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Historical Archaeology: A Tool for Interpreting the Diggings

It is possible to consider remnant mining landscapes in a cultural sense. For example, by analysing or interpreting them in a similar manner to that used for texts, we can utilise the goldfields landscapes as pieces of historical evidence that reveal Chinese activities during the second half of the nineteenth century. As well, meaning can be assigned to areas of Chinese habitation (for instance, Butchers Gully in Vaughan) where there are few commentary records and little oral testimony in existence. Archaeology may provide a survey and insight into social life in an area, but for historians the prospect of recapturing the history of the era, although tantalising, is by no means certain – historical enquiry requires different methodological approaches in order to construct an historical picture. The obvious benefits this approach offers must, however, be tempered with the possibility that we may not be able to effectively gain greater historical insight; but if we are analysing the physical landscape in conjunction with other sources, then new histories of the diggings are able to emerge.

Keir Reeves

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