being a CAP fellow, so I was excited to see how kids engaged with the activities that CAP already uses at outreach events. The activity that kids were most drawn to, and that they spent the most time on, had been created by former Campus Archaeologist, Jeff Burnett. It’s a artifact refit activity: a broken ceramic plate with magnets set along the edges of the paste so that participants can put the pieces back together. There are weak points to this activity, however. The plate sherds are heavy and the plate is slightly concave, so while magnets keep the sherds together while held in place, when the plate is set down some magnets pull apart as the plate succumbs to gravity and loses its concavity. Furthermore, the magnets protrude from the sherd edges enough that the gaps between sherds warp the shape of the vessel. Jeff Burnett, who created this activity, did an excellent job, and kids love it. Would it be possible to maintain the efficacy of the activity and troubleshoot its limitations to create a sort of sherd refit activity 2.0?
I started by addressing the gaps between the sherds that were caused by the protruding magnets. Could we use magnetic paint instead? Campus archaeologist, Ben Akey, bought magnetic paint to experiment with. We agreed, however, that magnetic paint might not be strong enough to hold ceramic sherds together. How could we address the heaviness of the sherds? Enter: 3D printing.
My graduate assistantship at MSU includes working in the DHI lab, so I have access to structured light scanners, photogrammetry equipment, and 3D printers. Could I scan plate sherds and print them? 3D prints are much lighter than ceramics. Perhaps the lighter material would enable us to use magnetic paint on the sherd edges.
Now for the fun part: breaking a plate! (Of course, I could have chosen something other than a plate, but it’s what I had handy!) I chose a plate that had some geometric patterning on it. These patterns would show up on the 3D printed sherds and guide the refitting process. I put the plate in a plastic bag and dropped it on the floor. I chose to drop it on the floor, rather than, say, hitting it with a hammer, because I wanted to create a break pattern that would more accurately mimic real life. Putting it in the bag (thanks to a suggestion from my colleague and CAP fellow, Emma Creamer) so that the pieces wouldn’t fly all over the DHI Lab!
Broken plate: check! Now I had to start scanning (pictured above). I used an Artec Space Spider Scanner and a hand-powered turntable. I secured each sherd with clay, because any jiggling would prevent a clean scan. So far, I’ve scanned 5 of the 7 sherds that make up the plate. Soon I will start 3D printing, paint the edges with magnetic paint, and test out this activity! Stay tuned!
Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights: A Review of the 2022 Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference
As we near the end of the semester, I want to reflect on one of my favorite experiences of fall 2022: the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference! This year’s conference was organized by: Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, Professor Emeritus of Western Michigan University; our own Director …
When COVID hit our campus, CAP was forced to rethink how we perform our community outreach. We needed new, innovative ways to engage and educate the public without requiring them to meet in large groups. One of the ways we did this was to transition …
Here at Campus Archaeology, we love outreach – just this past week, we presented at both Michigan Archaeology Day and at our annual Apparitions and Archaeology Tour! (Thank you to those who stopped by!) We love outreach so much because we are passionate about archaeology and MSU’s history that we can’t help but find ways to connect with our local community here so we can all understand and learn about our history together.
However, over the past year and a half, we’ve had to adjust our events – some were cancelled while others were transitioned to an online setting. In fact, we have only started back in person this semester and still have certain protocols in place to protect us and those that come to our events. And this has been a different experience for us, as we usually love the opportunity to answer questions and listen to stories from our participants. But during this process, we learned a lot more about tools available for online learning and how we can engage with all of you in a new way!
I (Rhian) got to work with our Campus Archaeologist, Jeff Burnett, last year to create the Virtual Haunted Tour twine. I had never encountered Twine before, but loved how we could create an interactive exhibit that provides more information than we are able to do in person! Plus, we could incorporate more primary sources of photos and information available through the university archives! I personally learned a lot making the Twine and I’m hopeful that others felt the same way when reading it.
Based on this experience, I started to think about how we could use digital outreach again this year as an educational tool for those who are interested in learning more about the process of archaeology. I am in the forensic anthropology program here at MSU and while I knew the methodology for forensic archaeology, I joined CAP specifically to get more experience with traditional archaeological methods – both in the field and in the lab. Now that I’m getting more familiar with the nuances of archaeology, I wanted to create a tool to help others out there like me, who also want to learn about archaeology!
