Bodkin Biographies

  • Mary C. Beaudry


Here I explore the ways in which close study of a particular artifact type, bodkins, can be used to understand aspects of personhood and the presentation of self in seventeenth-century English and Dutch colonial contexts. I have been influenced in this work by the growing interest among archaeologists in the cultural biographies of objects (Gosden and Marshall, 1999; Loren and Beaudry, 2006), archaeological biographies and individual life courses (Gilchrist, 2000), embodiment and corporeality (e.g., Fisher and Loren, 2003; Hamilakis et al., 1998), and materiality (Meskell, 2005; Miller, 2005). Materiality refers to a variant of material culture analysis that explores “the situated experiences of material life, the constitution of the object world, and concomitantly, its shaping of human experience” (Meskell, 2004:2). I want to complicate matters as far as bodkins are concerned; I wish to focus “on broader interpretive connotations around and beyond” the objects (Meskell, 2004:2) rather than to resolve anything about them. I hope to show how cultural contexts and individual intentions factor into how the objects were assigned and took on meaning in the past and on how the very nature of such objects influenced the everyday experiences of seventeenth-century women. I do not offer a bounded interpretive scheme whereby the artifacts can be comfortably fitted into a single category that “collapse[s] cultural difference and may even instantiate unhelpful distinctions” (Meskell, 2004:1), distinctions that have more to do with our contemporary ideas and concerns than with past experiences.


Seventeenth Century Sewing Thread Social Display Personal Adornment North American Archaeologist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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