"Unsavory the qualities of that soup": Diet and Foodways at Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine, East Granby, Connecticut, 1790-1819

Author(s): Sarah Sportman

Year: 2015


The Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office contracted AHS, Inc. to conduct a multi-phase archaeological survey at the National Historic Landmark Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine in East Granby, Connecticut, prior to planned repairs to the ca. 1790 prison guardhouse. Beginning in 1773, the Old New-Gate copper mine was used as a prison and criminals, Tories, and POWs were incarcerated there during the Revolutionary War. In 1790 Old New-Gate became the first state prison in the U.S. and operated in that capacity until 1827. Prisoners initially worked the mines, although a nailery and other industries were later established. Healthy prisoners were lodged underground in the tunnels and older and infirm inmates slept on the ground floor of the guardhouse.

Excavations, conducted around the guardhouse in 2013, revealed stratified, state prison-era deposits dated to 1790-1819 and containing nail-manufacturing debris, architectural items, domestic artifacts, and over 1300 well-preserved animal bones. This work includes an analysis of the faunal remains, which represent the vestiges of meals prepared and consumed by inmates and guards. The faunal evidence, contextualized through primary accounts of prisoners and overseers’ reports, provides insight into the dietary conditions and foodways at one of the nation’s oldest prisons.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

"Unsavory the qualities of that soup": Diet and Foodways at Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine, East Granby, Connecticut, 1790-1819. Sarah Sportman. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397569)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;