Date of Award

May 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Patricia B Richards

Committee Members

Bettina Arnold, Paul Brodwin, Jennifer Earl-Boehm, John Hawks


Bioarchaeology, Embodiment and Agency, Historic Cemeteries, Personalized Bioarchaeological Research, Personalized MSK models, Three-Dimensional Musculoskeletal Modeling


A well-contextualized account of personal experience and identity is essential to any study of social dynamics and is crucial to the enactment of critical and socially active bioarchaeology. New technology, including digital bioarchaeology, can enhance the growing body of work that examines embodiment, agency, and identity, particularly when used with a holistic and ethical approach. This dissertation utilizes three-dimensional (3D) scanning, a method that creates digital representations of human skeletal remains, to bolster identifications of individuals once interred at the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery (MCPFC) whose identities were erased by construction in the 1900s. Embodied life experience is also revealed for these individuals through holistic analysis, maintaining personhood with an ethically situated, personalized approach, rather than focusing on isolated anatomical features, pathologies, or trauma. In conjunction with 3D scanning, this dissertation employs techniques including: (1.) Personalized musculoskeletal modeling, which examines walking patterns for identifying personal characteristics; (2.) 3D pathology and trauma assessment, used in concert with medical literature to explore illness, injury, and treatment experiences; and (3.) whole-body skeletal change analysis, to contextualize the effects of these experiences. These assessments are supported by historical and material culture data as well as multidisciplinary collaboration with a wide range of researchers. All aspects of this work are united by a common thread of personalized research and health as a matter of social justice. Using these memorializing techniques, this project works to reincorporate these once unidentified individuals into a community while centering humanistic research in bioarchaeology.