Anthropology, Department of


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Hildebrand, Jennifer. The Social Bioarchaeology of Childhood as Applied to the Analysis of an Excavated Mid- to Late-Nineteenth-Century Mennonite Cemetery, Berne, Indiana. MA Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2012.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor Douglas Scott. Lincoln, Nebraska: August 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Jennifer Hildebrand


This thesis provides a social-bioarchaeological analysis of the Old Mennonite Cemetery (1852-1896) in Berne, Indiana, with emphasis on treatment of child burials as a reflection of Mennonite identity and beliefs. Social bioarchaeology combines the methods of both social archaeology and bioarchaeology. When applied to the study of children in a mortuary context, social bioarchaeology allows determination of cultural age categories and a fuller understanding of childhood. In this study, various forms of historical documentation were utilized to provide a social context for analysis of the cemetery. These materials revealed a collective religious identity based on practices pertaining to children, most specifically in the correlation of baptism with transition to adulthood. Osteological analysis in the cemetery suggests that the spatial distribution of non-adult burials was influenced by Mennonite cultural age categories, rather than solely by biological age. However, this contrast is only observable and explicable when both social archaeology and bioarchaeology are used. This thesis contributes to scholarship in historical archaeology on three levels. First, it draws upon multiple lines of evidence, including the bioarchaeological record, historical documentation, and statistical analysis, to reconstruct nineteenth-century Mennonite child burial practices. Second, it offers a model for studying historical burial practices through the combined analytical tools of social bioarchaeology, childhood archaeology, and the archaeology of identity. Finally, it contributes to the emerging field of the social bioarchaeology of children by demonstrating the effectiveness of applying both biological and social analysis in a mortuary context, proving the necessity for analysis of cultural age categories in an excavated historic cemetery.

Advisor: Douglas Scott

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