Mining Archaeology in the American West: A View from the Silver State

By Donald L. Hardesty | Go to book overview

3. The Social Archaeology of Mining

The archaeological record also reflects the social organization of mining. Mining households, local settlements, regional settlement-systems, and global networks were social manifestations of mining that left an imprint on the archaeological landscape of Nevada (Hardesty 1992, 1998; Knapp et al. 1998).


Mining Settlement-Systems

Settlement-systems reflect the spatial arrangement of tools, operations, and social formations as well as the coordination of work within miningrelated sociotechnical systems. Such social relations are, in the words of Elizabeth Brumfiel (1992:551), “the composite outcomes of negotiation between positioned social agents pursuing their goals under both ecological and social constraints.” Mining social systems can be conceptualized as a network of power relationships (Hardesty 1998:82). However, power relationships among individuals and groups based on controlled access to resources (such as capital, ore deposits, labor, and water) are situational, constantly being negotiated because of changing meanings or values of the resources. Four key power networks connect individuals into social groups: ideological, economic, military, and political (Mann 1986:1–2). Individuals and groups negotiate power relationships within these networks with methods that range from violence to ideology and politics. Mining-related social networks sometimes approximate hierarchical organizations, as in company towns, but typically are much more flexible, situational, and changing organizations that Carole Crumley (1994a:186–187) refers to as “heterarchical.”

Such social networks underlay the formation of mining communities. The concept of “community” is quite expansive. It includes not only social groups that regularly engage in social interaction but also those that share a common place-space and life experiences. And it encompasses the idea of cultural identity—individuals who think of themselves as belonging to the same group. Community is a concept that has multiple scales

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Mining Archaeology in the American West: A View from the Silver State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1- Traveling into Nevada's Mining Past 1
  • 2- The Archaeology of Mining Technology 29
  • 3- The Social Archaeology of Mining 109
  • 4- Conclusions - Understanding Variability and Change on the Mining Frontier 179
  • References Cited 189
  • Index 203
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