Gender difference? A survey in Calvary Cemetery

Gravestone research has its importance in historical archaeology research, not only it can provide information of gender differences, self-identity, social status and kinship relations of the past society but also a milestone of historical archaeology that set by James Deetz. This time, let’s take a look and make some tributes to Deetz by doing a little observation in Calvary Cemetery.

A corner of the cemetery. Photo by Jiun

The following is my survey route, I survey from the South west corner to the east side then the north end of the cemetery. The other area is covered by my teammates,  basically we try to observe as many as possible. Here’s our survey route Jiun’s, Roger’s. and Li-Ying’s.

So, here’s the thing. After analyze the data we record, I find that there is indeed a difference between male and female gravestone, the size. According to the plot (1 is male, 2 is female, the side numbers are sizes) I generate, although it is not significant over numbered, the male gravestone in some cases indeed bigger than female’s. However, this seems the only different trait I observed. I also analyze the relation between sex and material, period, shape. Interestingly is, instead of sex difference, the material and shape of gravestone are more related with period. It seems the vogue is also significant.

Speaking to fashion, it seems 1920-1925 was a pivot point of design shift.  Plot shows most of the gravestones are block and monument after this period, the early multiple design was no longer exist. Also the material choosing seems related to period as well, marble disappeared after 1920 and metal only go on table for few decades.

Since this is only a preliminary observation, there might have statistical error (maybe a lot!) but these plot is still interesting and story telling, is it?

A story behind gravestones

From the survey of gravestones in Calvary cemetery, we found that there are some differences between men’s and women’s gravestone . In the early period (1880-1930), men’s gravestone has more diversity of shape than women’s, such as tablet, round column, pulpit, and obelisk. In the middle and late period, the common shapes of gravestone for both female and male are block and monument (see Graph1 and 2). About the materials, marble gravestones are more common in female group in the early period than male.

When we examine the seriation of gravestone shapes (see Graph3), we find that obelisk is an earlier common shape, and then it was replaced by monument and vertical slab. The block is the most common style from 1880 to most recent. On the other hand, from 1880 to 1920, there are many different kinds of gravestone shape. However, after 1920, the diversity of shapes is less than previous period. From 1930 to 2000, the common shapes are block, monument and vertical slab. After 1990, the recent popular shape of gravestone looks like s chair.

Based on this seriation, we know that the diversity of gravestone from 1880 to 1920 represents the men’s gravestone. And in the early period, the common obelisk style is only observed in male group in this case, which might indicate the different treatment to gender. After 1930, there is no big difference between female and male. This could be also observed from the kinship terms on the gravestone. In the early period, “father” is commonly appear in the male gravestone, but the kinship terms in female gravestone is “wife of…” instead of ”mother”. In the latter period, there is no obvious difference about kinship terms. This transformation might reflect the gender equality after 1930.

Graph1: shapes of female gravestone

Graph2: shapes of male gravestone

Graph3: shapes of gravestone in different periods

Gendered Death Frequency At Calvary Cemetery

McGough family 1

As the final analysis of  the data our team gathered at Calvary Cemetery I plotted the death frequency against bins of five year intervals. Here I created a bar graph displaying the relationship between male and female interments over time.  Although our sample size is quite small there is one spike in the data that stands out markedly. The interval between 1900 and 1910 produced seven male burials relative to a total absence of female grave. I would venture the guess that this predominance of male burials may actually reflect an unevenly gendered population. U.S. Census data shows that in 1900 Washington state had 142.2 male to every 100 female residents.

There are also two other five year periods were male graves outnumber the females’. This is from 1940 to 1949 and from 1950 to 1954. Both of these time frames cover the times of the second World War and the Korean Conflict respectively. Further analysis of a larger data set if definitely suggested in order to test the hypothesis that national involvement in military conflict might be exhibited by a gender differentiated analysis of death frequencies as observed in cemeteries.

 Death Frequencies Graph


Sex Differences in Gravestone Shape/Size?

While gravestones are created to memorialize the dead, they are also potent cultural symbols that reveal prevailing attitudes held by the living about death and the status of the deceased. During our recent visit to Calvary Cemetery in Seattle, my team recorded the shape, size, and inscription of approximately 30 gravestones. Using these data, we evaluated whether the sex of the interred individual translated into observable differences in gravestone morphology and volume.

The graph below illustrates average gravestone volume by sex of the interred individual. At first glance, the grave markers of females appear to be considerably larger than those of males. Indeed, the largest standard marker we recorded, obelisks, marked equal numbers of male and female graves yet were larger on average for those of females. If we interpret gravestone size as a measure of status, this difference may point to greater social standing for females among those represented in the cemetery. Given the small sample size, however, this conclusion remains tentative at best.

