Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

John Douglas

Commitee Members

Kelly J. Dixon, Richard Sattler, G.G. Weix, Ellen Baumler


Boundary construction, Gender, Historical archaeology, Magic, Material culture, Risk management


University of Montana


The following dissertation is an historical archaeological study of the material culture of gendered protective magic used by Anglo-Europeans in seventeenth-century New England as a tactic to construct boundaries that mitigated perceived personal, social, spiritual, and environmental dangers. Such boundary construction was paramount in the seventeenth-century battle between good and evil epitomized by the belief in and struggle against witchcraft. This dissertation sought to answer three interrelated research questions: 1) What constitutes protective magical material culture in seventeenth-century contexts and how is it recognizable in the archaeological record? 2) What signifies gender specific protective magical practices and what can these differences relate about gender roles, identity, and social relationships? and 3) In what way and to what degree is the recourse to traditional beliefs significant in coping or risk management contexts? Synthesizing data from historical and folkloristic sources, and reviewing all accessible archaeological site reports and inventories from State Historic Preservation offices and principal site investigators for domestic structures in New England ca. 1620-1725 provided data to catalog and develop a typology of potential magical items. Analyzing these data then allowed the assessment of domestic and gendered patterns of magical risk management strategies. Magical content was frequently embedded within or symbolically encoded in architectural or artifactual details, whose gendered association tended to correspond with gender role activities or responsibilities; however, the general omission of magical interpretations in historical archaeology limits the visibility of potentially magical objects in site reports and inventories, so it is likely a wider range of materials and contexts exist. The final result of this dissertation was the construction of a criterion model for the identification and interpretation of magic in historical archaeological contexts, which extends the notion of ritual from specialized places and materials, and communal behaviors to include quotidian objects and settings, and individual practices. Ultimately, the results of this dissertation extend the field of the archaeology of ritual and magic in particular, and the broader field of archaeology more generally by providing theoretical and methodological tools for understanding and recognizing how magical belief contributes to physical and metaphoric boundary construction and maintenance.



© Copyright 2013 C. Riley Auge