As we begin our descent into Old Main excavations, we have formed our research questions that we will follow during our field work. Our main question is what can the glass recovered tell us about the Old Main building and events that took place here. Characteristics like style, thickness, color and transparency can put us on the track to answering this question. We also have many sub questions that we will be working to determine. The first is to see if we can figure out where this glass came from within the building. We hypothesize that we will see more window glass than any other kind of glass. However, because this was an academic building, it would be very neat to see glass that maybe came from science equipment or adorning items like a flower vase. Another sub question we have is where the glass was manufactured. This could be very difficult to determine if we are finding only small pieces of glass. It is believed that some characteristics such as thickness, color and any irregular markings could give us clues as to who the manufacturer was. We would also like to dig below the Old Main site to reveal possible archaeological evidence of the farmstead that was previously on this plot of land. If we find any glass remnants at this level then it could further our analysis of glass use in midmichigan over a larger span of time. We’re ready to kick some glass!!!

Ceramics Found at Old Main

            Most of the remains found at Old Main were parts of the building, however some of the remains are evidence of the people who worked and studied in the building. Ceramics are one of the types of artifacts that remain from the people rather than the building. Most of the ceramics are in fragments or only a small sliver is what remains. This makes it difficult to determine what the fragment was a part of. There were a few that were big enough or had certain shapes that allowed for speculation as to what it was. There were some fragments from a cup, one that could have been from a vase or plate, a piece of a bowl, and one that might have been part of a porcelain figure. A few of the fragments had what looked like designs or lettering on them, which is quite interesting.

All of these ceramic fragments and pieces help to show what kinds of personal artifacts from the professors and students who worked and studied in the building before it burned down.

The End is Near

Today was the fourth and final day of field trips for the Michigan Archaeological Fieldwork spring term class 2015. From the tip of the mitten to nearly the border of Indiana, we have traversed the state to visit various archaeological and historic sites as supplements to our archaeological studies.

This morning we visited the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School where we got to help out at with the field school team. Then in the afternoon we toured the Ziibiwing Cultural Center in Mount Pleasant where we learned about the history of Native Americans who were native to Michigan, some of whom would have attended the Indian Boarding School when it was a running establishment from 1893-1934. After spending the morning at what was left of the boarding school, it was easy to picture what it would have looked and been like back then.

Overall, we had a great time on our trips over the past week and have gained invaluable experience and insights from professionals in the field of archaeology. With just one day left, it is almost time to close up the units here at Old Main. But our time and efforts have been fruitful, nevertheless. Thanks to our professors and student mentors, we have learned much and, in turn, contributed to uncovering the secrets of a timeless building of Alma College—Old Main. (MFE LA)

Wrap up!

The final stages of excavation have begun. It is sad to see that the Old Main site will be closing over the summer. There were many great times and some bad times (due to the weather). It is unknown as of now if a class will be returning to excavate next year. Until a few of the units have been filled in, tomorrow the entire site will be closed and student will be heading home. Tonight was the last night for lab work some artifacts were bagged and tagged while others had just been clean. Tomorrow the artifacts that have been cleaned will be bagged and tagged tomorrow. As the time draws to a close students are finishing papers and finishing paper work.

Our Final Week in a Nutshell

Our final field trip is today and it is to Mt. Pleasant, MI to visit the Indian Industrial Boarding School. This will wrap up our week of a cross state visit of multiple historical sites. But before we leave for the summer, it is important to note the things that we have taken away from this class.

This class allowed us to gain knowledge about things that we did not know existed. We visited Fort Michilimackinac, the Michigan Historical Museum, Michigan State University’s archaeological sites, as well as Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles, MI. These trips included guided tours, hands on excavating, and even the chance to observe a cannon fire! While learning the history of Michigan, we were also becoming informed of what goes on behind the scenes of archaeology and its role in history. Today, we took a trip to the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and the Ziibiwing Cultural Center. We learned loads of inofrmation regarding the students who were forced to attend the boarding school. In addition to that, at the Ziibiwing Cultural Center we learned about the rare and rich information regarding the North American Indians.

While the field trips were fun and extremely informative, we could not forget about our beloved Old Main. The class has been constructing research reports that depict graphs, as well as pivotal information regarding the artifacts that we have found. For example, our groups graphs will show how many artifacts we found in what levels and what sort of artifacts were found in our most prosperous level.


Field trip round two and three

After exploring Fort Michilimackinac on Sunday, yesterday we went to Michigan State and had a tour with Dr. Lovis who is the archaeology professor. He showed us the basement where cabinets of artifacts are found and Professor Conell showed us some in the classroom. Also, we got a tour of Michigan State by Professor Conell where previous excavations took place. We then went to the Michigan Historical Museum where we learned a lot about artifacts, people, and culture during different time periods.

Today, we went to the Niles History Center and Fort St. Joseph. At the History center we learned about slavery and Indians such as Sitting Bull whose drawings are stored in the museum. We also got a tour of the Chapin Mansion and learned the background of the Chapin family and got to see their beautiful Mansion. At Fort St. Joseph we got a tour of the area and met up with Western Michigan archaeology students. We observed them excavating the Fort St. Joseph area and helped weed some tall grass for them since that is where their next excavation site will be.

