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The application of strontium isotope analysis to historic cemetery contexts: a case study for the creation of robust individual identifications

Author(s): Shannon K. Freire ; Alexis M. Jordan

Year: 2015

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Summary

Following the 1991-1992 excavation of the Milwaukee County Institutional Grounds Cemetery (1878-1925), up to 190 individuals were preliminarily identified using historical documentation, material culture, and geospatial analysis. Subsequent bioarchaeological analyses have provided an additional line of evidence for the identification of these individuals. The cemetery population of Western European immigrants and local/nonlocal native born Americans is composed of paupers, the institutionalized, and the unidentified of the city of Milwaukee during this period.

The limited recovery of discrete individual burial markers and the complex depositional sequence of interments necessitates further interrogation for the secure identification of these individuals. Improvements in strontium isotope testing have led to its increased applicability for the study of population movement, and for the purposes of this project, applicability as an additional line of evidence for the identification of individuals in this cemetery. Sample material will be obtained from the tooth enamel of select individuals with robust preliminary identifications. The natal strontium signatures of each sample will be compared with the expected local strontium levels of southeastern Wisconsin and the known strontium levels of the geographic regions ascribed to individuals in the historic burial record, thus supporting or rejecting previous preliminary identifications.

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The application of strontium isotope analysis to historic cemetery contexts: a case study for the creation of robust individual identifications. Shannon K. Freire, Alexis M. Jordan. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396091)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America