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 3

Gender and community structure on Australian colonial goldfields

Susan Lawrence

ABSTRACT

The archaeology of mining is an explicitly gendered area of research in Australasian historical archaeology, notable for emphasizing machines and technologies at the expense of settlements and social structures. Dwellings associated with mining sites are assumed to be the huts of single male miners while settlements are described impressionistically. Such work both substantiates and perpetuates the popular image of mining as an exotic male domain and ignores the need for detailed and substantive examination of mining communities. A feminist perspective facilitates such an examination by challenging the dominant portrayal of the masculine experience of mining, and highlighting the role of women and families in shaping goldfields culture. The case study of Dolly’s Creek, Victoria, demonstrates insights gained from a multilayered analysis of material culture and textual sources and the multilayered relationships between settlement and community.


INTRODUCTION

Mining has played a prominent role in Australian culture and history, and in the modern heritage industry. Of the various kinds of mining in Australia, the gold industry had a widespread impact on the country as a whole because of its geographic, economic and demographic extent. Large quantities of gold were discovered in New South Wales and Victoria in 1851, setting off a series of rushes that by the end of the century had reached every colony and region. The gold rush has received considerable attention from Australian historians (Bate 1978, 1988; Blainey 1963; Goodman 1994; Serle 1963, 1971) and there is general agreement that the 1850s—the main decade of the gold rush—was a watershed in the country’s development. Mining has been no less important to archaeologists and heritage managers because of the scale of its impact on the environment and the quantity of physical fabric remaining.

Archaeologists have been extensively involved in recording mining sites throughout Australia and New Zealand for the past twenty-five years. With few

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