Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, vi, 190 pages) : illustrations (some color), color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Sean M Rafferty

Committee Members

Michael T Lucas, Robert M Rosenswig


Archaeological Theory, Erie Canal, Ethnicity, Irish American, New York State, Racialization, Canals, Railroads, Ethnology, Material culture, Industrial archaeology, Archaeology

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


This study examines the efficacy of archaeological interpretation of ethnicity within the confines of nineteenth-century material culture available from the New York State Museum’s archaeology collection and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Cultural Resource Information System. The goals of this evaluation are to discuss the limits of archaeological interpretation of ethnicity, the utility of material indications of racism in the archaeological record, and the archaeological footprint of immigrant groups by considering the economic development history of New York State. This study focuses on the canals and railroads of New York State as a mechanism of economic development across the state, and how the construction of these arteries impacted the lives of immigrant populations who both built and depended upon them. Archaeological evidence combined with historical documents and map data provide a clear picture of the development of interpretive resolution of ethnic identity in rural communities as they are connected to the larger economy through the construction of these arteries. The following is a detailed account of the construction of this connection as it happens throughout the nineteenth century and across the geography of New York State with the goal of creating a model to assess the archaeological visibility of social difference due to economic change and development.