The characterization and measurement of archaeological depositional units: Patterns from nineteenth-century urban sites in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
AuthorWheeler, Kathleen Louise.
KeywordsExcavations (Archaeology) -- New Hampshire -- Portsmouth.
Urban archaeology -- New Hampshire -- Portsmouth.
Refuse and refuse disposal -- New Hampshire -- Portsmouth -- History -- 19th century.
Committee ChairSchiffer, Michael B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation is an examination of the formation processes operating at nineteenth-century housesites in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The approach stresses the reconstruction in behavioral terms of all urban deposits, including those considered "mixed" or "disturbed." The data base for the dissertation consists of three disparate archaeological collections at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth. The analysis was performed under a unifying research agenda and with a consistent set of analytic techniques in a kind of "postexcavation salvage." These methods include developing a Harris matrix to reconstruct site stratification, plotting deposition locations in reference to known activity areas (such as doors and windows), measuring relative sherd size, and calculating a minimum number of vessels through the examination of ware, form, and surface decoration and the refitting of sherds. This latter exercise of crossmending helped to establish the horizontal and vertical displacement of sherds. Measures of diversity included counting the number of artifact classes to determine richness and developing a prevalence index to assess evenness; i.e., the distribution of artifact types within a deposit. The behavioral unit of analysis was the household, as it was hypothesized that individual households generated refuse in patterned ways. Nineteenth-century households from three sites were reconstructed from historical sources such as city directories, census information, family genealogies, and tax assessment records. Twelve households occupying three different housesites were linked with various refuse deposits and compared over time and space. Several patterns of trash-disposal behaviors recurred at the three sites. Preferred modes of refuse discard included the use of open-air middens, privies, and opportunistic middens. Households apparently also transformed or redeposited secondary-refuse aggregates to create tertiary deposits. Often characterized as mixed or disturbed, these tertiary deposits can be informative about depositional behaviors in the urban context. Conclusions summarize how immigrant status, stage in household development, tenancy, and owner occupation affect the discard behaviors at the three sites. Once a "grammar of garbage" is reconstructed in behavioral terms, more abstract constructs, such as the worldview of hygiene and sanitation, can be suggested.