Catholic devotional objects are rare but persistent finds at archaeological sites in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. These largely personal, private objects—from medals depicting saints to rosaries and reliquaries—illustrate the vibrant spiritual world inhabited by residents of the seventeenth- through twentieth-century Middle Atlantic region. Contextual analysis of undisturbed artifacts reveals that they were treated with reverence, although not always in ways reflecting orthodox Catholicism. Moreover, analysis shows that the social context of their use among people of European, African, and Native American descent was unmistakably different. These objects of metal, wood, bone, clay, glass, and stone played pivotal roles in the way that American Catholics connected with the supernatural. Through sacramental objects, the archaeological record is populated with angels, saints, and materials used to connect with Christ and the Virgin Mary. In particular, the materials from which these objects were made—and not simply their symbolism—gave them power. Considering relationships among humans, sacramental objects, and supernatural powers provides new opportunities to interpret how these objects were used and, ultimately, how and why they ended up in the ground.


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pp. 1-21
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