Bookends: What We’ve Learned in the Twenty-two Years Separating Archaeological Excavations of the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

From 1878 through 1974 Milwaukee County utilized four locations on the Milwaukee County Grounds for burial of more than 7000 individuals. Two archaeological excavations in 1991 and 1992 and again in 2013 resulted in the recovery of over 2400 individuals from one of those cemetery locations. Changes in the questions asked of these data sets, acquired 20 years apart, and our ability to answer those questions, mirror the changes in the discipline of historical archaeology. While the earlier research was geared toward primary documentation of the human remains and associated grave goods, our recent work focuses on situating the individuals interred in the cemetery within a more nuanced understanding of the historical, social, and economic context in which they lived and died. Specific paper topics include historical, archaeological and osteological research related to both excavations.

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