Daring Experiments: Issues and Insights about Utopian Communities
Thad M. Van Bueren, Guest Editor
Envisioning Utopia: Transcendentalist and Fourierist Landscapes at Brook Farm, West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Abstract: Brook Farm, Massachusetts, is perhaps the most famous of the 19th-century utopian communities in America. When it was founded in 1841, its guiding vision was provided by the distinctive New England philosophy known as Transcendentalism. Yet, only three years later, in 1844, it publicly embraced Fourierism and became known as the Brook Farm Phalanx. Archaeological work is providing new information on how these ideologies were inscribed in the landscape, showing that the architectural features built during the Transcendentalist period helped create certain habits of thought and action that actively resisted the complete transition from Transcendentalism to Fourierism.
Social Status and Landscape in a Nineteenth-Century Planned Industrial Alternative Community: Archaeology and Geography of Feltville, New Jersey
Abstract: Feltville is located in Union County, New Jersey. This smallscale planned industrial village was designed and operated by David Felt, a liberal Unitarian printer and stationer, from 1845 to 1860. Archaeological and documentary materials recovered over the last six years paint a picture of conditions in Felt’s rural industrial reformist alternative and provide a glimpse into the worldview of the community architect. Examination of Feltville and its historical context allows for the evaluation of the potential practical and theoretical contributions of historical archaeology in the study of utopian movements. Specifically, the diversity of sociopolitical ideals expressed prior to the advent of Marxian socialism calls into question the conflation of communalist and utopian social designs in some contemporary treatments.
The Ties That Bind: Ideology, Material Culture, and the Utopian Ideal
Abstract: Communitarian or utopian societies are ideal settings for investigating the interaction between material culture and ideology. Community members deliberately incorporated ideologies of social reform into the planning and organization of their society. Material culture served as an active medium to both reflect and reinforce utopian ideals, and community members were often keenly aware of the symbolic meanings represented in artifacts. In this way, material culture can be seen as simultaneously constituted and constitutive as well as a central focus in maintaining social cohesion. This article examines one such group, the Oneida Perfectionists, that created a socially and financially stable community that endured for more than 30 years. Their use of material culture purposefully reflected their religious ideology and functioned as a means of fostering and maintaining communitas.
The Quaker Burying Ground in Alexandria, Virginia: A Study of Burial Practices of the Religious Society of Friends
Abstract: The values of humility and simplicity are two central tenets of the members of the Religious Society of Friends that set them apart from the rest of society. Adherence to these tenets by Alexandria Quakers living in the 18th and 19th centuries is evidenced in the archaeological investigation of the old Quaker Burying Ground in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. In preparation for the construction of a library addition on the cemetery property, City of Alexandria archaeologists conducted excavations in 1993 to 1995 and identified 159 burial features, 66 of which were excavated. Although preservation of the remains was poor, information on interment practices, coffin types, burial goods, and health was recovered. Analysis of the Quaker Burying Ground data and comparisons with other historical cemetery excavations suggest that Alexandria’s Quaker community largely rejected the ostentatious burial rituals, known as the “beautification of death” movement, of the dominant culture.
Representing Utopia: The Case of Cyrus Teed’s Koreshan Unity Settlement
Abstract: In the late-19th century, impelled by a dissatisfaction with American “competist” values and inspired by a vision of cosmic truth, Dr. Cyrus Teed, known as Koresh, left Chicago with a small group of followers to build their New Jerusalem in the swamplands of Estero Bay, Florida. The central tenet of Koreshanity was that the earth is a hollow sphere, and we live on the inside. This conception of the universe encouraged a theology, political science, and philosophical understanding that stressed the finite, knowable, and internally complete nature of the world. The history and material remains of the Koreshan community are discussed, and the article ends with some reflections on how their utopian project has been, and should be, represented in a modern context. There are political implications in what is chosen to be said or left unsaid about dissenting groups like the Koreshans.
Archaeological Identification of an Idiosyncratic Lifestyle: Excavation and Analysis of the Theosophical Society Dump, San Diego, California
Abstract: Refuse deposited by members of the Theosophical Institute in San Diego, California, ca. 1900–1920 provides a basis for defining patterns that reflect the idiosyncratic lifeways of the people who lived there. Comparisons with assemblages from urban and rural sites of the same period allow isolation of the areas of divergence. The Theosophical Society assemblage has low proportions of consumer items and bottled products along with lower values for ceramic tableware price scaling. Dietary differences were noted, as well, and the refuse has a large number of homeopathic medicine vials, reflecting specialized health practices. The patterns noted indicate less than full participation in the consumer society of the time and deviations in diet and healing practices from those of the mainstream society, and may have served as boundary markers, reinforcing the sense of group membership and cohesiveness.