We are having a great time on our field trips so far and looking forward to tomorrow at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and the Ziibiwing Cultural Center! (DC & KS)

Travel Week

Sunday, the archaeology class began their journey to different historical spots across the state of michigan to help learn more about archaeology and more broadly, anthropology.  Our trip started at Fort Michilimackinac where we recieved a tour of the fort and also got a behind the scenes look at where the excavation takes place at the fort and where all of the cleaning and cataloging occurs.  As the day came to a close, we made the trip across the Mackinac Bridge into the town of St. Ignace and ate at Clyde’s Drive-In, home of the “Big C” burger.

Today’s adventures took us to the Michigan State University where we met with Dr. Bill Lovis who spoke to us about the artifacts that they hold in their “repository” area.  After looking at all of the items they have found and collected, Professor Conell took us on a walking tour of the MSU campus and showed us many different areas where there was previous excavation units.  Following this process we arrived to the Michigan Historical Museum where we were able to roam around and learn new things about our states that many of us didn’t know before.

All in all, it was a very long but exciting day that ended with us arriving in Niles, Michigan ready to start tomorrow’s adventure which will include us excavating a site.  We are very excited to continue learning more about other archaeology sites over the last couple of days of class and end our spring term with a bang. (DW CN)

Wrapping up Our Excavation

With Archaeology Day coming to an end this past weekend, our class excavation on Old Main has also come to an end. There were many units that had found some intriguing artifacts and others that had found simply bricks, metal, and pieces of glass. Blake and I’s 4 ft by 4 ft unit was turned in to an 8 ft by 8 ft unit with the help of some fellow classmates. Now, let me explain why this was done to our unit.

Expanding our unit was a result of a couple of probe tests and one shovel test finding a cultural level approximately 12-14 inches below datum. With clay being a part of most of our unit, these test were nothing short of ordinary. Archaeologist use these tests when their excavation unit becomes “dry” and artifacts are no longer being found. So, we connected three more units to our original, making a 8 ft by 8 ft unit. Our goal was to expose the cultural level in all four quadrants in our unit. A cultural level is the ground where Old Main sat. This would be where the top of the soil was located back then.

With the cultural level exposed in all four quadrants, we began finding whole bricks and multiple pieces of larger glass. This level was also full of nails, along with what we believe is a piece of leather. Our Old Main excavation came to an end this past weekend, so we could only reach the top of level 2 in our additional 3 units that we added on to our original unit.

Although we ended our excavation, this week will be filled with archaeology history. We will be taking field trips around Michigan learning about historical sites and their archaeological importance. These trips will wrap up our archaeological experience, as well as leave us with a bit of history about the state some of us grew up in.


Fort Michilimackinac

Today we went on our first field trip of the week to Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City. Our day started off with a history of the British and the weapons that they used in the 18th century at the fort. They then showed us a demonstration of how they load and shoot the gun. After that was finished we got a tour and a history lesson of how the fort changed throughout the years.

Following our tour we went on another tour with Dr. Evans who focused mainly on the archaeological aspects of the fort and told us about the excavations that have been taking place since the 1950s. This was really awesome to see because we were able to get a good idea of a lot of the artifacts that have actually been recovered throughout their years excavating. Dr. Evans also told us that most of the building have been rebuilt based on the excavations that have taken place, meaning that they excavate before they build the building in order to get an idea of the actual building dimensions and what was used in those structures.

After receiving the tour with Dr. Evans of the fort she took us on a behind the scenes tour where we were able to see where the lab work takes place, as well as the storage of the items. This was an awesome experience because usually the only people who are able to see those building are the people who work there. We were then given free time for the following hour to explore the fort on our own. Following our free time we met again as a class at 3 o’clock to see the cannon get fired! We were then given free time again, but this time to roam around Mackinaw City. We enjoyed walking downtown and most of us bought some fudge to bring home!

Finally, after a long day, we went across the Mackinaw Bridge into St. Ignace to have dinner at Clyde’s Drive In. This is not a chain restaurant, it is a one of a kind drive in. They have a variety of burgers there but their most famous is “The Big C” which is a 3/4 pound burger! Everyone enjoyed their food and then it was time to make the 3 hour drive back to Alma. We all had a great time on our first field trip and are looking forward to the next 3!

(SW & JM)We

Archaeology In The North

Nothing like going up to Fort Michilimackinac for a field trip during the last week of class! We had the chance to tour the fort with experts on the history and learn more about the time period when the fort was in use! There was also another tour (more personal) after. This time we were able to learn about the artifacts that have been found while excavating the site over the years! Then, we were able to get an inside look on how the archaeologists prepare the artifacts for cateloging. We were able to see/learn about Musket and Cannon Firing! Once we finished up in the fort we were able to go walk around Mackinaw City for awhile before we continued our trip! It was a long, but very good day learning about Fort Michilimackinac! (JCAH)