Privy to their secrets: A discussion of fetal remains from a New York privy
Murphy, Shayne. 2019. Privy to their secrets: A discussion of fetal remains from a New York privy -- Lambda Alpha Journal, v.49, p.66-86
During the excavation of a privy shaft in upstate New York, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 36-week-old fetus. An unusual archaeological find, this discovery led to discussions of 19th century America and the experience of both women and children during this time. Though prominent players in society, conceptions of children vary in different cultures and time periods: the way American society conceives of children is vastly different today than in the early 1800's. The literature on children in the archaeological record is scarce due to minimal data and the difficulty of finding indicators of children and their value. Potential sources of information concerning the value and conceptualization of children include artifacts, primary historical documents, and burial patterns, each of which give different information on the function and status of children in society. Burial patterns provide an opportunity to understand the lives, behaviors, and identity of children, specifically how they were valued and conceptualized by their families and society and insight into the choices of their mothers. Through burials, child behavior can be examined in a thought-provoking way, giving archaeologists an opportunity to explore all facets of life and identity.