Doukhobor Identity and Communalism at Kirilovka Village Site
Abstract: In early 1899, a migration of more than 7,000 Russian immigrants belonging to the Christian sect known as the Doukhobors arrived in western Canada and established three colonies in the districts of Saskatchewan and Assiniboia in the Northwest Territories. Due to internal tensions in the sect and conflicts with the Government of Canada’s Department of the Interior, most of these villages were abandoned by 1920. Previous historical characterizations of the Doukhobors in Saskatchewan are inconsistent in their portrayal of the Doukhobors as an ethnic group and/or religious sect, and of the degree of internal cohesion and homogeneity at the community level. Combined archaeological and historical investigations suggest that the Doukhobor identity in Saskatchewan involves multiple levels of practice and belief. Further, Doukhobor identity is characterized by constant change brought about by repeated migrations through two centuries.
Between Vision and Practice: Archaeological Perspectives on the Llano del Rio Cooperative
Abstract: Ideology is perhaps nowhere more patently visible in the archaeological record than at utopian communities. While ideology informs all human action, the tenets of utopian ventures operate on a more fully conscious level than those underlying mainstream culture. The deliberate use of symbolism is a hallmark of the way utopians sought to define themselves and their visions. By comparing these utopian visions with the actual practices of such groups, archaeologists can deepen understandings of the challenges and lessons evolving from the pursuit of such experiments. Recent archaeological investigations at the Llano del Rio Cooperative are used to explore these issues. Socialists established the Llano cooperative near Los Angeles in 1914 as an act of political and economic resistance to the growth of industrial capitalism. There, the colonists sought to create a self-sufficient, secular, egalitarian community that would demonstrate a viable alternative to capitalistic exploitation.
A Feminist Theoretical Approach to the Historical Archaeology of Utopian Communities
Abstract: A feminist approach provides new insights into the significant impacts of utopian gender ideologies and practices on the transformation of American culture from the 19th century into the 20th century. First, the context in which utopian gender ideologies developed is discussed, including married women’s lack of rights and alternative philosophies and ideologies. An archaeological framework is then developed for assessing the major issue of the degree of communalism vs. familism practiced in utopian communities compared with documented ideology. Archaeological data can provide new insights into the degree of material implementation of utopian gender ideologies concerning cooperative housekeeping and related sexual arrangements. Archaeology can also contribute data on the extent of adoption in the wider culture of utopian cooperative housekeeping enterprises and accompanying inventions.
Metal Tools and the Transformation of an Oceanic Exchange System
Abstract: The introduction of European technologies transformed some key aspects of traditional Pacific Island lifeways and exchange systems. One of the most dramatic changes was the replacement of shell and stone tools with those made from iron. As European explorers and traders ventured throughout Micronesia, metal commodities became highly sought after by indigenous peoples. An example of metal tools replacing traditional technologies is presented to explain how this culture contact ultimately changed one of the most famous exchange systems in the Pacific—the quarrying of stone money by Yapese Islanders in the Palau archipelago. The first iron tools ever found in excavation at a stone money quarry site are discussed in relation to their role in changing this unique interisland exchange system during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Symbolic Violence and Landscape Pedagogy: An Illustration from the Irish Countryside
Abstract: Archaeologists know that landscapes can provide powerful clues about past social interaction. Landscapes are never truly passive because they offer many socially relevant services to the individuals and social groups who inhabit them. Much of what landscapes do is symbolic. Pedagogy can constitute an important function of a landscape, particularly in the hierarchical societies investigated by historical archaeologists. The demesne constitutes an especially evocative pedagogic landscape in an Irish setting. A detailed examination of Coopershill demesne in County Sligo, Ireland, demonstrates the power of landscape pedagogy and the role of symbolic violence in helping to shape it.
The Color Purple: Dating Solarized Amethyst Container Glass
Abstract: From the late-19th century on, there was an increased production of colorless bottles for a wide variety of products. Producing colorless glass is not difficult if pure sand with a very low iron content is available. Iron in sand gives the glass a range of colors from light green to dark amber, depending on the amount of iron in the sand. To overcome this problem, some factories that used iron-bearing sands added manganese to their batch as a decolorizer. While this produces colorless glass, that glass will turn a light purple or amethyst color when it is exposed to sunlight. Dating of solarized glass by archaeologists has relied on information from a variety of sources, including books produced by bottle collectors. Some of this information is good and some of it, erroneous. The objective here is to provide a useful chronology of the development and use of manganese as a decolorizer and to dispel some of the myths that have crept into the literature.
