Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jonathan D. Bethard, Ph.D., D-ABFA

Committee Member

Diane Wallman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, MPH, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Giovanna Benadusi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Nystrom, Ph.D.


asylum, bioarchaeology, institutions, Italian


Institutional bioarchaeology is a growing sub-field within bioarchaeology, particularly social bioarchaeology as informed by the biocultural approach. However, the majority of studies in this vein have primarily addressed English-speaking contexts, to include analyses of institutional assemblages preserved archaeologically, and anatomical collections. The present study examines of the Siena Craniological Collection (SCC) - located in Siena, Italy. The collection was assembled between 1862-1931, and originally contained remains of 1,122 patients from both the general and mental hospitals in operation in Siena during this period (Brasili-Gualandi & Gualdi-Russo, 1989a). In addition to demographic analysis of the Siena Craniological Collection as a whole, this dissertation also undertook osteological and taphonomic analyses of a selected sub-sample of patients of the L’Ospedale Psichiatrico San Niccolò (San Niccolò Psychiatric Hospital - SNPH), as identified by associated archival material. In the present study, demographic, osteological, and taphonomic variables are evaluated in pursuit of the following research goals:

  1. To understand the demographics of the SCC, including change over time, and how the SCC differs from the demographics of the general population of the Province of Siena.
  2. To explore the health and lived experiences of the sub-sample chosen for skeletal analysis (SAS), including evaluation of dental health, paleopathological lesions, trauma, and developmental defects.
  3. To investigate the taphonomic condition of the SAS and how it varies in comparison to a modern anatomical collection.

In contrast to previous skeletal biology-oriented analyses of the SCC (Brasili-Gualandi & Gualdi-Russo, 1989a; Guidotti, Bastianini, De Stefano, & Hauser, 1986; Susanne, Guidotti, & Hauspie, 1985), this dissertation addresses historic patterns of anatomization and institutionalization, as viewed through a bioarchaeological lens. This work expands upon previous bioarchaeological scholarship of historical asylums, addressing a new geographic context, and augmenting the emerging bioarchaeology of institutions, in which skeletal remains have been preserved due to postmortem medical usage. Additionally, a novel theoretical synthesis of structural violence, embodiment, and necropolitics is offered, which seeks to formulate a cohesive analytical picture of the SNPH, and anatomization in 19th and early 20th century Siena, Italy. From these findings, a preliminary framework for conducting a “bioarchaeology of mental illness” is proposed, and subsequently explored, using the dissertation sample. The present study is significant in not only its exploration of a novel geographic context, but also in its pursuit of applied implications to be drawn from the institutional bioarchaeology of asylums.