"To Bear All That Comes Upon Us": Resurrecting the Aurora Colony Narrative Through Mortuary Analysis
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The gravemarkers of the Aurora Colony Cemetery offer a means of examining identity and change within this early Oregon utopian community. Led by charismatic Wilhelm Keil and composed predominantly of people of German heritage, the members of the Aurora Colony sought to distance themselves from worldly influences through emigration to the Willamette Valley. In existence from 1856 to 1883, they sought to maintain shared cultural practices while, as farmers and artisans, relying simultaneously upon inclusive commerce with the outside world. Contextual analysis of this mortuaryscape provides a venue for understanding the interplay of separatist ideology and extralocal forces among Colony members and the following generation of their descendants. Artifactual data from relationships found among their mortuary objects reflects patterns of change in material, typology, composition, and language spanning the years 1862-1920. Subsequently, such objects express the tide of acculturation and dissolution experienced within the Colony.