IPF, MSU archaeology unearth century-old observatory foundation

pieces of rusty metal and glass lay next to a trowel on the grass

August 4, 2023

In summer of 2023, workers from Michigan State University Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, or IPF, were installing hammock posts close to student residence halls near West Circle Drive when they encountered a hard, impenetrable surface under the ground. 

Believing it to be either a large rock or building foundation, IPF called MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program, or CAP. After cross-checking old maps, campus archaeologists determined that it was the foundation of the first observatory on MSU’s campus, constructed in 1881. 

“The campus archaeology program is designed to protect and mitigate our below ground heritage here at MSU,” said Stacey Camp, director of CAP and associate professor of anthropology at MSU, “We collaborate with IPF on construction projects and we are involved in preplanning stages to ensure that if they potentially hit an archaeological site, we can protect it in some manner.”

The observatory discovery gives insight into how scientific observation, as well as life on campus, has changed over the last 140-plus years.

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