Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Barbara J. Heath

Committee Members

David G. Anderson, Elizabeth Kellar DeCorse

Abstract

Located on Hassel Island, a small island off the coast of Charlotte Amalie, in St. Thomas, USVI, a small leprosarium, or quarantine hospital for those affected with leprosy, was in operation from 1833 to 1861 as a way to isolate those with leprosy from the general population. Surface and sub-surface excavations took place over the spring and summer of 2008 in preparation for proposed National Park Service hiking trail that would be laid parallel to the site remains.

Firstly, this thesis provides a historical background on leprosy, as well as a background on how leprosy and disease has been studied by anthropologists and archaeologists. Secondly, a historical background is provided on Hassel Island and its leprosarium along with a description of the archaeological investigation performed there. Finally, an analysis of the recovered artifacts and spatial analysis is used to understand what life would have been like at the leprosarium. Results of this analysis, based on the historical and archaeological record, suggests that conditions at the leprosarium were less than ideal. A high occurrence of container glass fragments attributed to liquor bottles suggests that drinking was a form of medicating, especially with the lack of patent medicine bottles recovered. The ceramics recovered were mostly utilitarian stoneware and coarse earthenwares, and inexpensive refined earthenwares. The lack of personal items implies that patients were unable financially or were not allowed to express much in the way of individuality.

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