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Northeast Historical Archaeology

Authors

James Garman

Abstract

Legislation in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts sets standards for the removal of European-American cemeteries and the reinterment of human remains. In both states, some degree of archaeological investigation short of excavation is usually required. This paper compares the two bodies of legislation, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of both systems. The focus then turns to two recent cemetery case studies, one at the site of a new school in Westerly, Rhode Island, and one at a church in Harwich, Massachusetts. The final section of the paper raises questions concerning the gaps between the intent of legislation and archaeological practice. What role should the archaeologist play in the removal of historical cemeteries? How do different statutory and regulatory processes affect the ultimate disposition of the project? Finally, can historical archaeologists and regulatory agencies become unintentionally complicit in the unnecessary destruction of historical cemeteries?

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