Senior Thesis Abstract (Lanza)
Markers of Identity: A
Study of Pennsylvania German Gravestones in Berks County, Pennsylvania
Advisor: Robert Schuyler, Historical Archaeologist, Department of Anthropology
Graveyards and mortuary memorials can reveal not only attitudes towards death but also identities and beliefs in life. Seven churchyards in Berks County were surveyed during the Summer and Fall of 2005 in order to record and to study the gravestones of a specific community, the Pennsylvania Germans. First arriving in the Americas during the latter half of the seven teeth-century, Pennsylvania Germans settled in southeastern Pennsylvania and developed a thriving community and culture. The cemeteries and churchyards of the Pennsylvania Germans convey individual and collective social identity and serve as collections of "artifacts" that embody their culture and ideology. The survey recorded various aspects of the memorials including form, materials, motifs, and inscriptions so that each feature could be analyzed in order to determine the function and role each feature possessed in the display of identity. With available absolute dates, a chronology of each feature was created in order to show the evolution of style and preference as well as the development of the community and corresponding expression of identity. The interpretation of the meaning and temporal contexts of these features and memorials led to conclusions about gender, age, socioeconomic, and ethnic identity during the early history of the Pennsylvania German community.