Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara Heath

Committee Members

Tim Baumann, Kandi Hollenbach, James Fordyce, Julie Reed


This project examines the intersection of household formation practices and consumer behavior in the 18th-century British Atlantic world. Scholars have argued that more complex households, comprised of extended family and/or non-kin residents, limit the consumer choices available to constituent members more than simple, nuclear households do. I test this assertion by comparing patterns of variation in the material attributes of copper alloy buttons from several households in three separate localities, Williamsburg, Virginia; Brunswick, North Carolina; and Chota, Tennessee. The degree of similarity between each household’s assemblage of these globally-traded artifacts, when placed in the context of the distribution of object variants available at local marketplaces, is a key indicator of the degree to which individuals living at these sites were able to choose consumer goods that fit their personal tastes. Differences in household complexity, both synchronically across localities and diachronically within a locality, will be tested as a causal factor for variation in the consumer choices evident in household assemblages. Using these data, this project will either support or refute the importance of household complexity as a factor which influenced the rise and spread of consumerism in the 18th century and provide archaeologists with a generalizable method for comparing the internal dynamics of multiple households.

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