Historical Archaeology Through a Western Lens


Historical Archaeology Through a Western Lens

Edited and with an introduction by Mark Warner and Margaret Purser

Historical Archaeology of the American West Series

384 pages
77 illustrations, 16 tables, index


June 2017


$70.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

June 2017


$70.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

June 2017


$70.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

A 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

The mythic American West, with its perilous frontiers, big skies, and vast resources, is frequently perceived as unchanging and timeless. The work of many western-based historical archaeologists over the past decade, however, has revealed narratives that often sharply challenge that timelessness. Historical Archaeology Through a Western Lens reveals an archaeological past that is distinct to the region—but not in ways that popular imagination might suggest. Instead, this volume highlights a western past characterized by rapid and ever-changing interactions between diverse groups of people across a wide range of environmental and economic situations. The dynamic and unpredictable lives of western communities have prompted a constant challenging and reimagining of both individual identities and collective understandings of their position within a broader national experience. Indeed, the archaeological West is one clearly characterized by mobility rather than stasis. 

The archaeologies presented in this volume explore the impact of that pervasive human mobility on the West—a world of transience, impermanence, seasonal migration, and accelerated trade and technology at scales ranging from the local to the global. By documenting the challenges of both local community-building and global networking, they provide an archaeology of the West that is ultimately from the West.


Author Bio

Mark Warner is a professor of anthropology and department chair at the University of Idaho. He is the author of Eating in the Side Room: Food, Archaeology, and African American Identity. Margaret Purser is a professor of anthropology and department chair at Sonoma State University. 


"Mark Warner and Margaret Purser's edited volume, Historical Archaeology through a Western Lens, is an ambitious work that incorporates many of the most pressing issues in historical archaeology to research of the Old West. Rather than assembling a volume of isolated case studies, the editors succeed in making connections between scattered sites and structures by appreciating broader patterns driven by analyses of landscapes, social networks, and economic factors. The essays demonstrate the rich potential of multifaceted analytical tools and intriguingly different lines of evidence in a constant goal of finding a voice for the voiceless of the past."—Seth Mallios, American Antiquity

"These essays, with their focus on the American West, argue successfully the importance of historic archaeology to the scholarship and the understanding of Western expansion. The collection gives weight to the historic archaeology and promotes continued excavations into those sites that remain within our cultural memory."—Matt Donovan, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society

"Historical Archaeology through a Western Lens offers an unprecedented overview of the broad range of research in which archaeologists of the West have been engaged."—Todd A. Hanson, Western Historical Quarterly

"Many of the contributions in this volume reflect a refreshing mix of work that is both academic and tied to public archaeology, compliance, and the National Register of Historic Places significance of historical sites. This will appeal to students, academics, and pragmatic practitioners of historical archaeology who wish to improve their research, evaluation, and interpretation. These chapters challenge the mythic history of the West in new ways and bring many new questions and intriguing directions for research by generations of future archaeologists."—Douglas C. Wilson, Historical Archaeology

“Warner and Purser have assembled a significant collection of archaeological essays that together speak powerfully to the ability of historical archaeology to contribute to the history of the U.S. West—and for the historical archaeology of the U.S. West to contribute to archaeology writ large.”—Barbara L. Voss, associate professor of anthropology at Stanford University and coeditor of The Archaeology of Chinese Immigrant and Chinese American Communities

“Well-written and broadly scoped, Warner and Purser have produced a compelling volume that presents excellent scholarship undertaken recently about the American West. . . . Keep it close at hand—the volume promises to be a much-reached-for resource on every archaeologists’ bookshelf.”—Carolyn L. White,  associate professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology and Mamie Kleberg Chair in Historic Preservation at the University of Nevada, Reno

Table of Contents

List of Figures     
List of Tables    
Introduction: Historical Archaeology Through a Western Lens    
Margaret Purser and Mark Warner
Part 1. Economics and Economies
1. Boomtimes and Boomsurfers: Toward a Material Culture of Western Expansion    
Margaret Purser
2. The Archaeology of San Francisco’s Gold Rush Waterfront, 1849–1851: Building a New Model of the 19th-Century Pacific Rim Maritime “Frontier”    
James P. Delgado
3. “Where Ornament and Function Are So Agreeably Combined”: A New Look at Consumer Choice Studies Using English Ceramic Wares at Hudson’s Bay Company, Fort Vancouver    
Robert J. Cromwell
4. Approaching Transient Labor through Archaeology    
Mark Walker
Part 2. Archaeologies of Race and Racism
5. “Can We Separate the ‘Indian’ from the ‘American’ in the Historical Archaeology of the American Indian?”    
Joe Watkins
6. Rock Hearths and Rural Wood Camps in Jīnshān/Gām Saan 金山: National Register of Historic Places Evaluations of 19th-Century Chinese Logging Operations at Heavenly Ski Resort in the Lake Tahoe Basin        
Kelly J. Dixon and Carrie Smith
7. Archaeology of the Chinese and Japanese Diasporas in North America and a Framework for Comparing the Material Lives of Transnational Migrant Communities    
Douglas E. Ross
8. Digging Yesterday: The Archaeology of Living Memory at Amache    
Bonnie J. Clark
Part 3. Reassessing the West
9. The Cultural Context of Commerce: Historical Anthropology and Historical Silences along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail    
Minette Church
10. Our Dangerous Discipline: Doing Historical Archaeology in Utah    
Timothy James Scarlett
11. The Mild Wild West: Settling Communities and Settling Households in Turn of the Century Idaho    
Mark Warner
Epilogue: Digging Holes in the American West    
Matthew Johnson


2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title


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