Part of the Bioarchaeology and Social Theory book series (BST)


In this chapter, the story of the schoolroom at the nineteenth-century Spring Street Presbyterian Church in New York City begins the exploration of children, childhood, and bioarchaeology. This chapter surveys what is known about the church and the importance of children in the church during the early nineteenth century. It also introduces the four underground burial vaults that were discovered in 2006 and some 200 commingled individuals that were excavated from the site. Finally, this chapter sets up the theoretical framework explored throughout the rest of the monograph, which includes embodiment, life course analysis, and, importantly, social age categories for examining a range of childhoods. An argument is made for a more nuanced approach to childhood through social bioarchaeology and careful historical analysis.


Childhood Social bioarchaeology Embodiment Life course Age Spring Street Presbyterian Church Education 


  1. (1823). Celebration of a Sunday School Establishment. American Sunday-School Teachers’ Magazine and Journal of Education, 1, 29.Google Scholar
  2. (1834). Attack on Tappan’s Store Journal of Commerce, July 12, New York City.Google Scholar
  3. (1874). The Spring Street Church. The New York Times, New York City.Google Scholar
  4. Agarwal, S. C. (2016). Bone morphologies and histories: Life course approaches in bioarchaeology. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 159, 130–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Agarwal, S., & Beauchesne, P. (2011). It is not carved in bone: Development and plasticity of the aged skeleton. In S. Agarwal & B. Glencross (Eds.), Social bioarchaeology. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alexander, S. (1887). The Presbytery of New York, 1738 to 1888. New York City: Anson D.F. Randolph and Company.Google Scholar
  7. Baxter, J. (2005). The archaeology of childhood: Children, gender, and material culture. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  8. Baxter, J. (2006). Making space for children in archaeological interpretations. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association., 15(1), 77–88. (2006. Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Camp, S. (2008). One size does not fit all: Size and scale in the archaeological interpretation of “child-related” artifacts. Anthropology Newsletter, 49(4), 10–11 (2008). Scholar
  11. Cox, A. (1836). Letter to the female anti-slavery Society of Boston. November 19.Google Scholar
  12. Ellis, M. A. B. (2019). Still life: A bioarchaeological portrait of fetal remains buried at the Spring Street Presbyterian Church. Historical Archaeology, 54(3).Google Scholar
  13. Farquhar, J., & Lock, M. (2007). Introduction. In M. Lock & J. Farquhar (Eds.), Beyond the body proper: Reading the anthropology of material life (pp. 1–18). Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Finlay, N. (1997). Kid knapping: The missing children in lithic analysis. In J. Moore & E. Scott (Eds.), Invisible people and processes: Writing gender and childhood into European archaeology (pp. 203–2012). New York: Leicester University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gilchrist, R. (2012). Medieval life: Archaeology and the life course. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.Google Scholar
  16. Grimm, L. (2000). Apprentice Flintknapping: Relating material culture and social practice in the Upper Paleolithic. In J. Sofaer Derevenski (Ed.), Children and material culture (pp. 53–71). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Hare, J. B. (2002 [1843]). The New England primer. Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society. Accessed 20 November 2017.
  18. Havens, C. (2013 [1920]). Diary of a little girl in old New York. New York: Henry Collins Brown. Accessed 20 November 2017.
  19. Inglis, R., & Halcrow, S. (2018). The bioarchaeology of childhood: Theoretical development in the field. In P. Beauchesne & S. Argarwal (Eds.), Children and childhood in bioarchaeology (pp. 33–60). Florida: University of Florida Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kamp, K. (2010). Making children legitimate: Negotiating the place of children and childhoods in archaeology theory. Paper presentation at the archaeology of childhood conference in Buffalo, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Kamp, K., Timmerman, N., Lind, G., Graybill, J., & Natowsky, I. (1999). Discovering childhood: Using fingerprints to find children in the archaeological record. American Antiquity, 64(2), 309–315 (1999). Scholar
