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Beneath the Ivory Tower

The Archaeology of Academia

Edited by Russell K. Skowronek and Kenneth E. Lewis

Publication Year: 2010

As a discipline, archaeology often provides amazing insights into the past. But it can also illuminate the present, especially when investigations are undertaken to better examine the history of institutions such as colleges and universities.

In Beneath the Ivory Tower, contributors offer a series of case studies to reveal the ways archaeology can offer a more objective view of changes and transformations that have taken place on America's college campuses. From the tennis courts of William and Mary to the "iconic paths, lawns, and well-ordered brick buildings" of Harvard, this volume will change the ways readers look at their alma maters--and at archaeology. Also included are studies of Michigan State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Illinois, North Carolina, Washington & Lee, Santa Clara, California, and Stanford.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiii

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pp. xv-xvi

As president of Michigan State University (MSU), I saw the excavation of Saints’ Rest, MSU’s first dormitory, as a wonderful opportunity to connect with the past in a scholarly way. It was not until the completion of the dig, however, that I fully realized its importance. The archaeological dig combined the social and hard ...


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pp. xvii-xix


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pp. xxi

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1. Introduction: The Archaeology of Academia

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pp. 1-6

Some years ago, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Florida, an article appeared in the campus newspaper, the Alligator, announcing the discovery of two large anchors lying beneath the shrubbery surrounding one of the older buildings. Apparently no one had known of their existence at the time, and the appearance ...

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I. The Process of Identifying the “Educational World” in the Archaeological Record

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pp. 7

When archaeology is mentioned in connection with historical research, we often think of its role as discovering ruins, objects, and other tangible remains that are linked to events of the past. A traditional task of archaeology has always been to find material evidence of previous human behavior. Its results allow us to ...

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2. Function, Circumstance, andthe Archaeological Record: The Elusive Past at Saints’ Rest

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pp. 9-35

One hot summer day a field school student looked up from her work and observed in frustration that the site we were excavating was not yielding the kind of evidence she expected to find. Here we were, exploring the innards of Saints’ Rest, Michigan State University’s first boarding hall (constructed in the mid-nineteenth century), and finding ...

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3. Exploring the Foundations of Notre Dame: Archaeology at Old College

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pp. 36-51

The Old College site consists of the Old College building (the first brick building constructed on campus) and the Log Chapel (a reproduction of the original log chapel that stood at this location in 1842). The site (as defined here) consists of these two buildings and the surrounding lawn, creating a parklike setting bounded ...

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4. Campus Archaeology on the University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe

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pp. 52-73

More than three and a half decades have passed since the field aspect of the “Horseshoe” project on the oldest area of the University of South Carolina campus was initiated in June 1973. The name of this campus area comes from the shape of the current road in front of the original buildings flanking the common leading to the ...

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5. Guns and Roses: Ritualism, Time Capsules, and the Massachusetts Agricultural College

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pp. 74-96

On a spring morning in 1991 our archaeological crew and several heavy equipment operators dug carefully around an old pine tree stump on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. Five hours later, we came upon what we were looking for. After more than a century underground, the time capsule ...

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II. Diachronic Views of College Life: Separating the Real from the Ideal

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pp. 97

We often see the past as a mirror of the present and transpose current function and meaning onto objects of the past. Educational institutions seem particularly prone to be viewed as changeless entities whose pasts are assumed to mirror the present or are so entwined with romantic myth as to bear little ...

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6. Campus Archaeology/Public Archaeology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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pp. 99-120

The beginnings of Harvard College were modest. After having been established in 1636, the college opened in 1638 with one master and nine students, all of whom lived in a house facing out on Braintree Street (now Massachusetts Avenue) just up the bank from the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The house ...

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7. The Progressive Era and Sanitation Reform: Social Purity and Privies at Rural Schools in Northeastern Illinois

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pp. 121-140

Rural schools represent an easily identifiable but infrequently excavated cultural resource in Illinois (Koster-Horan, Lurie, and Bird 2007; Koster-Horan 2002, 2003, 2004). Archaeological investigations in northeastern Illinois at the circa 1862–1948 Tamarack School (11–Wi-2487) founded by immigrants from Scotland at the cross-road ...

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8. The Eagle and the Poor House: Archaeological Investigations on the University of North Carolina Campus

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pp. 141-163

The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill is the oldest public-supported institution of higher learning in the United States. Since 1991 archaeologists at the Research Laboratories of Archaeology have conducted numerous archaeological investigations on its campus. These investigations have included ...

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9. “Post-Revolutionary Degeneracy: ”Washington and Lee University’s Landscape of Control

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pp. 164-181

In 1776 patriotic fervor was ubiquitous in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It inspired Augusta Academy to change its name to Liberty Hall Academy. Nearby, this enthusiasm was shared by the townspeople of Lexington, Virginia, who named their town after the revolutionary battle of the same name in Massachusetts (McClung 2001:56). This ...

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10. Beyond the Course Catalogue: Archaeological Insights into the Life of Santa Clara University

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pp. 182-207

Banking to the right, the Boeing 767 speeds north up the Santa Clara Valley toward its destination, the Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport. Thirty miles south of the plane’s destination it begins: the suburban sprawl associated with Silicon Valley that runs all the way from Gilroy to the Golden ...

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11. Love, Let, and Life: An Archaeology of Tennis at the College of William and Mary

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pp. 208-221

On a crisp fall day in 1941, she stepped out onto the clay. Bending down to make sure her laces were fixed tight, she gripped the newly taped handle of the racket, eager to test it against her opponent across the net. Her teammates applauded her with their usual verve, offering sharp female yells of encouragement. There were ...

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III. Architecture, Space, and Identity: How Constructed Landscapes Reflect Institutional Goals

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pp. 223

Of all the disciplines in social science, archaeology is perhaps the most visible. Perhaps because of the romance of field exploration or because of its ability to reveal “hidden” information about the past, archaeology holds great fascination for the public. Consequently, when we carry out excavations on ...

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12. Digging in the Golden Bear’s Den

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pp. 225-241

It’s a rainy winter day in Berkeley, and I’m staring into a muddy pipe trench, surrounded by an anxious crew of construction workers. I really don’t want to jump into the trench. I was comfortably sitting in my not-so-warm but definitely dry office when the phone call came. I left my office quickly, donning a hard hat but ...

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13. More Than Bricks and Mortar: A Story of Community Archaeology

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pp. 242-260

“Remember your past. Connect with the present. Engage with our Future.” The Michigan State University (MSU) administration put forth this tripartite invitation to participate in the 2005 Sesquicentennial Anniversary through a variety of symposia, exhibits, parades, and other events. Knowing the power of archaeology to ...

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14. The Campus as Cultural Landscape: Archaeology and the Formation of Collegiate Identity

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pp. 261-273

Collegiate identity is strongly connected to places—student residences, libraries, athletic facilities, theaters—where students spend their time and have memorable experiences. Archaeological field schools on college campuses, like community archaeology projects elsewhere, should also create a lasting memory of place ...

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15. Hail to Thee, O Alma Mater: Considering the Archaeology of Academia

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pp. 274-287

Fewer than twenty years after the Pilgrims established “Plimouth [sic],” private elementary and higher education was born in Massachusetts at the Boston Latin School in 1635 and Harvard in 1636. Less than a decade later the first genuinely public tax-supported schools were opened in Rehoboth in 1643 and Dedham ...

Appendix: Heritage Resources Management in the College and University Environment

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pp. 289-297

References Cited

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pp. 299-319


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pp. 321-325


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pp. 327-341

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045153
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034225
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034221

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 112 b&w illustrations, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2010