Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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PhD Fieldwork 3: Surveying Field Stones at St. Augustine’s Cemetery 1

This week we wrapped up my fieldwork surveying in New Perlican! This part of my project, which I’ve written about a few times already in earlier blog posts, involves using a total station theodolite to survey and record the location of gravestones at historic burial grounds in New Perlican in order to create maps of the sites for the local archives and to use in my dissertation research on the evolution of the burial spaces in a single community over 400 years. You can find those earlier posts here: PhD Fieldwork Part 1, PhD Fieldwork 2, and Burial Ground Mapping.

This last round of surveying (before all the total stations vanished to field schools and Labrador for the summer) took place at St. Augustine’s Cemetery 1, and yes, there is a second one of the same name! Due to the size and complexity (ie: trees) of the site, I decided to record only the field stones at this location. Often overlooked, field stones are locally sourced grave markers that typically don’t have inscriptions but show a lot of importance in burial marking traditions in a community.

The goats (and sheep) of New Perlican visiting us on site (2022)
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Cataloguing Funerals & Burials in Joshua Hempstead’s 18th-Century Diary

The 1678 Hempstead House. Photo from Preservation CT.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about the 17th-century journals of Samuel Sewall, and my work to catalogue all mentions of funerals and burials that he recorded during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Now that my comps are completed and passed (woo!), and a draft of my thesis proposal has been sent off for comments, I can get back into a bit of research for my dissertation…and blog about it as I go.

To refresh your memory, part of my research into the development of 17th-century burial grounds in the colonial northeast of North America is to explore details of how people were being buried in these spaces. By doing so, we can gain a better understanding of how funerals and burials were being carried out at the time, how people were using the spaces, and how these practices have changed through the decades and centuries.

This is my second diary analysis, and it was also written by a Puritan. Joshua Hempstead (1676-1758) of New London, Connecticut, was a shipwright, carpenter, and gravestone carver / letterer, who is most well known today for the extensive diary he kept between 1711 until 1758. Available online through Archive.org HERE, the diary is an extensive document, over 700 pages, detailing life in the early 18th century in a New England community. While it is a bit beyond the main scope of my project, I thought it would be important to look at examples from the turn of the century as well, for comparison. For those in death studies in this region, Hempstead is well known for his gravestones, especially in the New London area where he was also responsible for constructing many coffins. Due to the many hats he wore in the community, and in direct involvement in death care, Hempstead’s diary offer an exciting look at burials in the period.

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Why Cemeteries are Worth Visiting: An Essay

Hello readers, its been a minute! Since I last wrote a blog post, I have finished and passed my comprehensive exams, searched for and moved into a new apartment with my husband and our cats, and have spent the last 6 weeks working on my thesis proposal, writing my manuscript, and doing a bunch of other bits including a quick trip out to New Perlican for a little field visit.

Today, I wanted to talk about why cemeteries (and burial grounds, and graveyards) are worth visiting, in my opinion as a person who has always been fascinated with them as historic sites, and as an archaeologist who has focused the majority of my research career on death and burial as a part of human existence. I was inspired to write this post after attending a talk yesterday by my friend and colleague Lee Sulkowska, a PhD Candidate in history at Deakin University in Australia, whose research explores how cemeteries are a mirror of the society that created them through fascinating archival case studies. Her talk was in support of Ukraine (tickets were donated to humanitarian aid) through the Instytut Dobrej Śmierci, or the Institute of the Good Death in Poland. After the talk, author Loren Rhodes was telling us about her upcoming book, “Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries” and it had me thinking about what stands out about burial spaces to me, both as a person and a researcher. This post is more of a personal essay than a research post, but I wanted to share it all the same.

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The Comprehensive Exams of a PhD Student during a Global Pandemic

Subtitle: “Doing a PhD during the pandemic is pretty weird sometimes

Hello readers, happy 2022! It’s been quiet over here on Spade & the Grave as I took about a month off from looking at my laptop, after spending the entire fall working on my comprehensive exams. As I was tweeting or talking about my comps to various group chats and platforms, many people asked me what the process is, so I thought I’d write about that today!

St. Mark’s Cemetery, New Perlican (Lacy 2021)

In most universities in North America, our PhD programs involve taking courses and comprehensive exams of some form before being considered a ‘candidate’ and being able to move forward with our program, and are 4-years minimum. This differs significantly from programs in Europe and Australia (and probably other places, I’m not sure) where the typical PhD program is 3-years, with an additional 4th for writing sometimes.

My program so far has looked like this:

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Burial Ground Mapping in New Perlican: Total Stations & Gravestones

If you’ve been a reader for more than a minute, you might already know that some of my PhD research is taking place in the outport community of New Perlican. Well, I’m currently working on my second comps paper, and that means it’s time to write another blog post to let some of that writing energy go somewhere, now that I’ve met my page goal for the day!

Today I wanted to share the maps that were made for my project by my colleague Bryn, who is a mapper extraordinary and taught myself and Ian how to use the total station theodolite (TST or total station) ((which is something I need to remember finally, rather than re-learning every time I need to use one)). The benefit of using the total station to record the gravestones is that not only are they geo-referenced within cm’s accuracy, but it allowed us to create accurate maps of the gravestones for the community to have on record in their archives.

