Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Patricia B Richards

Committee Members

John D Richards, Brian D Nicholls


GIS, Historic Cemeteries, Material Culture


This thesis uses GIS modeling techniques of spatial data, archaeological data, and historical documentation to determine patterning of material culture associated with interments at the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery (MCPFC), an unmarked cemetery located in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Archaeological excavations at the MCPFC in 1991-1992 and again in 2013 recovered over 2,400 individuals associated with Milwaukee County’s practice of providing burial for institutional residents, unidentified or unclaimed individuals sent from the Coroner’s Office, the remains of cadaverized individuals, and community poor from 1862 through 1925 (Richards 2016).

Previous research identified two distinct material culture classes; grave goods and grave inclusions. These two broad categories support the interpretation of four potential burial classes (Richards 2016:100). While these artifact associations adequately examine the relationship between material culture and respective burial class, it does not necessarily represent a broad temporal patterning of material culture within a spatial context.

This thesis utilizes spatial analyses to identify and examine the distribution of temporality in order to provide a more accurate and complete spatial understanding of the history and land use at the MCPFC. Spatial patterns in the distribution of temporally diagnostic material culture such as coins, footwear, jars or containers, and positively identified individuals are used to refine temporally significant burial clusters across the cemetery. The results of this study refine the current assumptions of land use patterns based on coffin handle distributions and confirm the larger spatial patterning of temporality across the cemetery. This thesis also provides a GIS model and external database designed to facilitate future research of the MCPFC.