Churches as Catholic Burial Places: Excavations at the San Francisco Church, Venezuela
Abstract: In Venezuela and in other Latin American countries, little information exists on burial practices at churches used to dispose of the dead. New data has been obtained on burials and underground funerary structures found during limited excavations of the church of the colonial Franciscan convent of Nuestra Señora de la Salceda of Coro, Venezuela, occupied during the period 1620–1920. Some burials within the church could date as early as the first half of the 18th century, and individuals continued to be interred within the church through the early-20th century. Types of burials and their treatment are described.
Genetic Archaeology: The Recovery and Interpretation of Nuclear DNA from a Nineteenth-Century Hypodermic Syringe
Abstract: Archaeologists recovered a hard rubber urethral irrigator, glass hypodermic syringe, and six associated copper-alloy needles beneath the charred remains of a small 19th-century home in Virginia City, Nevada. In order to interpret the function and context of the medical paraphernalia, the artifacts were submitted to a forensic laboratory in hopes of recovering historical genomic nuclear human deoxyribonucleic acid and to identify drug residue from the glass syringe using a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC/MS). Some of the medical artifacts tested positive for drug residue and human nuclear DNA, thereby demonstrating the ability to successfully obtain chemical and genetic information from artifacts more than 125 years in age. The findings and interpretations illustrate the innovative research potential awaiting archaeologists in the new specialty of genetic archaeology.
Survival of Biological Evidence on Artifacts: Applying Forensic Techniques at the Boston Saloon, Virginia City, Nevada
Abstract: The Boston Saloon was an African American-owned business that operated during the 1860s and the 1870s in the mining boomtown of Virginia City, Nevada. Most materials recovered from this establishment are similar to artifacts from other Virginia City saloons due to the widespread availability of mass-produced items. This challenges any attempt at investigating relationships between gender and ethnicity from saloon artifacts. Cooperative efforts between forensic sciences and historical archaeological studies provide a solid foundation for developing unequivocal interpretations of these topics by extracting DNA from common, mass-produced artifacts. Specifically, these efforts resulted in the retrieval of a DNA profile from a clay tobacco pipe stem. Choosing the pipe stem and other likely candidates that could have served as material hosts for ancient DNA (in this case, at least 125 years in age) was a learning process, the results of which may require archaeologists to modify standard recovery methods so as to maximize information retrieval. This process led to other techniques, such as the use of a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC/MS), to identify residues on artifacts.
Sampling Skeletal Remains for Ancient DNA (aDNA): A Measure of Success
Abstract: More than 2,000 samples of human osseous and dental materials drawn from forensic archaeological casework of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) were submitted for mitochondrial DNA testing. Most cases represent unidentified remains of U.S. service personnel from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Ancient DNA sampling technique is discussed in the context of an overall strategy of minimizing the risk of contamination with exogenous DNA. Results achieved through implementation of this strategy are reviewed with the intent of providing historical archaeologists with data to assist them in deciding if human remains should be samples for DNA analyses and, if so, how to maximize the chances of an interpretable test outcome. Sample mass proved an important determinant of probability of successful DNA testing. Skeletal element sampled was also a determinant of success rate, independent of sample mass. Femora, tibiae, mandibles, and first metatarsals were excellent sample sources. Cranial samples had low rates of DNA recovery. Climate of deposition and recovery had a minor effect on success rate with temperate recoveries outperforming tropical recoveries in DNA testing success rates. Contrary to initial expectations, older samples performed better than younger samples. This inverse age effect is attributed to conflict-specific taphonomic processes. The lack of any detectable effect over the past 60 years suggests that as long as bones are well preserved and optimal elements well represented, aDNA testing will be relatively unproblematic over time spans of hundreds of years, certainly encompassing the entire time span considered by historical archaeologists.
Search for the Grave of William Preston Longley, Hanged Texas Gunfighter
Abstract: William Preston Longley was one of the most notorious outlaws in Texas when he was finally tracked down, arrested, and convicted for shooting a boyhood friend. Since he had cheated death before, contemporaries easily believed Longley’s hanging in October 1878 was a hoax that allowed him to live and raise a family in Louisiana under an alias. The ultimate test of the hoax hypothesis would be to find Longley’s grave and expose either his remains or a weighted coffin. In fall 1992 and spring 1994, a team of scientists used electrical resistivity and magnetometer surveys to locate unmarked burials in areas where historical research indicated Longley’s grave may be located. Team members hoped a grainy historic photograph of the marked gravesite could be correlated with a position in the cemetery. The team determined the approximate location of an unmarked grave that could be Longley’s. Excavation uncovered the remains of a tall white male, which fit his description, and artifacts recovered from the grave were consistent with those known to have been buried with Longley. Finally, a mitochondrial DNA comparison with his living maternal relative produced a very high probability match.
