Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Richard W. Jefferies


The town of Portland, Kentucky was founded over 200 years ago as a speculative venture to profit from its advantageous location at the base of the Falls of the Ohio River. The Portland Wharf was the economic and cultural heart of the town. Throughout its history, the community has experienced much change. These changes are visible in the landscape of the Portland Wharf which reflected changes in the community’s identity.

Identity and landscape are topics that have been of great interest to archaeologists and this dissertation builds on previous works to examine identity as something that is reflected in the practices of people and can be unconscious, as well as overt. Identity can only become visible through contrast of differing aspects of culture, which is often created by researchers. The landscape is one place where the contrast necessary for making identity visible takes place, as it is where identities can be created, modified, and maintained. This study utilized archaeological, historical, and ethnographic data to examine changes to Portland’s identity and landscape over time. The archaeological analysis of deposits at two house lots at the Portland Wharf has allowed for a reconstruction of Portland’s historic landscape that when compared to that of Louisville created the necessary contrast to expose Portland’s independent identity. This identity was developed amongst Portland’s contentious and symbiotic relationship with Louisville and manifested in the landscape and the way privies were constructed.

The process of identity continues present day, as the people of Portland reach into their past to deploy versions of history that are loosely based on events that are no longer materialized in the landscape when their identity is threatened. As the community plans to reanimate the Portland Wharf landscape to create and maintain identities based on the community’s past, archaeologists must recognize their role in the process of identity and I argue that such responsibility can and should be used for activist goals for the good of the community.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)