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Two-Spirits or Changing Gender Roles? An Investigation of Mortuary Remains in Southern New England

Author(s): Megan Willison

Year: 2017

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Funerary objects from three seventeenth century burial grounds were statistically associated with biological sex categories to discern what, if any, burial items were related to the sex of an individual. A handful of material objects proved to be almost exclusively associated with either sex; what also appeared from this analysis was the discovery of two burial assemblages that possessed a mixture of what are believed to be solely male or female burial goods. Utilizing archaeological and linguistic data, this paper suggests that one explanation for these two burial contexts is the occurrence of non-binary gender systems in seventeenth century southern New England. If not representative of two-spirits, this paper argues that these burial assemblages may instead reflect changes in gender roles resultant from European cultural contact and acculturation. This research has implications for broadening the scope of known non-binary gender structures in North America and discerning further evidence of indigenous cultural change and perseverance in the seventeenth century.

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Two-Spirits or Changing Gender Roles? An Investigation of Mortuary Remains in Southern New England. Megan Willison. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429370)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17411

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