Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 78 pages) : color illustrations, color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Sean Rafferty

Committee Members

Michael Lucas


Almshouses, Archaeology, Insane Asylums, Northeast, Poor Relief, Asylums, Grave goods, Buttons, Milk glass

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


The establishment of almshouses in the United States provided a way for states to offer housing to their poor and destitute populations. Throughout the 20th century, most of these establishments changed their function, with many of them morphing into asylums for the mentally insane. Grave assemblages have been collected through archaeological excavations, typically when significant changes are expected to be made to what was once property of the almshouse. This study compares the artifact assemblages of three contemporaneous almshouses: the Oneida and Onondaga County Almshouses of New York State and the Uxbridge Almshouse of Massachusetts. While the associated artifacts are fairly similar in type and quantity, a significantly higher quantity of white Prosser buttons found with the Oneida assemblage may indicate that these graves were not associated with the almshouse, but rather were from a period when the building was used as a more “total” institution.