An Analysis of Fetal Remains Discovered in a New York Privy


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The remains of a thirty-six week old fetus were uncovered during the excavation of a privy on the Sargent Street site located in Cohoes, New York. Discovered in a 19th century town inhabited with textiles mill workers and their families, the skeleton was fragmentary and consisted of only four long bones. The context of these remains are unique and represents one of only three such cases in the United States, giving rise to inquiries of the circumstances that could have surrounded this abnormal burial. The recovery of these remains provides opportunity to explore 19th century attitudes towards this period of life. This archaeological context is thought to be a concealment of a fetus that resulted from illicit behavior or a burial of a miscarriage/premature birth, though possible explanations also include abortion and infanticide. Through previously published data on such themes, we will explore the different ideas of how children were valued at this point in history and analyze different explanations for the placement of these remains.

Cite this Record

An Analysis of Fetal Remains Discovered in a New York Privy. Shayna Murphy, Kenneth Nystrom, Jennifer Geraghty, Adam Luscier. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450073)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25128