Sensory Engagement in Historical Archaeology

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2018

Participants explore sensory approaches in historical archaeology, considering methods and approaches that afford insight into sensory experience in the past as well as the outcomes of archaeological engagement with the senses. Contributors probe the relationship between human activities, the senses, and the formation of identities in a wide range of early modern and modern locales and cultures in Finland, Sweden, Iceland, New England, and Panama, examining issues such as mourning rituals and other strategies for coping with death, acoustic and aromatic pleasures and intrusions, self-care, embodiment, fantasy play and domesticity in the brothel, the construction of identity through food preferences and avoidances, varied experiences of dining and mealtimes, and memorialization of victims of human trafficking through the reconstruction of the soundscapes of the Atlantic slave trade. The session concludes with an interactive panel and open discussion of how sensorial approaches enrich archaeological interpretations of historical lives and interactions.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-8 of 8)

  • Documents (8)

  • Materiality of Odors: Experiencing Church Burials and the Urban Environment in an Early Modern Northern Swedish Town (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Titta Kallio-Seppä. Annemari Tranberg.

    In this paper, we focus on early modern scents in the town of Oulu (Ostrobothnia, Finland) and the social and cultural significance of odors in societies. Written documentation reveals two basic sources of foul odors: urban ponds of waste and the smell of death produced by church burials. The world of smells had a more central and far more complex meaning in the past than today. In the process of urbanization during the 18th century, a more systematic and clean environment began to be more...

  • Mrs. Fox’s Table: Mealtimes at the Boott Mills Boardinghouses, Lowell, Massachusetts (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary C. Beaudry.

    Archaeology at Lowell’s Boott Mills produced evidence of mealtimes in corporation housing. Yankee mill girls who boarded in a house run for 50 years by Mrs. Amanda Fox, and, later, Irish and Eastern European immigrants who boarded with Mrs. Fox’s successors, as well as skilled workers in adjoining tenements and supervisory personnel at the nearby Agents’ House ate differently prepared foods in contrasting settings. I take a comprehensive approach to the "total experience" of mealtimes for...

  • Preparing children’s burials in Post-Medieval Finland: Emotions awaken by sensory experiences (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sanna Lipkin. Erika Ruhl.

    The sensory experiences create emotions that are culturally constructed and constituted. In order to understand how individuals were mourned, it is important to examine the ritual of preparing the dead for burial. The ritual is packed with sensory experiences, for instance the smell of death and sight of the coffin. Through examining Post-Medieval Finnish funerary material (textiles, accessories, coffins), this paper will sense by sense demonstrate the experiences of those individuals that took...

  • Sensory Perspectives on Maize and Identity Formation in Colonial New England (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Karen B. Metheny.

    Food is not just a source of nutrition or the result of chemistry, but a complex sensory experience that can be linked to the creation, transformation, and maintenance of identity. My examination of the role of maize in the lives of colonial New Englanders is grounded in an understanding of 17th-century English culinary practice, close reading of printed and handwritten cookbooks and recipes, and recreation of maize-based foods using period recipes and cooking technology. A study of the sensory...

  • Smoke and Spirit: Exploring Bodily and Sensual Concerns at Early Harvard College (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Diana Loren.

    Identity, a central concept in contemporary historical archaeology theory, has been enlivened by recent scholarship that is mindful of bodily experience. Some scholars emphasize embodiment, others explore further sensory dimensions of historical identities embodied in human and material interactions, including emotion, memory, sensuality, and nostalgia, to explore the sensing body in the material world through sound, smell, touch, sexuality, and emotion.  The intent in focusing on sensual...

  • Strange Tastes and Disgusting Smells: Experiences of German Merchants and Sailors in 16th-Century Iceland (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Natascha Mehler.

    Each summer during the 16th century, a substantial amount of German merchants and sailors came to Iceland in need of dried fish (stockfish), sulphur and other commodities. They encountered a country, landscape, foodstuffs, customs and people very different from their homes. The experience of risky voyages, being penned on ships with (dead and live) animals, added to the profound sensory impact that came upon them. The paper tries to come towards a synthaesia of what the Germans experienced in...

  • Trading Tones: Exploring the Soundscape of Human Trafficking in Spanish Colonial Panama (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Felipe Gaitan.

    Set in the World Heritage site of Old Panama (1519–1671), the House of the Genoese Slavery Memorial project brings together the lessons of over a decade of archaeological and archival research focusing on the ruins of one of the largest centers of human trafficking to have operated in Spanish America in the late 1600s. Building upon a growing body of literature addressing phenomenological approaches in archaeology and museum studies, this paper explores how an object-based reenactment of what...

  • Wares of Venus: The sensoriality of sex for purchase at a 19th-century Boston brothel (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jade W Luiz.

    The archaeological examination of brothel spaces has expanded significantly in recent decades to include compelling interpretations of these sites within the framework of embodiment, sexuality, and urbanization. By incorporating the sensory experiences of the individuals living, working, and seeking entertainment in places of prostitution, archaeologists have an opportunity to examine these spaces in terms of the fantasy experiences being sold. In terms of this paper’s case study, the 27/29...