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Hello everyone,

My name is David Lewandowski and I am one of the three interns for the Campus Archaeology Program this fall.  I am a senior here at Michigan State, majoring in Anthropology with a minor in American Indian Studies.  My plans after graduation are to attend graduate school and to ultimately recieve my Ph.D. and become a professor.  As far as grad schools are concerned, I would like to go somewhere in the Southwest.  I have participated in two field schools in the Southwest, Crow Canyon’s high school program and a field school run by Dr. Alison Rautman in central New Mexico, and would love to work there in the future.  This past summer I participated in a field school on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut.  This field school was a great experience for me.  I knew very little about the area, time period, and people prior to the field school.  During the Mohegan field school, I was exposed to things that an undergrad wouldn’t usually experience during a field school.  I learned a great deal about the Native communities in Connecticut, along with the varrying views Native people have with regards to archaeology.  The field school was also my first experience in dealing with historical archaeology, which helped to prepare me for my internship with CAP.

I applied to become an intern with CAP because I knew it would be a great opportunity to further my knowledge and experience within archaeology and to meet other like minded people.  I am really enjoying my internship this fall.  So far I have been exposed to so many new things regarding archaeology and the history of Michigan State.  This semester I have been working both in the lab and in the field, and conducting research for my own individual project.  I have also really enjoyed the public outreach that CAP participates in.  I love sharing my knowledge of archeaology with people I meet, which is one of the reasons why I would like to become a professor.  It is also rewarding to share the information that you have uncovered with the larger Michigan State community. 

I have entitled this post “In the Shadow of Beaumont” for a couple reasons.  One reason relates directly to the work that we have done at the College Hall site, which is located where Beaumont Tower now stands.  It was absolutely thrilling to have been a part of the excavations that uncovered the northeast corner of College Hall, the first building built here at Michigan State.  My individual project this semester focuses on College Hall and the area that is now the location of Beaumont Tower.  With our work in the field at this site, research needs to be done with regards to the construction sequences of the site and the histories of the structures that have and currently stand there.  So far, I have been researching three buildings; College Hall, the artillary garage, and Beaumont Tower.  This means that I spend a lot of time in the MSU Archives, which I have come to enjoy.  It is really exciting to uncover the history of a site that you are working at and to be able to compare the written and archaeological records.  With my project on College Hall, I feel like I am continuing the legacy of John Beaumont by further preserving the history, site, and story of College Hall.  Beaumont and his wife donated money to erect Beaumont Tower in order to commemorate College Hall, a building that John had fond memories of.  Many people walk by Beaumont Tower everyday, without knowing exactly what it represents, or even what is below the ground that they are walking on.  Through the work that we are doing at CAP, we are hoping to educate people regarding the history and archaeological resources of Michigan State and to further preserve the history and archaeology of the nation’s pioneer land grand intistution.

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It is now the middle of October.  I am in disbelief.  The semester is going by so quickly.  It has now been several weeks since I have joined the Campus Archaeology program as an Intern.

My name is Jeff Gepper and I am an undergraduate senior here at MSU.  I am majoring in Anthropology, and receiving a minor in Geography.  After this year I plan on doing one of two things.  Option one attending graduate school at university x (currently undecided).  Option two refers to me putting off graduate school for a year to teach English in China.  The second option I have chosen for several reasons.  Firstly, I am currently learning mandarin.  Secondly, my hopes for my future are to conduct either archaeological or cultural work in China.

