Date of Award
Level of Access Assigned by Author
Master of Arts (MA)
Second Committee Member
Marli F. Weiner
Third Committee Member
While much gravestone literature written during the past century has focused primarily on the analysis of iconography and gravestone carvers in such populous New England colonies as Massachusetts and Connecticut, the objective of this study is to consider the archaeological significance of gravestones dating from 1720 to 1820 in Cumberland County, Maine. Maine was a colonial frontier district with no indigenous stonecarving tradition, and its early population relied heavily on Massachusetts stonecarvers for their monuments. In addition, its population possessed a social, religious and economic dynamic that differed from the rest of New England, which is reflected in gravestone iconography and epitaph language. This project considers gravestones in Cumberland County archaeologically, within their context over space and time, as a means to understand local religious and social patterns of behavior, as well as how they differ from those found elsewhere. Eschatological patterns are evident from the analysis of iconographic types and their accompanying epitaph language. Image types in Cumberland County followed a different trajectory of popularity than in Massachusetts. This was in all likelihood due to several factors, including the availability of gravestones from other colonies, local aesthetic tastes and religious ideological patterns. Though changes in iconographic types in other New England colonies have often been attributed to changes in religious ideology, this was not always the case in Maine. While most gravestones in Cumberland County were imported from elsewhere, there were two carvers - Noah Pratt, Jr. and Joseph Sikes - who settled in the area during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. These men lived and sold their products in different areas of the county, but their works are indicative of a relatively brief fluorescence in the popularity of the portrait type. This popularity was due in part to the availability of these men's products, but also to changing attitudes toward the acceptability and desirability of different forms of gravestone iconography. Epitaph language functioned as a barometer for socially prescribed codes of behavior that differed according to age, sex and marital status. Changes in epitaph language thus indicated shifts in the relative importance of certain roles, such as wife and mother, or husband and father. Men and women were memorialized bearing titles that indicated their marital status, and often were described with language that indicated that they had succeeded in living according to expected modes of behavior according to their sex. Gravestone iconography, local stonecarvers and epitaph language are the three major components of this study and are each discretely analyzed archaeologically to show the fundamental significance of gravestones in Cumberland County for understanding how early populations here behaved and expressed their religious beliefs through artistic representation and linguistic models.
Giguere, Joy, "Death and Commemoration on the Frontier: An Archaeological Analysis of Early Gravestones in Cumberland County, Maine" (2005). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1041.