NMV: A Number of Marked Vessels from Colonial Harvard College

Author(s): Christina Hodge

Year: 2014


Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts homogenized its colonial students in many ways, but opportunities for self-determination were endemic to the institution’’s system of control. Scholars ate at ‘commons,’ where attendance was mandatory. In the midst of this strongly communal material experience, however, young men were required to provide their own drinking cups and spoons. Some students scratched initials into their redware cups and bowls, distinguishing their possessions and themselves. Archaeologists have recovered a few such pieces from the cellar fill of Harvard’’s Old College’--site of the dining hall where students came together regularly to eat, learn, and pray. Inscription transforms these sherds from anonymous «’MNV»’ (minimum number of vessels) statistics to «NMV’»: a number of marked vessels with specificity and biography. In context, the pieces are more than evocative curiosities. They manifest the ambivalent place of the individual in the institution and invite a consideration of identity, masculinity, and power. They also challenge us to treat even mundane artifacts as small finds.

Cite this Record

NMV: A Number of Marked Vessels from Colonial Harvard College. Christina Hodge. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436716)

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Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-14,14