WMU News

Modern technology sets stage for exploration of 19th century Adventist homesite

May 26, 1998

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.-- A two-week geophysical survey of an 1850s homesite in Battle Creek's Adventist Village area has set the stage for exploration of the site in June by a team of Western Michigan University faculty and students.

WMU geologists used three geophysical tools to survey the site and map points that might yield results when students from the University's annual archeological field school begin digging on Wednesday, June 3. The site, at 63-65 N. Wood St., was the home of Seventh Day Adventist prophetess Ellen White. Excavation by students in the field school will take place daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June 17. Work at the site is being partly financed by a grant from members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, who are interested in restoring the site to its late 19th century condition.

Geologic surveys using ground penetrating radar, a magnetometer and electromagnetic induction were done at the site in early May to pinpoint areas where iron, steel and ceramic objects lie below the surface and where previous excavations had disturbed the natural soil stratification. Those areas will become the focus of excavation by students as they unearth and catalog artifacts at the site and use their findings to help paint a picture of daily life in mid-19th century Battle Creek.

Such explorations that show how material objects were made and used also give hints about social and economic relationships, says Dr. Michael Nassaney, associate professor of anthropology and director of the field school. He has used such techniques to examine sites that range from the homes of prehistoric mound builders in Arkansas to 20th century industrial sites in New England.

A 1996 field school dig explored Battle Creek's Shepard homesite at 373 Riverside Drive by beginning with the same kind of geophysical survey. That site was the home of Battle Creek's first schoolmaster. Excavation of the site yielded a treasure trove of 19th century artifacts. Some follow-up work is going on at the Shepard site throughout May. The field school will participate in local Preservation Month activities by holding an open house at the Shepard site at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 27.

For more information about the Battle Creek dig, Nassaney can be reached at his office at (616) 387-3981. For additional information or assistance in arranging coverage, call Cheryl Roland, Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, at (616) 387-8412.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland; cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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