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 – …
This past summer, the Campus Archaeology program had the opportunity to offer a field school to archaeology students from MSU and across the state—our first field school since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Directly taking part in ongoing CAP research into life in the …
For those of you just joining our blog for the first time, I am Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am entering my 5th year here at MSU, and my 13th teaching as a tenure track faculty member at a land grant university.
This past year and a half has been one filled with anxiety and challenges. We mourn all of the people lost to COVID and the substantial impact it has had on our lives.
While most of our campus was remote up until August 2021, CAP worked on construction projects during the pandemic to ensure the university remained in compliance with federal and state guidelines concerning below ground heritage.
In fact, this past year was one of the busiest for our program due to taking on a federal compliance project that involved campus, city, state, federal, and tribal agencies. We learned how to go through the Section 106 process with the aid of many on and off campus partners. This included assessing, mitigating, and monitoring the construction of a substantial bike pathway that transverses much of our beautiful campus. Our CAP fellows and staff spent the summer overseeing the project, laboring in the heat with masks on to keep each other safe.
We also oversaw a substantial construction project at the beginning of the pandemic back in May 2020. The project lasted through August 2020. This project has resulted in several forthcoming publications and multiple public (online/remote) talks about our findings at conferences and at the MSU Science Festival in the spring of 2021. Artifacts from this construction site, which is located on Service Road, reveal campus life during the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.
We oversaw a smaller, but equally important construction project involving the area known as Spartan Village, which is most recently used to house graduate students. Part of that property has been converted to build a new TechSmith building. After conducting substantial historical research on the property, we conducted a geophysical survey with the assistance of MSU alumni Dr. Duane Quates in the fall of 2020. We used Dr. Quates’ data to help inform test excavations on the site later during the 2020-2021 academic year. We monitored construction on the site this summer (2021), which revealed numerous artifacts and building foundations.
We also continue to be involved in tree plantings on campus to ensure dirt removed as part of their planting is screened for artifacts.
Though our mission will remains clear – to protect and mitigate below ground resources on MSU’s campus while training students in archaeological research and public history – this year has also given us time and space to reflect upon what we have accomplished and what we would like to do for our community in the coming years. As we discussed in our blog last summer, we are working towards sharing more about the diverse communities who have lived and work on campus.
We have committed towards working closely with communities we have yet to serve in our surrounding region, but much of this work is on pause until we feel it is safe to do so. And while we have fallen short of some of our ambitious goals for this past year due to the burnt out, stress, and exhaustion that comes with living and working through a pandemic, we intend to keep them at the forefront of our planning for the coming years. We wish to work with the many communities who have resided on and owned MSU’s land and plan to develop policies that ensure proper consultation during construction projects.
I want to conclude by thanking all of our CAP staff and fellows for working so hard and learning to quickly adapt to in-flux new protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank the many staff with whom we have worked this past year+ of a pandemic. I also want to thank the undergraduates who helped us this summer with cataloging amid still very stressful times. We appreciate the ongoing support for CAP.
Wow! Our summer season in 2021 was a complete turnaround from the 2020. The MSU graduate student archaeologists who joined CAP Crew this year worked on four major field and laboratory projects. From May to late-August members of the CAP Crew completed a federal compliance …
This summer, Cowles House, MSU’s oldest standing building, is due to get a facelift. As part of this remodeling, crews will remove a few trees from around and inside the building and expand the west wing. In preparation for this work, I have been researching …
As all MSU students, professors, and staff know, MSU is continually improving their roads, sidewalks, sporting fields, etc. Each spring through fall, MSU’s campus is scattered with constructions sites with the goal of bettering the physical campus environment. While this activity is very visible, there is much that goes on behind the scenes. Multiple parties are involved in the planning stages, including the Campus Archaeology Program. In order to achieve our goal of preserving the cultural heritage of MSU, we must understand where construction will take place, what kind of work will be done, and then generate our own plans for mitigating any possible damage to archaeological sites.
So how does this all work?