Perhaps status differences were expressed in terms of gravestone shape rather than size. The graph below illustrates differences in shape according to sex of the interred individual. Again, the small sample renders drawing concrete interpretations difficult, even for the greatest observed difference within the graph; namely, the graves of males were more often marked by horizontal slab than were those of females. Not represented by this graph is the date at which these markers were erected. Our data indicate that in recent years horizontal slabs have become the most popular gravestone shape at the cemetery. That our sample is biased toward female graves in earlier periods–which saw a more diverse range of gravestone types–and male graves in later periods is likely driving the disparate distribution of horizontal slabs.

Memorialization of the deceased through gravestones is a complex social process that reveals as much, if not more, about the living than the dead. While individuals’ sex certainly had implications for their status and role in life, our data do not reveal any obvious difference in the way they were memorialized in death. This is not to say such differences do not exist–I am sure they do–but these patterns are not apparent in our small data set.

A Brief Overview of the History of Gas Works Park



I happen to have many fond memories of Gas Works Parks over the years, running around the old machinery, rolling down the large hill at high speeds and of course gazing out onto the skyline of Seattle like Gatsby looking for Daisy. However the monolith that is the gas works building has remained an enigma to me and hopefully through this post a little bit of how it became the urban park it is today will be told.


First of all a quick overview of its dirty past. Gas Works Park was formerly known under the Seattle Gas Light Company and soon changing its name to the “Seattle Gas Company” in 1930 up until 1956 when it was disbanded. As for the plant itself that was integral in giving large amounts of power for lighting, heating and other various uses through its “coal-to-gas” machinery. However by 1956 this all became obsolete and the land the park would be built on was left abandoned until it changed hands and the deed to the plant’s land was handed over to the City of Seattle in 1962. The plot of land itself was in a valuable area when it was first built had been popular before with loggers so already the land had seen heavy use before the city decided to take on the project.

Gas Works 2002

Aerial Map of Gas Works Park from August 2002. Credit to “”

These two maps show the present and past layouts (right after the City of Seattle had bought the property0 of Gas Works. Notice the lack of a majority of buildings and the large grassy areas now present. Hard to imagine that this once industrial work horse is now a public space. There is still a strong shipping scene on both sides of the area even into the present day.

Gas Works 1965 "Credit to"

“Aerial view of the Seattle Gas Works, 1965; from the City of Seattle, Parks and Recreation Department”

Credit to

Now this 20.5 acre plot was given over to the architect Richard Haag (as many may already know was a professor at the UW in architecture) in order to turn the building into a public landscape. Although many of the pipes and machinery were kept intact and left in a dormant state, it was also restricted in how much the public has access to it against Haag’s wishes. Today the park remains popular with tourists and locals alike and I won’t lie, I plan on having a picnic there this Thursday.

One thing I didn’t really realize was how polluted the area still is. According to link followed at the water is hazardous and forbidden from entry. Granted it should have been expected from an older gas company that used coal as its main fuel source and apparently it switched from oil over to coal in 1937 which, according to the article on Wallingford history, any basements excavated will hold traceable amounts of the pollution from the Gas Plant when it was still functional. However Haag as an architect seemed like the right choice as the park was built in a fashion to expedite environmental healing such as its hills and drainage options. The famous zodiac sundial (that I can never get to work because it is always too cloudy) was installed by Charles Greening and overlooks the famous Seattle skyline at the highest point the public can walk on.

Gas Works 2001

Gas Works Park, October 2001 Photo by Priscilla Long

This is a common view of Gas Works today though you won’t view the over grown grass and weeds just past the fence that doesn’t prevent the graffiti. Its rather dirty history does encourage me a bit that such a pollution causing area was turned into a public park. I still plan on rolling down the hills this Thursday though.


Direct Url References linked from (photos should have their urls and references with them)

Exploring a Historic Cemetery

Gravestones and Gender
Is there a marked difference in gravestone styles between the men and women interred at Calvary Cemetery? This was a question that I considered during the last lab assignment, in which my team and I analyzed more than 30 gravestones for diachronic stylistic changes. Since our preliminary analyses did not include a gender component, I proceeded to conduct my own. I wanted to know if there was a significant difference in the shape and material of gravestones between the sexes, and if this could be explained at all my previous gravestone seriation.
Frequency tables of material and shape by sex show some clear associations between gender and gravestone style. For example, men are more likely to have a horizontal slab or obelisk (34% and 10%) than women (at nearly 14% and 7%; table 1). If you are a women, you are more likely to have a gravestone made out of marble, while men are more likely to have a gravestone made out of granite (see table 2). Gravestones for men are more diverse in the material used, with 13% of male gravestones being limestone or stone, while the majority of female gravestones are limestone.
 There is likely a correlation between temporal periods and the materials used, but the small sample size used for this lab limits any conclusions that could be drawn regarding diachronic stylistic changes for each sex.
Table 1. Gravestone shape by sex.
Sex      1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9
  F 0.1379 0.0690 0.0345 0.0345 0.0000 0.0345 0.0000 0.0345 0.0345
  M 0.3448 0.1034 0.0000 0.0000 0.0690 0.0345 0.0345 0.0000 0.0345


