Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Brent Weisman

Keywords

demographic, Florida History, landscape, mortuary, spatial

Abstract

Cemeteries are microcosms of society bound together in sacred spaces. As manifestations of social mores, cemeteries allow anthropologists to obtain information on social development and structure. Where noninvasive study is mandated, crucial methods of interpretation include studies of landscape design, floral incorporation, grave marker design and development, and grave mementos. This thesis discusses these and other methods as they are used to infer group mores. It also indicates how information acquired from methods can be adversely affected by outside influences, such as vandalism, weathering, and replotting. This thesis adds to known methods of cemetery research another unbiased, noninvasive tool that is the analyses of public cemetery sales records of a known society's municipal cemetery, Greenwood Cemetery of Orlando, Florida. Greenwood Cemetery opened at approximately the same time as the founding of its host city, Orlando, Florida. All burial and plot ownership, regardless of the social status of the owner, are publicly accessible in accordance with the requirements of the Florida Sunshine law. As the city and the cemetery followed parallel development, socioeconomic trends affected the city and the cemetery in a similar manner. Using public records dating from 1890 to 2010, a random survey was conducted that acquired sale dates, death dates, prices, numbers of plots purchased, and types of plots purchased. Using SPSS, the acquired information was statistically analyzed for correlations to known historic moments such as The Great Depression and the Florida Land Boom. Comparisons of data revealed fluctuations in the time between purchase and death: a decreasing length of time, an increasing length of time, and a repeated decreasing of time. The survey of the prices of plots revealed a positive correlation over time, indicating uniformity. A strong shift from the purchase of full body plots to cremation plots over time was evident, which was interpreted as a reflection of a shift in religious and social mores. Additionally, the study showed a significant increase in the percentage of purchased plots used. An ANOVA reveals that replotting is not significant enough to affect interpretation of cultural mores manifested in landscape design and spatial usage. While the results lend themselves to more questions and study, the analyses of cemetery sale records demonstrates its vitality as an unbiased, noninvasive, publicly accessible instrument. The analyses of sales records will also enable cross cultural comparisons.

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