The Archaeology of Gold Mining in the Far North

Edited by Catherine Holder Spude, Robin O. Mills, Karl Gurcke, and Roderick Sprague

Historical Archaeology of the American West Series

376 pages
28 illustrations, 8 maps, 27 tables, 12 figures


December 2011


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2011


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

When gold was discovered in the far northern regions of Alaska and the Yukon in the late nineteenth century, thousands of individuals headed north to strike it rich. This massive movement required a vast network of supplies and services and brought even more people north to manage and fulfill those needs. In this volume, archaeologists, historians, and ethnologists discuss their interlinking studies of the towns, trails, and mining districts that figured in the northern gold rushes, including the first sustained account of the archaeology of twentieth-century gold mining sites in Alaska or the Yukon.

The authors explore various parts of this extensive settlement and supply system: coastal towns that funneled goods inland from ships; the famous Chilkoot Trail, over which tens of thousands of gold-seekers trod; a host of retail-oriented sites that supported prospectors and transferred goods through the system; and actual camps on the creeks where gold was extracted from the ground. Discussing individual cases in terms of settlement patterns and archaeological assemblages, the essays shed light on issues of interest to students of gender, transience, and site abandonment behavior. Further commentary places the archaeology of the Far North within the larger context of early twentieth-century industrialized European American society.

Author Bio

Catherine Holder Spude is a retired archaeologist with the National Park Service. She is the author of Sin and Grace: The True Story of Skagway’s Underworld and has published articles in the Journal of Historical Archaeology, Arctic, and Alaska History. Robin O. Mills is an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management in the Fairbanks District Office. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Historical Archaeology and Arctic Anthropology. Karl Gurcke is a historian with the National Park Service at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. He is the author of Bricks and Brickmaking: A Handbook for Historical Archaeology. Roderick Sprague is a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Idaho, Moscow. He is the author of Burial Terminology: A Guide for Researchers.


"The authors make a compelling case for the preservation and study of the Klondike Gold rush. A cultural and scientific Eldorado awaits."—Mark Michael, American Archaeology

"By employing Donald L. Hardesty's frontier mining pattern composed of cross-cultural communities, Eldorado's authors enables readers to imagine its applicability to mining sites and systems around the glove."—Lynn Furnis, Alaska History

"Eldorado! is simply great history and well worth the time. . . . Western historians will profit by having this book in their collections."—Ronald M. James, Pacific Historical Review

"This volume will be very useful to anyone interested in the archaeology of mining, and it is an essential text for anyone conducting historical archaeology in the North."—Paul J. White, Industrial Archeology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 000
List of Maps 000
List of Tables 000
Acknowledgments 000

Part I. Rediscovering Eldorado: An Introduction to This Volume 000
Catherine Holder Spude and Robin O. Mills
1. An Overview History of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rushes, 1880<EN>1918 000
Robert L. Spude
2. Theoretical Perspectives on the Frontier Mining Pattern 000
Donald L. Hardesty
3. A Proposed Model for a Placer Gold Mining Settlement System 000
Robin O. Mills
4. Predicting Social and Economic Function at Residential and Commercial Site Types in the Far North, 1880<EN>1920 000
Catherine Holder Spude
5. New Perspectives from the North: Comparative Opportunities and Challenges in an Archaeology of Eldorado 000
Margaret Purser

Part II. Intermediate Coastal Transfer and Supply Settlements: Supplying the Upper Yukon through Skagway and Dyea 000
Robin O. Mills and Catherine Holder Spude
6. Already Here and Rich: A Brief Ethnohistory of Upper Lynn Canal 000
Thomas F. Thornton
7. Tobacco Pipes, Medicinals, and Decorated Dishes: The Archaeology of Gender and Economic Class in Households from Skagway, Alaska 000
Doreen C. Cooper and Catherine Holder Spude
8. Faunal Remains in Skagway: Gold Rush to Working Class 000
David R. Huelsbeck

PART III. Getting around the Landscape: Links in the Interior Transportation System 000
Robin O. Mills and Catherine Holder Spude
9. An Overview of Chilkoot Trail Archaeology 000
Eve Griffin and Karl Gurcke
10. Canyon City: The Archaeology of a Company Town on the Transportation Network to the Klondike 000
T. J. Hammer

PART IV. Central and Secondary Distribution Settlements: Supplying the Mining Districts 000
Robin O. Mills and Catherine Holder Spude
11. Explaining Variability in Northern Gold Mining Saloons 000
Catherine Holder Spude, Robert M. Weaver, and Tim A. Kardatzke
12. Living at the Edge of a Boomtown: Transient Life in Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush 000
Michael Brand
13. Boom through Bust and Beyond: Changing Settlement System Functions at Coldfoot, a Placer Mining Town in Alaska 000
Robin O. Mills
14. Alder Smoke and Shoe Nails: Life in an Early-20th-Century Mining Camp 000
Howard L. Smith, Robin O. Mills, and Catherine Holder Spude

PART V. Extracting the Wealth: Sites on the Gold Creeks 000
Robin O. Mills and Catherine Holder Spude
15. Living the Solitary Life: Placer Mining Camps in Alaska, 1900<EN>1950 000
Becky M. Saleeby
16. Alaska Natives in the Gold Rush: A Look at Valdez Creek in the Early- to Mid-20th Century 000
Robert E. King
17. Cabin Comforts: The Archaeology of Bachelor Cabins on Fish Creek, Alaska 000
Andrew S. Higgs and Robert A. Sattler

References Cited 000
List of Contributors 000
Index 000

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