Behind Closed Doors: Exploring Taboo Subjects in Historical Archaeology

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2014

The development of archaeological theory has expanded the breadth and depth of subjects investigated by archaeologists. Some topics, however, have remained taboo subjects until recently. This symposium proposes to address issues related to the private spaces of the human experience. Topics covered include health, intimate aspects of the presentation of self, and socially stigmatized social positions, such as prostitution. Through the examination of these subjects, this symposium intends to explore new ways in which we might address past, lived experience in more detail.

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  • Documents (5)

  • Behind Closed Doors: An Introduction and Case Study from a 19th-century Boston brothel (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amanda Johnson.

    This paper serves at the introductory paper for the symposium Behind Closed Doors: Exploring taboo subjects in historical archaeology. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief introduction to the topics addressed in this symposium, focusing particularly on prostitution and feminine hygiene. Following the introduction, this paper will address the author’s own theoretical perspective concerning the analysis of these subjects through the use of a case study. The case study will focuses on...

  • Freedom From Worry: Douching as a Material Culture Case Study in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Women’s Health (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ashley M. Morton.

    Although douching paraphernalia is increasingly recognized in scholarly articles and CRM reports it continues to be underrepresented and under discussed. Given the private nature of this non-display good, some form of taboo meaning among archaeologists and material culture studies have taken place. Yet this complex behavior, still common among American women today, provides a unique case study for archaeologists to explore women’s past lived experiences of health and illness and the motivations...

  • Intimate Identities: Archaeological Investigations of Nineteenth Century Sexuality (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Katrina Eichner.

    Through a focus on material remains of sexual identity and activity, archaeologists can gain access into an often overlooked part of daily life in the past. The examination of nineteenth century sexuality and its material signatures, specifically those related to health practices and self-presentation, allows for a more holistic understanding of social relationships in the past. Specifically focusing on the practices of prostitution, courtship, and family building, this paper looks to highlight...

  • Privy to Their Secrets: Archaeological and Historical Context of 19th Century Abortion in America (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrea Zlotucha Kozub.

    Motherhood was the defining role for women in 19th century America, but recent discoveries of fetal remains in privies demand a new consideration of how and when some women chose to avoid opportunities to become mothers. These individuals lived in a patriarchal society without reliable contraception, with a medical establishment just beginning to understand the concept of fetal development, and a legal system that relied on a woman’s report of fetal quickening to determine her right to...

  • Under the Corset: Health, Hygiene, and Maternity in Boston’s North End (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jade Luiz.

    The body of the nineteenth century woman was at once eroticized and forbidden to the public mind. Sculpting of the ideal feminine and disguising the body’s true form has been the subject of some theoretical discussion, however, the ways in which women interacted with their own bodies through personal health and hygiene has still remained a largely underexplored topic. This paper intends to examine the relationship of the nineteenth century woman with her body through artifacts related to health,...