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Mills, R.O., 1998

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Bibliographic Reference

Mills, R.O., 1998, Historical archeology of Alaskan placer gold mining settlements: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 539 p., illust., maps.

Abstract

The objective of this research is to explicate appropriate methods for investigating relationships between past historical processes and variables, and resulting contemporary patterns in archaeological and historical data sets. Turn-of-the-twentieth century placer gold mining in interior Alaska is used as a case study to evaluate these relationships. By linking observable patterns in historical data sets with the variables and processes that in part create and shape them, a more-complete, context-specific explanation of past events and actions emerges when the data are evaluated in specific historical settings. The methodological approach used here is to just formulate explicit 'expectations,' and then to evaluate them against independent Alaskan historical and archaeological data sets. The expectations derive from independent comparative historical geographical, and archaeological research. One series of nine expectations evaluates attributes of artifacts relating to site and feature abandonment processes relating to curation and scavenging, including specific traits of artifacts in curated and scavenged deposits; the changing effects of continued curation and scavenging on an artifactual assemblage through time; and spatial characteristics of artifacts within curated and scavenged foundations. Four types of data are used evaluate the expectations, including the size of artifacts, whether they are still functional or usable, their spatial provenience within excavated structures, and a feature's data range. Seven of these expectations are corroborated, one is falsified, and one requires further data for a full evaluation. A second series of seven expectations examines aspects of placer gold mining settlement and transportation systems, including the core-peripheral relationship between Alaska and the United States; the nature of expansion of gold mining settlements into new areas; locational, demographic, and physical layout characteristics of settlement systems; the mining settlement hierarchy and its changing components through time; and characteristics of the supporting transportation supply system. These expectations, while also corroborated by the Alaskan data, lend themselves more to historical context-specific understanding and interpretation, as opposed to the strict corroboration-falsification dichotomy of the abandonment analyses.

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