Canning on Campus

Complete Mason Jar from Gunson Unit A To say that the Gunson assemblage has a lot of glass is an understatement. So far, having fully cataloged one unit and being close to half way through another we have been encountering condiment jars, drinking glasses, medicine bottles, window glass, lab glass, and many fragments of canning …

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Water Sanitation at MSU

Given the national focus on the Flint water crisis, where I am a resident, I thought I would take a closer look at water safety and its conveyance within MSU. Water and its safe supply has been a concern for human populations for thousands of years from the Neolithic into the present (history of water …

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Eureka! A Laboratory Glass Makers Mark

We’ve been working our way through cataloging materials excavated during the summer 2015 field school. Last semester the interns, volunteers and I finished unit A. It contained an astounding 8,617 artifacts weighing 52.48 kilograms! As we’ve previously discussed, the Gunson assemblage is a mix of household (plates, cups, vases, condiment jars, bottles), personal (toiletries, cosmetics), …

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Feynman’s War

Radar and nuclear weapons could not have been developed without the big brains. Feynman’s War: Modelling Weapons, Modelling Nature Peter Galison* What do I mean by understanding? Nothing deep or accurate—just to be able to see some of the qualitative consequences of the equations by some method other than solving them in detail. — Feynman …

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From Surgical Theater to Trash Pit: The Resurrection of a Listerine Bottle and What It Can Tell Us About Campus Activities

Listerine Bottle from  Level B Lisa Bright, the reigning Campus Archaeologist, wrote to me recently to say that she had discovered a Listerine bottle in the Admin/Gunson assemblage that was excavated during the CAP field school this past summer. While a Listerine bottle may seem like a fairly innocuous item (especially when found in the …

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David T. Bailey

On Saturday, November 7, a dear friend and colleague, David T. Bailey, passed away. I always find it difficult to write about friends who have left us.  I can write the straight forward — like about his digital work in a blog post for Matrix. I will just make a few notes; difficult to sum …

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More Than Just Nightsoil: Preliminary Findings from MSU’s First Privy (MAC Poster Presentation)

At the Midwest Archaeological Conference, Lisa, Amy and myself got the opportunity to present some of our preliminary findings from the privy that we uncovered during Summer 2015. Here, I’m going to share some of the findings from our poster, and the poster itself for those who are interested! In June, 2015 during routine construction …

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Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, by Tom Wolfe. First appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, April 1971. (The Sixties lasted well into the Seventies!) Collected, together with Radical Chic, in this Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition (2009). Tom Wolfe understands the human animal like no sociologist around. He tweaks his reader’s every buried thought and prejudice. He sees through …

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Ghosts of Michigan Past

Halloween is a beloved day of the year, perhaps because, for some reason, we love to be scared. For many people, nothing causes more fright or fascination than ghosts, the spirits of those who have passed out of the physical world but whose lost souls remain behind. It is widely believed that ghosts remain tied …

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Administration/Gunson Assemblage

One of the major tasks for the semester (in reality probably the entire school year) is to sort, catalog, and accession the artifacts from the Summer 2015 field school. The five units produced an astounding volume of artifacts. We began the field season under the impression that the trash pit was associated with the Bayha …

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A Living Place of Education

Tree in the Botanical Gardens at Michigan State University   The places we inhabit habituate us. The virtues they cultivate are grounded in the values they embody. In 1855, a natural opening in the oak forest of the Burr farm was selected as a fitting site for the creation of the Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.) …

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I call this progress

The tail of the (green) 2000 curve seems slightly off to me: ~10 million individuals with >$100k annual income? (~ $400k per annum for a family of four; but there are many more than 10 million “one percenters” in the US/Europe/Japan/China/etc.) Via Roger Chen. Tweet

The Edge of the Oak Opening

Old illustration of Linton Hall at Michigan State University As I begin my tenure as Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University I find myself thinking of these lines adapted from Deuteronomy 6:10-12 by Peter Raible: “We build on foundations we did not lay. We warm ourselves at fires we …

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Is this 17th century collection of German criminology woodcuts one of the world’s first comic books?

      Is this 17th century collection of German criminology woodcuts one of the world’s first comic books? The book, dated 1686, is made up of 20 or so woodcut illustrations showing the administration of criminal justice, including images of defendants before judges and scenes of punishment and torture.  All of the illustrations have been …

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It’s a Brick . . . Outhouse

The summer field season has continued to be busy. Last Monday, while making our routine monitoring rounds of the North Campus Infrastructure Improvements construction site we noticed a concentration of bricks and dark soil near the Museum. As previously mentioned, the first week of the season we located the partial foundation of Williams Hall near …

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Whither the World Island?

Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes on global geopolitics. The brief excerpts below do not do the essay justice. Geopolitics of American Global Decline: Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century … On a cold London evening in January 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder, the director of the London School …

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Florentine Chronicle (1537)

  Florentine Chronicle (1537) Born in the late 13th century in Florence, Giovanni Villani was a notable Italian statesman and diplomat, remembered today for recording the history of Florence in his Nuova Cronica, or New Chronicles. Our 16th century reprint of Villani’s Florentine chronicle features contemporary marginal annotations on nearly every page, marking important lines and …

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Imperial exams and human capital

The dangers of rent seeking and the educational signaling trap. Although the imperial examinations were probably g loaded (and hence supplied the bureaucracy with talented administrators for hundreds of years), it would have been better to examine candidates on useful knowledge, which every participant would then acquire to some degree. See also Les Grandes Ecoles …

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Wells Hall #2

I recently began conducting archival research into the second Wells Hall. We have been interested in learning details regarding the building’s construction and subsequent demolition, as well as piecing together what student life was like in the dormitory. During this summer’s CAP field school, we may conduct excavations near the location of the former Wells …

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Finding the Digital Humanities

While popular retelling likes to place the origins of the “digital humanities” with John Unsworth and the entitling of the volume, A Companion to Digital Humanities, the term has earlier origins and DH first began appearing in 1998.  The term is often associated appropriately with one of the pioneers in digital projects, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In November of …

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A Brief History of Humankind

 I wonder whether Yuval Harari is related to the physicist Haim Harari. Yuval Noah Harari discusses his new book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be human. One hundred thousand years ago, at least …

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