Historical Archaeology of Marion Creek, Alaska: Placer Gold Mining and the Capitalist World-System

Archaeological investigations of two placer gold mining sites on Marion Creek, Alaska, a tributary of the Koyukuk River , challenge the myth of the independent prospectors of the last frontier and reveal their dependence on the capitalist world-system. The Grassy Mound Cabin site (CHN-024) consists of a small cabin and trash scatter representing individual placer mining dated to the first decade of the 20th century. The Marion Creek Mining Complex site (WIS-286) is a multi-feature site reflecting capital and labor-intensive mining from multiple occupations during the first and second decades of the 20th century. The historical context of gold mining in the Koyukuk district is reconstructed from historical documents, exploring the process by which Alaska was incorporated into the capitalist world-system. Functional analysis of the assemblages and application of the Commodity Flow Model demonstrate how material culture and site economy changed as investments of capital and labor increased.

Funding: Excavations conducted under the direction of Bureau of Land Management-Alaska