Table 2. Gravestone material by sex.
Sex      1      2      3      4      5      6
  F 0.0345 0.1724 0.0690 0.0345 0.0000 0.0690
  M 0.1379 0.0690 0.2069 0.0345 0.0345 0.1379
1 horizontal slab, 2 obelisk, 3 round column, 4 vertical slab, 5 square column, 6 tablet, 7 other, 8 pillow, 9 monument
1 Limestone, 2 Marble, 3 Granite, 4 Mixed, 5 Slate, 6 Stone

The Evolution of the Seattle Public Library Site

01 Full View-compressed

    The block which is now occupied by the Seattle’s Central Public Library is bounded by 4th and 5th avenues and Spring and Madison streets. This parcel of land has gone through many changes since it first become a part of the City of Seattle. Originally the area around this block was part of the claims of C. D. Boren, A. A. Denny H. L. Yesler. In 1875 this area, from what is now Yesler Way to Seneca Street between 1st Avenue and 10th Avenue, was added to the then Town of Seattle. On the plat map for this Addition the block I am investigating (No. 19) was laid out as a “Public Square”.

02_Library Block-compressed

            The noble dream of that Public Square apparently did not last very long. The Sandborn fire insurance map of 1883 shows a number of private structures occupying the block less than a decade later. The most substantial of these buildings was the mansion of Seattle attorney James McNaught. By the time the Seattle Public Library was seeking a site to construct the new Carnegie funded library in 1902 this grand house had already evolved. First it had been used as the first home of the Rainier Club and when the city purchased the entire block for $100,000 it was a boarding house.

Sanborn 1893-compressed      Carnagie_Madison_McNaughty Mansion&Providence Hosp_1891

            Our first Public Library on this site was a massive building in the Beaux-Arts style designed by Chicago architect Peter J. Weber. It was dedicated on December 19, 1906. The construction and furnishing of the library was paid for with a grant of $220,000 from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The negotiations that lead to this sizable sum produced the largest grant made by Carnegie to any city except Washington D.C. and his hometown of Pittsburgh up until that time.


            Although in its day the Carnegie Library of Seattle’s 55,000 square feet of floor space was impressive by the early 1950s it had become seriously out of date and overcrowded. The voters of Seattle approved a bond issue to construct a replacement building in 1956. This second generation of the Central Library was designed by Leonard Bindon and John L. Wright and provided 206,000 square feet to house the ever expanding collections and facilities of the Seattle Public Library.

2nd Building_-4th&Madison-june-1-1960-goweyweb1

            Moving the Seattle Public Library into the 21st century voters approved a bond measure to renovate the system that included funding to replace the downtown library building. The current incarnation on the site of Block No. 19 of the 1875 Addition to the Town of Seattle is a gleaming 11-floor creation of steel and glass designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas that sports 362,987 square feet of space. This structure is truly a statement of digital age modernity; a long way evolutionarily from the McNaught Mansion that made room for it a century ago.

3rd Building_4th&Madison_2004



Bagley, Clarence B. 1916, History of Seattle: From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. The SJ Clarke Publishing Co.: Chicago.

The Free Online Encyclopedia of WashingtonState History. Accessed April 26, 2014,

Hacket,Rigina, May 19, 2004 Seattle Public Library: Design is fun on a grand scale.  Accessed April 26, 2014,

Plat of an Addition to the City of Seattle, Recorded March 18, 1875, University of Washington Special Collections, Map Folios, Block No. 19.

Sandborn Map Co. 1884, Seattle Washington WT. Sandborn Map & Publishing Co.: New York.

Sandborn Map Co. 1893, Insurance Maps SeattleWashington 1904 Vol. 1. Sandborn Perris Map Co.: New York.

Sandborn Map Co. 1904, Insurance Maps SeattleWashington 1904 Vol. 1. Sandborn Map Co.: New York.

Seattle Public Library, Brief History of the Seattle Public Library. Accessed April 25, 2014,

Seattle Public Library, Special Collections Online, Accessed April 25, 2014,

Sherrard, J. R. Seattle Now and Then: The Palace Hip Theater. Accessed April 26, 2014,

Blog post #5

Given that this coming week’s readings focus on colonial contact between Russians/Spanish and indigenous groups, I couldn’t resist throwing in a little bit about “Hawaii’s Russian Adventure”, because it speaks very clearly to issues of differential colonial processes, indigenous agency, and mainstream interpretations.

