Inscribed in stone: Historic inscriptions and the cultural heritage of railroad workers

Timothy R. Urbaniak, Kelly J. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Historic inscriptions accompany rock art panels and sandstone cliffs throughout Montana and the North American plains. The two historic inscription locations described here emphasize the cultural and historical value of these provocative archaeological signatures. One of these includes a cliff face incised with Chinese characters near the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, & Pacific Railroad in southeastern Montana. The Chinese characters are among other historic inscriptions associated with a coal mining district established by that railroad to supply the fuel for its engines, underscoring the inherent connections between extractive industries and railroad rights-of-way. The second location includes a collection of Japanese words and names, as well as Irish and Norwegian names, incised into a sandstone cliff face adjacent to a section of the Northern Pacific Railroad. These inscribed archaeological sites represent text-aided resources that may be some of the only written accounts available to better understand the lives and identities of people in transnational work camps of railroads and associated extractive industries in the American West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-109
Number of pages10
JournalHistorical Archaeology
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2015

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