The Pied Piper in Boston: A Zooarchaeological Analysis of Rats at the Unity Court Tenements

Author(s): Liz M. Quinlan

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Zooarchaeology, Faunal, and Foodways Studies" session, at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

The 2016-17 excavations at Boston’s former Unity Court Tenements yielded an incredibly rich assemblage of 19th-century artifacts. These tenements, in operation 1830-1880, served the ever-growing and changing community of Boston’s North End, and it was expected that their excavation would uncover the complex material culture of those living there. What was unexpected, however, was that the two nearly-identical cisterns, Features 1 and 4, would yield drastically different faunal material. Over 750 elements of Rattus sp. were recovered from Feature 1, most from a single 10cm layer. This paper combines comparative zooarchaeological analysis with Portable X-Ray Fluorescence data to explore the circumstances surrounding the demise and deposition of the rat specimens from Feature 1. Relating this data to the temporal pattern of interactions between pests and people in the 19th-century, this paper will discuss the unique rat-human relationship at this particular site, and its implications for broader study.

Cite this Record

The Pied Piper in Boston: A Zooarchaeological Analysis of Rats at the Unity Court Tenements. Liz M. Quinlan. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, St. Charles, MO. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449087)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Tenements XRF Zooarchaeology

Geographic Keywords
United States of America

Temporal Keywords
19th Century

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 229