Ground-Penetrating Radar Techniques to Discover and Map Historic Graves
Abstract: Ground-penetrating radar is a geophysical technique that can be used to identify and map features commonly associated with historic graves, including intact or partially collapsed coffins and vertical shafts. Data are collected by moving radar antennas that transmit pulses of energy into the ground along parallel transects within grids, recording reflections of those pulses from significant discontinuities within the ground. Visual analysis of radar reflection profiles can be used to identify both coffins and the vertical shaft features commonly associated with human burials. Spatial analysis of the reflection amplitudes within a grid consisting of many profiles (when converted to depth using site-specific velocities) produces three-dimensional maps of these burial features. The identification and mapping of graves can identify remains for possible excavation and study, and the results can also be used for statistical and spatial analysis when integrated with historical records. If identified by these methods, previously unidentified graves can be preserved in areas threatened by construction or erosion.
Skeletal Remains from the Confederate Naval Sailor and Marines’ Cemetery, Charleston, SC
Abstract: The 1999 burial recovery project at the Confederate Naval Sailor and Marines’ Cemetery (38CH1648), Charleston, South Carolina, provided a rare opportunity for the skeletal analysis of Civil War period remains. Dating from 1861, the cemetery contained the remains of 40 males of European ancestry who are known to have died in southeastern naval hospitals. Five of the men buried at the site are believed to have been the first crew of the H.L. Hunley submarine. In conjunction with historical and archaeological evidence, the presence of skeletal and dental lesions is used to draw conclusions regarding the backgrounds, health and disease experiences, military ranks, and occupational stresses experienced by the naval and marine personnel buried at the site.
The Man in the Iron Coffin: An Interdisciplinary Effort to Name the Past
Abstract: The examination of a cast-iron coffin from the Mason family cemetery at Pulaski, Tennessee, offered an exceptional opportunity to study relatively well-preserved human remains, associated artifacts, and the coffin itself. Only a few studies of cast-iron coffins and their contents have incorporated the results of interdisciplinary research in the interpretation of the burial and the remains. The investigation is based on the use of an evolving protocol that promotes the collection of relevant information from several disciplines when evaluating cast-iron coffins and their contents. Multiple lines of evidence identify the remains as those of Isaac Newton Mason, a private in the First Tennessee Confederate Cavalry Regiment, and provide a detailed and intimate glimpse into the past.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Bioarchaeology and the Modern Gun Culture Debate
Abstract: In his controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, historian Michael A. Bellesiles argued that personal gun ownership was uncommon prior to 1850. His book triggered an intense re-examination of the American gun culture. A subsequent investigation into his alleged misuse of antebellum probate records to support his thesis resulted in his forfeiture of the prestigious Bancroft Prize and the loss of his position at Emory University. Historical archaeologists can contribute to the debate on the popularity of guns in early America armed with objective data on the frequency and distribution of gun-related artifacts. Analysis of historic period human remains provides another dimension to the modern gun-culture debate through documentation of the prevalence of gunshot wounds, including those among minority groups whose rates of firearms trauma were generally unreported in official statistics before the 1930s. By accurately recognizing and systematically recording gunshot wounds among historical population samples, bioarchaeologists are uniquely positioned to report the actual frequency and, in many cases, the contexts within which such wounds occurred in the past.
Uncapped Potential: Applying Firearms Identification Procedures in the Analysis of Percussion Caps
Abstract: Firearms identification procedures continue to play a role in the archaeological study of battles and warfare. Percussion caps, if well preserved, have the potential to yield unique individual tool marks that can be microscopically examined to determine a minimum number of weapons present at a specific site. This study analyzed 110 percussion caps from an 1854 U.S. Army and Apache battle site and determined that at least 34 firearms were used in the battle. A validation study using modern percussion caps from 11 known weapons was also undertaken to demonstrate the potential for percussion cap analysis in future studies.
