Archive | April 2014

Learning How to Grid Squares!

Learning How to Grid Squares!

Today we learned how to make 1×1 or 2×2 meter squares. It was challenging at times but at the end we got the hang of it! Come next week we will be pros at plotting our squares. Stay tuned!


Compass Orientation on April 29th.

Orientation is at times, disorientating.   Do not jest.   It is very dizzying.   Even more so if a past feature is out of sight, buried and trampled under pacing crowds.    A compass is a test.   A map is best.    And vice-versa, map or compass.   Which direction?   Which location?

Finding a direction is as easy as sunrise and sunset.   There you have it East and West just as Day and Night tells everyone the difference of the two at regular intervals.  Moving on…  Point a right-shoulder East and point a left-shoulder West.   Your front faces North and your rear… well… South.

Finding a map or maps requires more of a search.   Old maps from centuries past get lost or get destroyed.   These hopefully-not-crinkled-papers are wonderful if you are gazing for a special spot.

Before Old Main burnt down.

Before Old Main burnt down.

Unfortunately, maps depicting the location of Old Main were buried between other old leafs, stashed in a folder,  and stored within boxes.   Like a nesting-doll, the boxes and their contents were stored deep within Alma College Archives.

An Alma College Library employee removed them from storage for viewing by the college’s Archaeology students.   After carefully flipping through numerous archival documents and photographs, various maps were discovered, copied via a scanner, and used as visual guides by a group of students researching Old Main.

The students selected which areas possessed the highest probability of finding data related to the Old Main [Building] based on maps both prior to and after 1969.   Those selected areas are where the Survey Squares [10 meters by 10 meters] were placed.   Surveyor’s Measuring Tape and Tent Stakes were used in order to layout the squares for the Magnometer Survey.   There exists a 50% chance of finding something or finding nothing pertinent to Old Main.

A student decided to utilize a compass and a camera-equipped-phone to record the orientation of various features.

Orientate with Compass.

Orientate with Compass.

I created the above composite images by using Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 to combine the separate images and to add text.   Each image was taken with a camera phone.   It took longer than I thought to figure out how far to compress the image files.   It’s been too long since I’ve compressed images for the Internet.   I’ve only done this [image file compression] about three other times.   That   was   frustrating, especially, since I wanted to be done before 12:00 a.m.


Information to Get Us on Our Way!

Today we learned about what archaeology is. It is the study of ancient and recent human pasts through material remains. There are also many different types of archaeology. Prehistoric, Classical and Underwater are just a few we talked about. We also learned about the ethics and legislation of archaeology. When archaeology was first practiced the people involved did not do much to preserve the context of the artifacts they found. To preserve the site and the artifact, the Antiquity Act of 1906 was written. This says that things cannot be stolen from archaeological or historical sites. To go along with preserving the sites, the Historic Site Act of 1935 was also written to identify and protect sites and the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 helped with this too. Later on, burial sites were discovered, excavated, and items displayed without permission from the group that the item belonged to. To help with this congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPA) which says that the remains or artifacts should be given back to or notify the people of which they came from for appropriate care.

Along with learning about what archaeology is about, we also learned about the archives that Alma College has. We were shown where information was stored in the archive room and how to find what we are looking for. By looking through the archives we think we found out where Old Main was located. We looked through many photos of Alma College from the past but there were only some that had Old Main in them. However, from them we think we have a good idea of where to start looking for the remains from the fire. It looks like it is in front of the Swanson Academic Center toward the road like we predicted. Tomorrow we will begin using the magnetometer to see if our predictions are right, if the weather permits.

Folders from the archives on Old Main

Folders from the archives on Old Main

Looking through the folders on Old Main from the archives

Looking through the folders on Old Main from the archives

Welcome to our Excavation of Old Main!

Old Main was the first building of the Central Michigan Normal School, which was established in 1886.  One year later, philanthropic businessman, Ammi W. Wright, donated the building to the Presbyterians for the beginning of Alma College.

For the first twenty-five years, Old Main was one of five academic buildings on campus:  Folsom Hall (gymnasium and chemistry), the library, Hood (museum), Old Main (classrooms and offices), and Pioneer Hall (dormitory).

In 1969, Old Main was home to the political science, psychology, education, history, speech, and economics departments and various offices for faculty and research students.  When fire struck around 11:00 am on March 10, 1969, in the attic of Old Main, students and faculty frantically began to retrieve materials from the destruction.  Soon enough the Alma Fire Department arrived and banned entry when the building was deemed hazardous.  

Old Main burned to the ground, destroying $79,977 worth of school material goods, $281,539 for the building itself, and $14,424 worth of faculty’s personal possessions, not to mention the countless priceless items that can never be replaced.  Central Michigan University donated furniture to Alma College until 1974 when Swanson Academic Center was finished.

Today, Old Main is commemorated on campus by a stone memorial where it once stood.

Stay tuned here as we excavate this icon of Alma’s history!