So I am teaming up with another CAP Fellow, Aubree Marshall, to create a new Twine tool for learning archaeology! We will be creating two different Twines:
The first Twine will guide our users through one of our more famous excavations: Saints’ Rest! While many of you may be familiar with this site, as we found many exciting artifacts at this site, we will walk you through each step of the process over the years and why we used certain methods, tools, or protocols. We hope this can help everyone understand why we process sites in a formalized way – and how that helps us to preserve the context and association of the artifacts we find and understand their historical significance!
The second Twine will be a choose-your-own-adventure format! Based on an excavation we did this summer at Spartan Village, we will provide a practice scenario for all of you: at each step of the process, we will provide you with the information we are typically given regarding a site (e.g., MSU’s construction crews were digging and hit a bunch of artifacts!) and you will be able to choose what you should do in response (e.g., go out now, wait one hour, start in the morning, etc.). In this way, you will understand how we make choices as how to excavate a site without delaying construction while still doing our best to preserve the history of our campus.
Twine is often used for interactive fantasy/role player games online where players can choose their own character and then decide what path they choose in a hope to win the game! Because of its success in that format, we believe this choose-your-own-archaeology-adventure will be a great learning tool as anyone who goes through our Twine will learn via experience!
We will be working on writing the script for the Twines this semester and will begin piecing together the html code next semester – hopefully these will be available for next summer and we can’t wait to make them available for all of you!!
Welcome back to our CAP blog! As many of our readers know, CAP has many posts dedicated to the identification of artifacts and their relationship to MSU’s campus. While we love sharing the interesting things we find on campus, this got us thinking a little …
MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program is well known in our community for our public outreach events and our archaeological excavations. These activities allow our archaeologists to be visible members of our MSU community and gets us out of our laboratories so we can teach and dig! …
Over the past couple of months, Campus Archaeology has been in communications with Girl Scout Regional Program and Event Specialist, Bethany Wilson, to develop an archaeology badge for girl scouts across Michigan. We are elated about our new partnership! These annual events will be a unique opportunity to teach young girls a variety of components of being an archaeologist, while showing that girls like to get dirty too!
This event will serve a minimum of 50 girls from across the state of Michigan in a single day. We plan to host this event in two sessions during the day in order to better serve the Girl Scout Brownies (2nd and 3rd grade) with a more personal experience. There is potential for including more age groups at a later date after the program well-established. The event will be structured as half-day workshop with the girls circulating through a series of 5 stations focusing on different aspects of fieldwork, including excavation, field photography, mapping, artifact identification, and soil classification.
At the excavation station, attendees will learn to layout a grid, learn the importance of methodical excavation, and different techniques for digging a grid unit. Next, they will get to photograph artifacts while learning the importance and difficulties of lighting in the field and other critical features, such as using a scale and north arrow. The mapping station will allow the girls to draw hand maps of a grid unit, followed by the artifact identification station where the girls will learn to identify stone tools, pottery, and several historic artifacts. Finally, at the soil classification station, attendees will compare a series of soil samples to a Munsell chart to determine the soil color and determine the composition of the soil (e.g. clay vs sandy). Understanding the soil type and soil color variations within an archaeological site provide important clues for identifying features, such as fire pits, as well as informing preservation expectations of organic materials.
The structure of this event will also provide the members with opportunities to earn more than one badges in a single event, such as badges for photography and mapping. To earn the archaeology badge, the girls will complete five steps: 1) become an archaeologist, 2) interpret the past, 3) discover a new culture, 4) preserve history, and 5) share their story. These steps can be completed in a variety of ways, such as meeting a museum curator, learning to categorize, log, and store artifacts, going to a local archaeological site, doing research on an artifact, and many more.
Over the next several weeks, Campus Archaeology will be working closely with Bethany Wilson to finalize the “Digging into the Past” badge program. We will set a date and location for the event, which will appear in the new program manual released to all Michigan Girl Scout member families in March. We are very excited to see the design of the new badge and to educate the future women of archaeology.