Friday, June 27, 2008
Anthropology class digs into campus history
|Professor Richard Stamps discusses the class' findings during an open house.|
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
A group of Oakland University students are uncovering Oakland University’s past — literally. A dozen students who participated in Professor Richard Stamps’ class are getting hands-on experience in anthropology and archeology while digging, analyzing and researching specific areas of campus to learn more about the university’s history.
The students excavated areas at the Austin farm, a location that last year’s class started exploring; the area near Walton and Squirrel roads, where there was believed to be an old schoolhouse; and the Meadow Brook Greenhouse and icehouse located near John Dodge House.
“Most of what we are doing is comparative. We are comparing what we found at each site,” said Ronni Martz, anthropology and archeology junior.
The students found nails, glass, ceramics, metal fragments, bone and coal along with other items.
The class examined the Austin farm, a site they visited last year. Before Oakland University was the campus, the land was mostly used for farming. Many of the farms in the area were bought by the Matilda and John Dodge, the wealthy family that owned Meadow Brook Farms and later establishing Oakland University. One of the farms purchased by the Dodges was owned by George and Mary Austin.
“Being able to revisit the site really brought together last year and this year,” said Cortney McKenzie, junior, anthropology, who participated in the course last year. “This year was different because we actually knew where things were and had a plan. We were able to help the first-year students with measuring and excavating.”
They also spent time examining the Meadow Brook Greenhouse and ice house, where they learned about the function of the ice house.
“The Austin farm site provided a constant stream of artifacts, whereas the icehouse was more tedious and involved. We had to adapt to each location,” Martz said.
The third location was at an area near Walton and Squirrel roads, where a one-room schoolhouse once stood.
|The class dug up pieces of glass, bricks, ceramics, nails and other items that they analyzed.|
“We were looking for remnants of the schoolhouse,” Martz said. “The first one burned down and the second one was moved, but we didn’t know that at the time.”
Through discussing it with a local church, they were able to find a former student of the schoolhouse, who said it was relocated to near Willis School in Pontiac. The site is now an industrial park.
“The class was a lot of history, a lot of guesswork and theorizing,” Martz said. She said the students did research on the locations before each excavation.
The students spent a week at each location excavating. They would dig out and clean up artifacts that would give them clues as to what was in the location in previous years. Martz said things like square screws were used before the 1900s, which gives them a timeline.
For the students involved in the class, it provides a hands-on experience they need for future careers. Martz had helped out on a dig in the past and this helped her build on that experience.
“I really want to be an archeologist and this is one of a few schools that is close to where I live that will give me the experience I need,” said McKenzie, who plans to attend graduate school after she graduates. “Professor Stamps is a great professor who gave us the chance to get hands-on experience.”
The students had an open house on June 6 to showcase their findings to family, friends and the university community.
“The students have done a good job this semester. They are helping us to better understand the history of Oakland University and the events that have taken place on this campus,” Stamps said.