Holt Cemetery: an anthropological analysis of an urban potter's field
Holt Cemetery is a historic potter's field in New Orleans that has been in active use for several centuries. One of the few below-ground cemeteries in New Orleans, it is one of the most culturally fascinating burial places in the city. In spite of being frequently visited by families (evidenced by the unique votive material left on grave plots) and the final resting place of several historic figures, Holt is threatened by a lack of conservation so extreme that the ground surface is littered with human remains and the cemetery is left unprotected against grave robbing. Many locals have expressed concern that occult rituals take place within Holt, promoting the theft of human bones, while others have expressed concern that the skeletal material is stolen to be sold. Attempts to map and document the cemetery were originally undertaken by archaeologists working in the area who intended to create a searchable database with an interactive GIS map. Additionally, the nonprofit group Save Our Cemeteries, which works to restore New Orleans' cemeteries and educate the public about their importance, has taken part in conservation work. As of today all the projects and preservation efforts involving the cemetery have ceased. This thesis documents and analyzes the skeletal material within the cemetery alongside the votive material and attempts to explain why Holt is allowed to exist in its current state of disrepair while still remaining a place of vivid expressive culture.