HEALTH AND THE HUDDLED MASSES: AN ANALYSIS OF IMMIGRANT AND EURO-AMERICAN SKELETAL HEALTH IN 19TH CENTURY NEW YORK CITY
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the skeletal health of European immigrants and Euro-Americans from late 19th and early 20th century New York City in order to understand the biological impact of socio-economic inequality and poverty in a stratified urban society during this time period. This project analyzes 1508 partial human skeletons from the George S. Huntington Anatomical Skeletal Collection, housed at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) in Washington, D.C. Specifically, this research compares skeletal health indicators from German, Irish, and Italian individuals with health indicators from impoverished U.S.-born individuals in order to determine if socio-economic disparities between these groups differentially impacted their skeletal health. This project builds on existing biocultural scholarship by situating skeletal health and socio-economic status through mortuary context, historical data, and narratives of social prejudice. Inclusion of the immigrant experience in previous skeletal studies is minimal. Rather than assimilating immigrants as one ethnic category, this study explores how heterogeneous nationality groups were treated and perceived, and how the intersection of social and physical processes is embodied and expressed in their skeletal remains. The comparison of skeletal health between immigrants and Euro-Americans is carried out using analyses of trauma, bone lesions, and severe osteoarthritis. Results indicate that statistically significant differences in frequencies of health indicators exist between historic German, Irish, Italian, and U.S.-born nationality cohorts.
Degree grantorAmerican University. Department of Anthropology