Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

David B. Landon

Second Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman

Third Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski


Archaeology frequently plays a large role in living history exhibit research and creation, yet its use in museums rarely becomes the subject of interpretation within the exhibits, remaining instead in a behind-the-scenes position. The complex relationship between archaeologists and indigenous peoples further complicates the use and presentation of archaeology within living history museums, frequently leading to its subjugation to written primary sources and oral traditions. By studying the level of archaeology's incorporation into the Wampanoag Indigenous Program's Wampanoag Homesite exhibit at Plimoth Plantation in southeastern Massachusetts, this thesis examines the various factors that influence the use of archaeology in living history museums. Museums actively negotiate their presentations of history in order to appeal to visitors and to construct an appearance of authority and accuracy, frequently drawing on archaeology as a source of validation. Plimoth Plantation provides a unique case study as the reconstructed Homesite is situated atop a Wampanoag seasonal campsite, known as 19-PL-522, which was occupied beginning in the Late Archaic and has been partially excavated over five seasons. The results of these excavations are reviewed and re-analyzed spatially here in order to examine the use of specific activity areas at the site over time.

Interviews with the entirely indigenous interpretive staff of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program address the under-utilization of archaeology in the Homesite's public presentation and probe indigenous perspectives on archaeology and archaeologists. These interviews reveal inadequate dissemination of information about the archaeological site and limited training in interpreting archaeology for the public, which contribute to archaeology's limited utilization. Many factors in the program's tumultuous history also influence the inclusion of archaeology in the exhibit's interpretation, and the museum's revived attempts to become fully bicultural also influence research and interpretation for the exhibit. Several simple adjustments to the interpretive program to include archaeological research from 19-PL-522 could assist in improving relationships between archaeologists and indigenous groups by fostering more scholarly collaboration and sharing and in improving the visitor experience at the museum. This thesis illustrates that although relationships between indigenous groups and museum professionals, including archaeologists, are improving, many barriers remain to full collaboration.


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