Throughout the year, MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) (https://ipf.msu.edu/) is working on construction plans and creating maps and documents for each change. (See the IPF website to read more about their project phases: https://ipf.msu.edu/construction/business-partners/project-phases.html.) CAP comes into the picture around the ‘Construction Documents’ phase, when we can meet with staff at IPF and go over the upcoming planned construction.
I personally attended my very first meeting with IPF this past week, alongside Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Camp, and Lisa Bright, where I was able to learn about the upcoming construction this summer and see all of the incredibly detailed plan maps that have been created for each project! At this meeting, we discussed construction that will begin in April on the Service Road soccer field and in May along Wilson Road. There are so many advantages to meeting with the employees at IPF, including seeing the great detail within their plan maps. These maps allow us to determine what type of archaeological survey needs to be conducted before they begin construction, as well as how CAP should approach monitoring the work once it has begun. At this meeting we also discussed their timeline for the construction projects, as well as when it would be best for us to conduct our survey of the impacted areas. It was a great experience, and taught me a great deal about the extensive planning that takes place within our collaboration with IPF.
Now that we have met with IPF and have determined where on campus construction could impact archaeological sites, CAP must determine our survey methods for these projects. Currently, our plan stands as follows: as soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws a little (hopefully in early April), CAP will begin to survey, using a grid of shovel test pits, within the Service Road soccer field. During this survey, we will record and collect any archaeological evidence recovered. Once our survey is complete and construction begins, CAP fellows and summer field crew employees will then monitor the work for any further evidence of archaeological sites or artifacts that may have been outside of the initial survey.
In addition to surveying and monitoring, CAP also conducts archival research prior to construction projects, combing the written record for documents related to historic MSU campus in the areas of impact.
The combination of archaeological survey, monitoring construction, and archival research will ensure that we are doing everything that we can to protect MSU’s archaeological heritage! Keep a look out for us on campus!
Author: Autumn Painter
For much of this summer the CAP field crew was busy surveying the area surrounding the East neighborhood (Akers, Fee, Hubbard, Conrad). Beginning in March 2018 Wilson road will be altered, creating an additional exit onto Hagadorn, a traffic light on Shaw, as well as …
Recently, a construction project began in the small plaza between the MSU Auditorium and the Kresge Art Center, which meant that we Campus Archaeologists got to go in first and see what (if any) historic materials were hidden beneath the topsoil. The plaza is an unassuming space really, and without much in the way of benches, shade, or activity space, the little grass and concrete clearing doesn’t receive much foot traffic despite facing the relatively busy auditorium road sidewalk. As such, one of the goals of the construction project is to rebuild the plaza into a more comfortable and habitable outdoor space.
With the construction of the MSU Auditorium in 1940, and the later opening of the Kresge Art Center/Museum nearly two decades later in 1959, the Auditorium Plaza was created. As such, while the plaza has not had as substantial of a history as other parts of MSU, its location in the older section of campus maintains the possibility that this construction project will disturb cultural materials from the earlier period of campus history, necessitating that we survey the area prior to its disturbance.
With a large portion of the plaza covered by concrete sidewalk however, we needed to wait until the construction crew had used their excavators and backhoes to break up and haul out the massive pieces of pavement. Once we were able to get to work though, we quickly found that our test pits were coming up empty. As we shovel-tested the area by digging 40-60cm deep holes in a 5 x 5 m grid, one after another each successive pit was turning up nothing.
Aside from a sparse few nails (both modern and historic), pieces of brick, and a fragment of ceramic electrical conduit, the whole plaza seemed largely devoid of any cultural materials. Supporting the theory that the plaza was most likely highly modified before construction, wiping away all previous occupation/use debris. The plaza had several tiers, indicating the space was built, and rebuilt, leaving no original stratigraphy. With this in mind, the construction crews were able to proceed with their work to renovate the plaza knowing that they would not unknowingly damage any historic materials. When the project is finished and if these renovations are successful such that the space becomes more heavily used, who knows what future generations of MSU students will leave in the plaza’s archaeological record.
Also, with the 4th of July holiday coming up, take a look at this picture of an MSU student taking part in her hometown independence day parade C. 1949 that we found in the MSU online archives.
Author: Ian Harrison