Ethnoarchaeology of Subsistence Behaviors within a Rural African American Community: Implications for Interpreting Vertebrate Faunal Data from Slave Quarters Areas of Antebellum Plantation Sites
Abstract: Ethnoarchaeological observations of the subsistence activities practiced by an African American community in rural southern Mississippi were used to interpret the subsistence behaviors of African Americans within the slave quarters area at Saragossa Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi. Ethnoarchaeological data collected within the community included observations of modifications to bones (during butchery, secondary processing, cooking, and postdisposal activities) and the spatial distribution of subsistence behaviors and bone refuse that resulted from these activities. These data were compared to the faunal assemblages recovered from two former cabins occupied by enslaved African Americans at Saragossa Plantation, which resulted in the identification of several subsistence behaviors at these locations. The current study indicates that data obtained through ethnoarchaeological research provides archaeologists with a powerful tool that, when combined with other lines of evidence such as historical documents, can be used to reconstruct the subsistence behaviors of enslaved African Americans at antebellum plantation sites across the Southeast.
Geophysical Exploration for Buried Buildings
Abstract: Cellars are usually easy to detect, but wall foundations can be difficult to find. A scatter of rubble in the soil may reveal the former location of a building; buried buildings are most commonly detected this way. It appears that chemical changes to the soil near buildings may also allow the locations of those buildings to be estimated; perhaps these buildings may be located even if no artifacts or features remain. Auxiliary features, such as buried roads, paths, wells, or privies, may suggest that a building was once nearby. An appraisal of several dozen geophysical surveys suggests that they have had a 50% chance of locating buildings.
Bush Hill: Material Life at a Working Plantation
Abstract: Bush Hill plantation, located near Aiken, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia, along the middle Savannah River valley, was owned by four generations of the George Bush lineal family between ca. 1807 and 1920. Drawing upon the interpretive concept of the working plantation, perceptions regarding material conditions and the standard of living experienced by southern planters are explored in this essay. Economic records indicate that the George Bush family was among the top wealth-holding groups within the surrounding community. Although the planter family was affluent, the standard of living revealed archaeologically was economically conservative. The Bush family used inexpensive household items and did not acquire the luxury goods often thought to be archaeological hallmarks of genteel society, such as expensive dining sets or tea ware. Conversely, archaeological data revealed they were aggressive consumers, indicated by the sheer quantity of material discarded at the site. The example provided by Bush Hill underscores the complexity of planter households in the past and illustrates that the wealth held by former site residents is not always directly discernable in the archaeological record.
The Abandoned Ships’ Project: An Overview of the Archaeology of Deliberate Watercraft Discard in Australia
Abstract: The Abandoned Ships’ Project (ASP) was a research initiative of the Department of Archaeology at Flinders University, South Australia, and carried out in conjunction with the doctoral research of one of the authors (Richards 2002). The project involved the compilation of a database of more than 1,500 discarded and partly dismantled watercraft sites, including information from the archaeological inspection of more than 120 deliberately discarded ships. Researchers used this data to assess the degree of correlation between discard activities and economic, social, and technological issues. The logistics of discard were also examined as reflected in commentaries describing discard processes and as seen in the archaeological signatures of these events. This information illustrated the causal relationships among processes (landscape, economic trends, regulatory frameworks, and cultural site formation) associated with harm minimization, placement assurance, salvage, and discard activities.
Pigs in Charleston, South Carolina: Using Specimen Counts to Consider Status
Abstract: A critique of pig use in Charleston, South Carolina, between 1712 and the early 1900s tests the hypothesis that patterns in pig specimen counts from 47 temporal and spatial contexts reflect temporal, functional, and social variables. The study of 2,172 pig specimens indicates that pig use was similar at most sites regardless of function or status. One explanation is that pigs were raised on urban properties, and, after slaughter, their remains were mixed with debris from purchased meats. The greatest variation exists in late-19th century collections, when most households likely purchased pork. The characteristics found among pig specimens contrast with patterns in cattle specimens; cows and pigs were kept and used differently within Charleston. Zooarchaeological collections from evolving urban settings result from more than one provisioning strategy and encompass a number of interrelated variables. It would be fruitful to examine such collections for evidence of factors in addition to status.
Feast or Famine? Seventeenth-Century English Colonial Diet at Ferryland, Newfoundland
Documentary and faunal evidence from the 17th-century English colony at Ferryland, Newfoundland, illustrates how the settlers adapted traditional English dietary practices to suit their new situation. The role of both domestic and wild mammals in the diet changed little over the course of the century. Pigs were consistently the most important mammal, supplemented by cattle, sheep/goat, caribou, and seal. The continuity of dietary patterns at the site indicates that the colonists very quickly developed a subsistence regime to maximize fresh meat consumption, given the scheduling demands of the cod fishery and the limitations and potential of the Newfoundland environment.