  22. Levy, J. (2007). Gender, heterarchy, and hierarchy. In S. Milledge (Ed.), Women in antiquity: Theoretical approaches to gender and archaeology (pp. 189–216). Lanham: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lewis, M. (2007). The bioarchaeology of children: Perspectives from biological and forensic anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, M. (2018). Paleopathology of children: Identification of pathological conditions in the human skeletal remains of non-adults. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  25. Lillehammer, G. (1989). A child is born: The child’s world in an archaeological perspective. Norwegian Archaeological Review, 22, 89–105 (1989). Scholar
  26. Ludlow, H. (1832). Letter to Phoebe, January 18th. Box 2, Frey family papers. Cooperstown: Fenimore Art Museum Research Library.Google Scholar
  27. Ludlow, H. (n.d.). Fellow citizens and friends of the Sabbath school. Box 2, Frey family papers. Cooperstown: Fenimore Art Museum Research Library.Google Scholar
  28. Ludlow, H. (1834). Letter. The Liberator August 9, New York City.Google Scholar
  29. Mays, S., Gowland, R., Halcrow, S., & Murphy, E. (2017). Child bioarchaeology: Perspectives on the past 10 years. Childhood in the Past, 10(1), 38–56 (2017). Scholar
  30. Meade, E. (2007). Topic intensive documentary study: Spring Street Presbyterian Church. New York: AKRF.Google Scholar
  31. Moment, A. (1886). The seventy-fifth anniversary of Old Spring Street Presbyterian Church, New York City: The sermon and the services. New York: Spring Street Presbyterian Church.Google Scholar
  32. Morin, E. (2010). Introduction: Archaeological and forensic investigations of an abolitionist Church in New York City. Northeast Historical Archaeology, 39, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Novak, S. (2017). Corporeal congregations and asynchronous lives: Unpacking the pews at Spring Street. American Anthropologist, 119(2), 236–252 (2017). Scholar
  34. Novak, S., & Watson C. (n.d.). New York City death records, volumes 4 and 5. Salt Lake City: The Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Google Scholar
  35. Park, R. (2005). Growing up north: Exploring the archaeology of childhood in the Thule and Dorset cultures of artic Canada. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, 15(1), 53–64 (2005). Scholar
  36. Reitano, J. (2006). The Restless City: A short history of New York from colonial times to the present. New York: Routledge Press.Google Scholar
  37. Shilling, C. (2008). Changing bodies: Habit, crisis, and creativity. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Sofaer, J. (2006). The body as material culture: A theoretical osteoarchaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sofaer, J. (2011). Towards a social bioarchaeology of age. In S. Agarwal & B. Glencross (Eds.), Social bioarchaeology (pp. 285–311). West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  40. Thomson, J., Crandall, J., & Alfonso, M. (2014). Introduction. In J. Thomson, M. Alfonso, & J. Crandall (Eds.), Tracing childhood: Bioarchaeological investigations of early lives in antiquity (pp. 1–16). Gainesville: University of Florida Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Urcid, J., & Byrd B. (1995). Physical anthropology laboratory manual. Technical reports no. 45. Washington, DC: Repatriation Office, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  42. Watkins, R., & Muller, J. (2015). Repositioning the Cobb human archive: The merger of a skeletal collection and its texts. American Journal of Human Biology, 27, 41–50 (2015). Scholar
  43. Werner, W., & Novak, S. (2010). Archaeologies of disease and public order in nineteenth-century New York: The view from Spring and Varick. Northeast Historical Archaeology, 39, 97–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. White, R., & Mooney, D. (2010). Stories from the rubble: The archaeological findings from the Spring Street Presbyterian Church vaults. Northeast Historical Archaeology, 39, 40–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilkie, L. (2000). Not merely child’s play: Creating a historical archaeology of children and childhood. In J. Sofaer Derevenski (Ed.), Children and material culture (pp. 100–113). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  46. Wilson, S. (1999). When we were very young. Natural History, 108, 58–62.Google Scholar
  47. Winne, C. K. (1828). Frey Family Papers, Coll. 161. Cooperstown, NY: Fenimore Art Museum Library.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology DepartmentFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

Personalised recommendations