Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Patricia Richards

Committee Members

Bettina Arnold, Joe Austin


Burial, Grave, Historical Archaeology, Medical Waste, Pauper, Poor Farm


Poor Laws enacted in the early 19th-century condemned the most destitute to confinement in almshouses, poor farms, and workhouses. These laws paralleled contemporary Anatomy Acts that turned the unclaimed bodies of individuals who died at those institutions over to medical facilities for dissection, often simultaneously removing anatomization as a punishment for murder. In essence, pauperism became punishable by anatomization. Thus, dissection served the dual purpose of reinforcing social identity amongst the lower class and privileging the social identity of upper-class medical students. This study is an analysis of the material medical waste recovered from the graves of individuals interred at the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery. My goal is to determine from which medical institution in Milwaukee County the medical waste, and thus the body, originated, in concert with ongoing, collaborative bioarcheological analysis. This study utilizes a presence and absence analysis of types of medical waste found at burial locations alongside bioarcheological evidence for types of post-mortem medical intervention in order to determine the institutional origin of the waste recovered.