Anyways, that is a brief, very brief, introduction to who I am, but to move on now, I will discuss what i have been up to regarding my work as a CAP intern.  The majority of work so far have occurred in the bowels of Mcdonel hall, in the Archeology lab.  I have been cleaning artifacts found in the trash pit located next to Saints Rest.  The work can sometime be tedious, in example, cleaning hundreds of tiny shards of broken window and bottle glass.  But that does not mean I do not enjoy it.  I have made many discoveries that have been absolutely fascinating.  The first to come to mind it the white-ware ceramics with the maker’s crest printed on the back.  Now I personally have no experience in 1860’s ceramics, therefore have no factual evidence as to where it came from.  nevertheless, David (another awesome intern) have done much speculating as the origin of the artifact.  judging by the crown placed upon the top of the crest I make the assumption it comes from somewhere within the United Kingdom.  Once again i would like to reiterate that all of this is pure speculation, but that does not mean it is not fun to do.  Besides the ceramics the other exciting artifacts are mainly found in the metallic items, such as cut nails and pins.  These artifacts are specially fun to clean because at first they appear as a clump of rust and dirt.  After careful brushing and slight poking the item takes the form of a rusty nail or something similar.  The best so far was when one of the clumps of rust turned out to be a broken bolt with two nuts, possibly 3/8 “,  screwed onto it.  Quite fun to discover what that was.  other objects we clean are bricks, stones, and a good amount of butchered animal bone, specifically a cow and possible and pig.  Overall the lab has been the main area of focus, unfortunately due to computer failure and other related problems cataloging artifacts has not been happening, but hopefully will begin soon.

The lab as fun as it may be, is nothing compared to actual digging though.  Which I got the chance to participate in the very exciting excavation that uncovered the Northeast corner of College hall, the first building on MSU’s campus.  Under the time crunch placed on us we dug quickly, but carefully through the soft sand on the eastern side of the structure.  it was so nice it was digging in warm butter.  Though I found out my wall cutting abilities need a little, or a lot, of practice.  I hope I get the opportunity to practice it soon.  Due to our digging methods we found few artifacts, which included cut nails, pins, brick, and bone.  It was amazing however when Chris Valvano found a metal pin while excavating with a large shovel.  Now since there is only so much room in the excavation unit I was assigned the task along with another intern to probe the surrounding area to try and get a feel for where the rest of the structure may lie.  This was going well, until I made a fatal mistake.  In my eagerness to shove the metal shaft into the ground I became overzealous and punctured what turned out to be a major irrigation line for the entirety of the “Oak Opening” area.  Thankfully the maintenance crew was very understanding and friendly.  With tha experience under my belt I will from now on be very aware of my surroundings and constantly be checking for possible underground lines.  As the sun moved toward the West on Friday, our time became extremely strained and digging fervently Terry and Chris uncovered the actual foundation corner of the first building on the campus.  It was a great feeling to be a part of a team that will surely go down in MSU’s history books.

Now, being an intern for CAP I am required to create a research topic and present it. I am planning on using my Geographical and cartographic knowledge to put together a series of maps laying out where CAP has dug, where buildings once stood, and where exactly buildings are now in relation to old ones.  In order to get started I have been given the task to outline as the buildings in the west circle area.  This is one of the most exciting areas on campus because it is the site of the oldest campus buildings.  So far the building that has surprised me the most is the Armory.  It was built in 1885, and demolished in 1939 in order to make room for the current music building.  Now I personally doubt that many people on this campus realize that it once had an armory.  At least I thought it was pretty cool.

As for now that is where I stand, and I cannot wait to keep researching and finding out more cool things about MSU’s past.

Morrill and Me

       Hey there! I’m Jen Allen and I’m one of the Campus Archaeology interns for fall semester 2009. It’s been a couple of weeks so far and I’ve had the opportunity to spend lots of time in the MSU archives as well as do a little digging in the search for College Hall. I’m a senior here at MSU and major in history and anthropology as well as having a specialization in African Studies. I fell in love with archaeology after participating in Dr. O’Gorman’s field school in Illinois which I took part in almost on a whim. Since then I added anthropology as a major and couldn’t be happier with the decision. I feel archaeology is the perfect way to combine my love of different cultures, history, and even just getting to be outside as part of the work!

