Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

David B. Landon

Second Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Third Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman


The Sarah Boston Farmstead site, the remains of a late 18th to early 19th-century Nipmuc household, is situated in what is now Grafton, Massachusetts. The head of the household, Sarah "Boston" Phillips, was the fourth of four generations of Nipmuc women to inherit and settle on the Muckamaug parcel, the tract of land that was allotted to the family in 1728. Previous studies have suggested that Sarah Boston's house may have served as a locus for the creation of a Native, Nipmuc identity, as well as a gathering place for the members of the community where they could eat, drink and converse about their daily lives and concerns. Through the analysis of faunal remains recovered on the site, the present study aims to not only provide rare information on Nipmuc diet and foodways during this period, but also explore whether the faunal remains support the idea of the site as a place of communal gathering. This study further considers the historical context and ramifications of the adoption of animal husbandry by Native people of New England in general and by the inhabitants of the site in particular, and argues that raising livestock was for Native Americans a politically- and culturally-charged decision influenced by a number of interrelated historical circumstances, such as the pressures of land encroachment and missionary agendas, the cycle of debt, land sale and indentured servitude, and intermarriages between Native women and African American men. This leads to the examination of the relationship between food, foodways and the process of identity formation and considers the ways in which food and related daily practices communicate Nipmuc identity on the site. The notion of commensality is particularly useful in this enterprise, as it encompasses the idea of a group of people gathering together to eat and drink in order to create a sense of identity and belonging.


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