Analysis of dredge tailings pile patterns : applications for historical archaeological research Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/rr172050w

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  • For centuries humans have been searching for precious metals. The search for gold has greatly changed the landscape of the American West, beginning in the 1850s and continuing today. Various gold rushes around the country created mining colonies in remote areas, thereby connecting the frontier with the rest of America and Europe. This research attempts to expand on the previous industrial archaeology literature, which focuses on historic mining sites and landscape patterns, by concentrating solely on dredge mining. This study analyzes dredge mining activity in the Elk City Township (T. 29 N., R. 8 E.) of North Central Idaho. Dredge mining leaves behind a mark on the landscape in the form of tailings piles, which are uniquely patterned due to different technologies. Through a detailed analysis of the tailings pile patterns, an archaeologist can determine what dredging technology was used, the time period of the operation, and the number of workers employed. In order to understand the technology used, part of this work is dedicated to the various forms of dredges that were used, along with the various dredge mining methods. This research provides a set of guidelines for archaeologists to properly document dredge tailings piles and determine their significance. The major contributions of this thesis are to clarify the historical context for dredge mining in North Central Idaho, to identify visible footprints left by this industrial activity, and to identify both pedestrian survey and remote sensing techniques to locate and differentiate between the various dredging technologies. The remote sensing techniques used include classifying Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) imagery and comparing it with digitally orthorectified photos (DOQ), to determine which imagery is more adept at detecting dredge tailings patterns. For better or worse, dredge mining has reshaped many areas in the American West. Currently, riverine and riparian restoration projects are destroying dredge tailings piles and attempting to return the river to its ‘original’ condition. However, these projects are destroying a piece of history that is not well understood and holds important information for archaeologists studying historic mining sites. This research will benefit not only archaeologists, but land managers as well, by explaining the significance of dredge tailings and providing them with a greater ability to protect and manage these irreplaceable resources.
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