       My project this semester has to do with Morrill Hall and everything has gone well so far. Right now I’m working on finding everything I can on the building since the University seems set at this point to have it demolished in the near future. I have put lots of time in at the MSU archives in Conrad Hall searching for information and trying not to annoy the staff there too much with my requests and constantly forgetting to put my bag in the lockers like they want you to. I’ve also done some extra wandering inside Morrill Hall just to get even more acquainted with what I’ve been researching.  I have been in the building before on many occasions and have always loved its old and somewhat quirky feel. The building is not symmetrical as originally intended and it is just shy of 109 years old and because of this it definitely has its own unique character. It is also a building steeped in MSU’s history as it was the first women’s dormitory on the campus as well as it being a huge step in the acceptance of a practical women’s education at the College. I’ll have much more to come on what I’ve been doing and what I’ve found out about Morrill Hall in future blogs!

Lately I’ve begun to seriously catalog and date the bottles from the Brody site.  I have some previous experience dating bottles, but I have quickly learned how much more in-depth it can be.  There are huge amounts of previous research to help me find out as much as i can about each bottle.  Friends of mine have been asking a lot of good questions about manufacturing techniques and how I go about dating a bottle.  I won’t attempt to address it all at once, but here’s a start.

A large portion of the bottles that were collected from Brody hall share at least one thing in common.  They were machine made, not hand blown like their predecessors.  Before 1903, bottle making was a process that depended on skilled labor and was time consuming as well.  Michael Owens created a machine that could mass produce bottles without the need of hands on glass blowing.  The patent for the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine was granted in 1903.  By 1905, more than 90% of bottles produced in the United States were machine made.  Instead of producing one bottle at a time, bottles could now be produced at a rate of four per second.  This is a staggering revolution in the bottle industry.  Cost and production time were drastically cut, providing for the rapid expansion of the beer and soft drink industries.  Because bottles could be produced so quickly and easily by machine, they were no longer an item to be saved and reused.  As a result, many of them were tossed before breaking and can be easily  found in bottle dumps like the one at Brody Hall.

Check out this video of the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine in action!!!!!

So how does the Owens ABM work?  As you can see from the above video, the machine is a very complex merry-go-round that no one should ever be allowed to ride.  The machine measures out the correct amount of molten glass for each bottle and it is then forced into a pre-existing mold attached to the machine.  Molds could be changed and added to the machine in order to produce different bottle forms and types.  Much like previous production methods, the Owens machine leaves clues in the glass that are very helpful in identification and dating.  Very much like fingerprints, each method of production has unique identifiers.

The Owens machine has several:

  • Vertical seams run up to the lip, or at least very close to it.
  • “Ghost” seams run parallel to more the distinct, true seams.
  • Suction scar on base results from Press and Blow machine.
  • Owens used various identifiable makers marks on the base of each bottle(see photographs).
  • Numbering system provides reliable data on age and location of production(see photographs).

Any Questions?  I still have plenty.

A Trip to the Archives

Last week I went over to the MSU Archives with Terry to do a little research.  I’ve never been to the archives before, so it ended up being a really good way to get my feet wet.  Let me first say this about myself, I love old maps and pictures.  When the opportunity presents itself, I will pour over them for hours, even if I’m not looking for anything in particular.  But this time, lucky me, I’ve got a goal in mind.  

When we got to the archives, there was a pile of folders and maps waiting for us on the table.  Hats off to Whitney Miller for all of her help.  She really knows the archives well, and as we looked over the maps and photos it became clear that she knows MSU just as well.  The files that she pulled out for me to look at contained mostly aerial photographs from the 1940’s and 50’s.  My purpose at the archives was to find any maps or pictures that might shed light on the Brody Hall bottle dump.  This is a small step towards my big research project that is due in the spring.    

I found some interesting things.  From what I can tell so far, the land that Brody Hall sits on has seen fairly minimal use.  One map that is dated 1900 shows a small portion of what is now Brody complex divided into housing lots.  Exactly how many of these lots were actually used I have no idea.  In addition, the divided block of land is slightly north of the dump site.  Perhaps some of the debris is from these homes? Perhaps not.  