My undergrad mentor’s dissertation work was focused on Pa’ula’ula o Hipo heiau (temple/ritual complex) located on Kaua’i Island ( It is a National Historic Landmark, but interestingly, it was listed as an NHL because of its association with the Russians during the early colonial period, rather than as a monument that depicts a very complex and dynamic period of history for the Hawaiian Kingdom. Historical documents and maps reinforced the early ideas that the fort was built for Russians, but archaeological work at the site shows that despite the incorporation of Russian architecture in the foot print of the fort, the internal structure and occupation sites on the exterior of the fort are typical of Hawaiian ritual organization.

The article does it more justice than I can pretend to do, so read it here


Hawaii's Russian adventure : a new look at old history

The book that he wrote based on his dissertation research is available in our library, and is a great read if you are bored over the summer.

Object Lessons

After long months of procrastination, I’ve finally updated my own blog, Improbable Artifacts. I’m not going to cross-post here, because the latest post is very long, and more travelogue and cultural commentary than historical archaeology (though I did name-check James Deetz). However, the blogging we’re doing in this class has got me thinking about renewing my own efforts, and I thought it would be worth sharing a link.

I have been trying to return to the kind of writing I enjoyed in college, which is to say lots of free-association that somehow ends up looking like an argument after a while. Obviously this isn’t the kind of thing one sees in Nature, or even in a halfway-reputable middlebrow publication like The New Yorker, nor do I encourage you to emulate it at all, as it will probably get you banished from polite academic and literary circles.

Writing travelogues is especially tricky for obvious reasons: dropping in on an unfamiliar culture and commenting on it as if it were a coherent whole is perhaps acceptable in archaeology, but doesn’t fly when we’re talking about living, individually distinct people. (why archaeologists still get away with it is a bit of a mystery to me, but that’s another story). At the same time, anyone who’s traveled will know that there are certain senses of place and culture that are worth remarking upon, even at the risk of generalization. Talking about another culture is still one of the most convenient ways to comment on one’s own, through comparison. So, I try to convey those impressions while at the same time acknowledging that there are other realities out there that I haven’t touched on.

However, if my most recent post has value for the purposes of this class, it’s as an example (albeit kind of sloppy) of creative nonfiction style, of a sort that works well in blog posts. Notice that I alternate between reporting experiences and interpreting them, back and forth. Too much of one or the other will bore the reader to tears, but moving between the two allows for a number of things besides keeping the reader entertained. You can constantly refer from experience to theory or interpretation and vice versa, so that each remains a readily available reference for the other. This in turn adds a kind of hermeneutic quality that usually doesn’t survive the rigid division of academic papers into sections of theory, observations, hypotheses, etc. Finally, it ties the abstract, argumentative qualities of your theory and interpretation to a more concrete, graspable narrative, which, as we’ve seen, has many functions that go deep into the human subconscious. For those reasons, alternating story and interpretation every couple paragraphs or so is a useful thing to do in your blog posts, when it’s possible. Sometimes it doesn’t work–that’s always a judgment call you’ll have to make on your own. In the case of my own post, perhaps it didn’t work, but I be you can find others out there where it does.


Mashed taters, chicken cutlet, green beans, doomed love

You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, it’s shown in glass cabinets, hidden under sauces, or buried in the dirt of historical sites.

bw platter

A classic platter in willow pattern (Image source:

It’s got a pagoda, a fence, some pastorality, a boat. It’s a game of telephone played with pictures across a few centuries. You’d better believe it, it’s the Willow Pattern, and it is one of the most-seen images of the past few hundred years.

You might not’ve ever thought about it before. You might have never looked too closely at your grandmother’s plate collection, and their subtle variety. You might have even assumed that this famed icon of china was from, oh, I don’t know… China.


A set of willow pattern ceramics. Image source:

Nope. It’s unknown who designed the Willow Pattern, but it’s a toss-up between two English dudes from the late 1700s. If anything, the pattern’s an icon of Orientalism: wanna-be aesthetics on wanna-be porcelain.

It was even marketed with a wanna-be legend–two youngin’s in love, an accountant and a Mandarin’s daughter, who run away to be together and are ultimately murdered by the megalomaniacal Mandarin. The gods take pity, and transmogrify their corpses into birds (the story can be found in the form of a delightfully lulling tune by Momus). Yep–those two gallivanting doves you stared down during all those dull family meals–they’re lusty dead youth, transmogrified.