Managing SIUE’s cultural resources – CRSP

SIUE’s campus is uniquely located at on the geographic and archaeologic hotspot, according to two College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) faculty members. Because of its unique location near bluffs and a floodplain, and its size of 2,600 acres, the campus offers a great deal of opportunity for archeological exploration.

Anthropology students work a site on SIUE's campus at the 2011 Summer Field School. photo courtesy of the Anthropology Department.

“For SIUE, we have 2,600 acres and now a lot of that has nothing to do with architecture. So, most of it will be archeological sites we’ll be working with. Some of campus is in agriculture field. We have wonderful differences in landscape. A lot of campus is up on the bluffs and then we have some on the floodplain. Archaeologically, that is very meaningful. That it is below the bluffs and on the floodplain it is a really unique situation geologically,” said Michele Lorenzini, instructor of anthropology. “We’ve got some landforms coming together that you don’t see, virtually, anywhere else.”

CRSP, or the Cultural Resource Sustainability Program, is designed as a series of courses and field schools that will allow CAS students to take advantage of this unique campus. According to Lorenzini, the program came out of the need for SIUE to care for its cultural resources, some of which date back more than 8000 years.

“To help facilitate that also, I’ve designed a new course that we just did for the first time last spring. It’s a specific CRM–Cultural Resource Management–course and that’s basically contract archeology. In that class, I am taking the students through the laws,” said Lorenzini.

Lorenzini stated that the relevant time periods for the region that SIUE’s campus sits on are recent historic, about 1800-1860, the Mississippian time period around 1300 a.d., the Woodland sites from around 1000 a.d., and many important archaic sites ranging between 4 and 8000 years ago.

At the end of the 1960’s, a set of laws were passed that required any construction that uses state or federal funds, required a state or federal permit, or used public lands triggered the laws. The laws require that areas being used for construction must be examined for archeological artifacts. According to Lorenzini, there are three phases of the law. The first requires a survey to be conducted to determine if there is significance to the site. If historical and cursory surveys show a possibility of a site, the second phase is enacted. This phase takes a closer look at selected areas searching for intact sites or artifacts. If the site proves viable, then a field school is conducted to map and excavate all of the relevant artifacts.

Field School Students present their summer work at the fall 2011 Board of Trustees meeting. photo courtesy of the Anthropology Department.

Most archeology work is funded because of these laws, according to Julie Holt, associate professor and chair of anthropology , which created an industry called Cultural Resource Management or Contract Archeology. The overall goal of CRSP is to inventory all of the potential sites on campus, with the idea being that cultural resources should be sustained in a similar way as natural resources, according to Holt.

“When we got the class going, our vision was that we would focus–we’re working on campus–so we’re going to focus on the immediate needs of the university, like where’s the next dorm going up. We’ll go and survey that area. But we also want to go out and resurvey sites that have been previously recorded to see if they’re still in good shape today or what the condition of those sites are. But, there is also 2,600 acres here that need to be surveyed to see what is out there,” said Holt.

The program is designed to take students through the field school–a prerequisite for the CRM course–where they learn basic archeological skills such as mapping and excavating. Then, the students learn methods of prepping and planning sites, surveying potential sites, requirements for state compliance forms, and data collection. Lorenzini stated that the final step for the CRM students is preparing a report that is checked for accuracy by her and then submitted to the state.

Holt stated that Lorenzini is a unique resource to have for this course because she owns her own company that does the exact work that Lorenzini is teaching to the students.

“She has her own contract company, so she’s uniquely well suited to teach the course. She knows the process in and out because she does it. So, our students are really lucky to have somebody teaching the class who is also in the industry,” said Holt.

Lorenzini stated that the goal of the course was to front load the work of the students. By doing this, Lorenzini hopes to have the core campus–within Circle Drive–surveyed within a couple of years. This will allow any construction that takes place on the core campus to happen more efficiently and more cost effectively. Lorenzini will work with Facilities Management, as well as the administration so that the course will stay ahead of any future construction.

According to Lorenzini, there are very few schools with all of the proper resources to give their students access to this kind of skill set. Because of the geographical location, historical relevance, and CRSP, SIUE’s CAS students a leg up on their competition in the archeology job market.

“For the students, what I am basically doing is training my field techs. I deal with them in that class as if I would someone who I’ve hired to work on an archeology project. By the time they are finished with this class, they should be able to go and work for somebody and their learning curve should be very minimal.”

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