Bloody Point grave marker 1, BP1 (Lacy 2021). This is an excellent example of a rough fieldstone.
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Gravestone Conservation & Social Media: Benefits and Challenges of the Online Dissemination of Gravestone Cleaning

Hi everyone, this is a blog post version of the talk I gave at the Death, Dying, & Disposal 15 conference this past week (#DDD15). It was my very first DDD conference, and while digital, I was very excited to attend! Digital conferences are exhausting and maybe not as easy for networking or getting together in the ways that traditional in person conferences have been, but they really open attendance doors for people who might not be able to travel around the world for talks every year! I presented from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, on the traditional territory of the Beothuk and Mi’kmaq people, and acknowledge their ownership of the land and my place here as a settler.

My talk was titled “Gravestone Conservation & Social Media: Benefits and Challenges of the Online Dissemination of Gravestone Cleaning”. If you know of any other examples of gravestone cleaning online that you’d like to share with me, I’d love to see them!

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PhD Fieldwork 2: Graveyard Tours & NLAS talks

Back for another research blog instalment! The past few weeks have been pretty busy, with Black Cat projects, some comps reading, a camping trip and hiking in Gros Morne, getting my 2nd covid vaccine, and my parents coming out to visit. We still managed to sneak in a little community archaeology engagement though, which turned out to be sort of a conjuncture between the NLAS (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology Society) ((I’m the VP this year)) and my own research in New Perlican.

The town of New Perlican was holding their annual Heritage Day this past Saturday, and the NLAS went down with our museum in a box / ‘edukit’ to talk to anyone interested about archaeology in the province. I was also asked to give a short tour and talk about the Bloody Point burial site, which is part of my PhD research! Check HERE and HERE if you need to get caught up on the site! It was an amazing day, and I’m excited to share it with you all!

Looking towards New Perlican from the road to Bloody Point (photo by author 2021)
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PhD Fieldwork Part 1: Surveying Burial Grounds in New Perlican, NL

I survived my first week back in the field! This past week was the first week of my PhD fieldwork and I could not be more excited to share it with all of you! I find blogging about my fieldwork and research as a go a really good way to gather my thoughts about the process, as well as share all of that with you, dear readers, who may not be archaeologists or know what goes into archaeological research.

My fieldwork this week involved surveying some of the historical burial grounds in New Perlican. Part of what I’m interested in exploring in my PhD research is the development and changes to the burial landscape within a community. New Perlican has been the home of settlers for about 400 years, and I will be exploring how their burial spaces changed and evolved with the community through the years! Part of that work is recording and mapping the older burial grounds themselves, taking stock of the gravestones that are in each site, the styles, how the community used and related to the sites.

Most of that analysis is for later though, this week was the mapping itself! Buckle in folks, this could be a long one.
(all photos in this post were taken by me)

View from the Hefford Plantation (photo by author 2021)
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Site Visit to Bloody Point, New Perlican, NL

Another summer, another field season! While I couldn’t really write much last summer in the field, because I was working in CRM in Ontario, this year I’m back in Newfoundland doing my own research. You know what that means…updates from the field, as far as the eye can see! I’m really looking forward to getting back to some research surveys rather than just digging test pits as fast as possible in the sun (as important as CRM is).

Today myself and my husband Ian joined my supervisor Dr. Shannon Lewis-Simpson in the outport community of New Perlican, in Trinity Bay. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember when I did work at one of the cemeteries in New Perlican in 2017 (you can find those posts HERE and HERE). Part of my dissertation research for PhD is looking at the development of the burial landscape in New Perlican, which has been settled by European settlers since the 17th century, and how those burial spaces changed in relation to the settlement and the churches through the centuries to today. Today’s trip, however, was just to visit the site of the Bloody Point cemetery…a site which we suspect could date to the 17th century!

Beautiful fishing stages in New Perlican harbour (photo by Ian Petty 2021)
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Cataloguing Funerals & Burials from Samuel Sewall’s 17th-Century Diary

Samuel Sewall (image from the New England Historical Society)

If you’ve been a reader for the last year or two, you’ll know that I’m currently working on my PhD in historical archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador! My research is looking at the development of the 17th-century burial landscape in northeast North America, and through the centuries in the outport community of New Perlican, NL. Part of this research involves combing through accounts from the 17th century for details on death, burial, and funeral practices at the time. This information gives us a better idea of how the burial grounds were being used, what people thought of them, and how they changed through the decades and centuries.

Now, I’m only 9 months into my program and have just finished my coursework a few weeks ago, so I don’t have too much of my own research finished yet, but other than lining up some fieldwork and preparing for my comprehensive exams this fall (eep!), I’ve been cataloguing mentions of burials and funerals in the diary of Samual Sewall. Judge Sewall, a public figure and later known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials of May, 1893 (for which he later publicly apologised, so that’s nice), kept a diary of his life fairly regularly from 1674 – 1729, one year before his death. Many Puritans kept detailed diaries and Sewall is no exception. Due to his importance in the community as an educated judge and printer, he was very aware of the community and recorded deaths beyond his own family.

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