A 1919 campus map shows the location of two buildings just south of the divided lots mentioned above.  One of these buildings is labeled, “Experiment Station Barn.”  From this point we jump forward to the 1940’s when part of the area housed a university barn and horse track.  The horse track and barn appear to have been dismantled by the 1950’s, although evidence of the horse track appears in later pictures.  When the Kellogg Center was built in 1951, the area directly across Harrison Road became parking.  Some of the older photographs show variations in terrain, low spots and marshy swales.  These appear to have been filled in by the time the area was used for parking, possibly filled with bottles and then covered up?  We’ll see.  There are a few homes that pop in and out of the pictures, and closer to the river was the site of the Red Cedar Administration Building.  This building was gone by 1956.  

Now that I’ve been to the archives, I feel as though I have more questions than answers.  Hopefully the archives have more to offer as my research progresses.  If you are interested in learning more about what the MSU archives has to offer, check out the website.

Last week marked the annual summer session of Grandparents University.  Every summer, MSU hosts alumni and their grandchildren for a few days of special classes and presentations all around the campus.  These lucky grandchildren get to stay in Holmes Hall, eat in the cafeteria, and also choose from a list of interesting classes to attend each day.  Professors and organizations all accross campus provide their time, knowledge, and skills to make Grandparents University special.  Students even receive bags of special little gifts and snacks(pretty good marketing if you ask me).  

CAP was one of the groups to participate in this event, and it ended up being a lot of fun.  On Tuesday, we set up a pit near the MSU museum so that we could demonstrate archaeological techniques in a hands on way.  We were near the site of the 2005 field school at Saints’ Rest, the first dormitory on campus.  It was completed in 1856 and burned to the ground over winter break of 1876.  There has been extensive excavation on the actual building site, but I was extremely pleased to learn that we would be digging in there area that may be the dorm trash pit.  I’ve never had the chance to dig a privy or midden of any kind, so I was pumped.  

Our first morning at the site started out a little slow.  It turns out that it is difficult to find a backfilled pit when the markers are gone.  Lawnmowers!!!  I got to see first-hand how troubling survey equipment can be on a rainy day, so troubling in fact that I never actually got a chance to try it out with Terry.  Sometimes technology just works for itself and no one else.  We did eventually find what we were looking for, but it had to be done the old fashion way.  We knew roughly where to dig, and once we pulled some sod back, a faint line appeared in the soil.  This line marked the outside edge of CAP’s previous November inquiry into the trash pit.

In no time at all, we were pulling out artifacts left and right.  Each bucket of soft mottled sand that was taken to be sifted seemed to contain more and more fragments of broken glass and cut nails.  There were numerous butchered cow bones and even the remains of a pig jaw.  For anyone looking for dinosaur bones, this is as close as I can take you.  As the day progressed, more and more students of Grandparents University stopped by to see what was going on.  It was a lot of fun to be out there digging and showing off our newly unearthed artifacts.  The kids were very interested, but even more interested were the grandparents.  There were tons of great questions overall, and I really enjoyed the experience of digging with so many curious people around.

Check out the Saints’ Rest online exhibit!!!

The Daily Dust, Rust

On Wednesday of last week I finally finished cleaning all of the Brody bottles.  I’ve spent time in the past cleaning dirty old bottles, but never like this.  I must admit that when I looked at the boxes of mud crusted bottles I thought to myself, “This will be done in no time.”  Okay, maybe not those words exactly, but I did underestimate the resilience of rust and clay.  Completely cleaning a dug bottle is a time consuming and detailed endeavor.  This is the life of an archaeology intern.

In the lab I’m set up with several wash bins and brushes of all types and sizes.  The bottle brushes are really the only way to clean the inside, a saving grace if you really want to get a bottle clean.  There was, however, a secret weapon in my arsenal of cleaning tools.  It was a pick….two sided, like the one a dentist uses on your teeth to punish you for not flossing.  The pick is perfect for flicking off those little specks of rust that just won’t give.  It works so well that I had to get a few more when I went to the dentist recently.  The process of getting a bottle clean is a tedious one, but it is great to see the transition happen.  The mud and rust wash away and uncover hidden marks or labels.  A seemingly unremarkable bottle can deliver a great surprise once cleaned.