Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen Mrozowski

Second Advisor

David Landon

Third Advisor

Stephen Silliman


This thesis provides the results of a comprehensive analysis of the metal artifact assemblage from Magunkaquog, a mid-17th- to early-18th-century “Praying Indian” community located in present-day Ashland, Massachusetts. Magunkaquog was the seventh of fourteen “Praying Indian” settlements Puritan missionary John Eliot helped in gathering between the years of 1651-1674 as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s attempts to convert local Native American populations to Christianity. Originally the site was discovered during a cultural resource management survey conducted by the Public Archaeological Lab (PAL), and further investigated by the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research (then known as the Center for Cultural and Environmental History) at the University of Massachusetts Boston during 1997 and 1998.

The information this thesis challenges popular historical narratives surrounding these praying communities during the early stages of colonialism, which are perpetuated by a reliance on biased documentary records. The metal assemblage supports previous archaeologists’ interpretations of the site’s structure functioning as the town’s “fair house” that would have stored a “common stock” to be shared, used, and returned by Nipmuc residents.

Results from this thesis suggest the metal artifacts are tools of teaching by which Eliot and his appointed Native teachers would have used in attempts to educate residents of Magunkaquog European ideals. The critical examination of the metal as a material resulting from missionary attempts to teach and Christianize the indigenous residents of Magunkaquog, formulates new narratives and interpretations of how the Nipmuc people negotiated their daily experiences at this site.