Social Approaches to an Industrial Past: The Archaeology and Anthropology of Mining

By A. Bernard Knapp; Vincent C. Pigott et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter I

Social approaches to the archaeology and anthropology of mining

A. Bernard Knapp


ABSTRACT

The study of the mining of metals—the bailiwick of several different disciplines— reveals great diversity of approach. In the most general terms, social historians, archaeologists and archaeometallurgists tend to focus on the history and technology of mining, on metallurgical technology and on the mining process overall. Historians of mining and ethnographers tend to examine the socio-economic, spatial and ideological dimensions of past industrial cultures. In the attempt to reorient these divergent approaches in a more dynamic direction, contributors to this volume focus on the social context of the mining or metallurgical community as revealed in the material, ethnographic and ethnohistoric records of various cultures worldwide, from prehistory to the recent past. The mining community provides the focal point for information about human activity on an industrial frontier. Although mining communities are often socially and spatially remote, they are linked into broader social, communications, transport and economic networks by virtue of their ability to supply a raw material in demand to a regional or world system. This volume brings together the research of archaeologists, ethnohistorians and anthropologists to consider themes of common interest, and to explore relevant interdisciplinary issues. These studies are oriented around specific, interweaving themes: the social context of production; gender; power strategies and labour exploitation; imperialism and colonialism; and production and technology. Such themes, and the material or ethnohistoric features and human behaviour that permit us to discuss them, are well known to social historians and ethnographers; archaeology, however, has only begun to develop the kind of social theory essential for treating the material components of an industrial past.


INTRODUCTION

The mining and manufacture of metals have formed a major aspect of production and social reproduction over the past six thousand years, and have employed millions of people throughout the Old and New Worlds. All industrial societies were erected on foundations of metal, and still require vast quantities of metals

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