Sidling up to the archaeology of western saloons: Historical archaeology takes on the wild of the West

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Abstract

The historic period in the American West retains an infamous reputation because of sensational tales that sold newspapers. Nineteenth-century media audiences were subsequently exposed to a wilder West than the one of reality. This pattern continued into the modern era, as western films and television shows built upon the existing, romanticized imagery. The western story has been told most powerfully on film, providing mass audiences with a surface realism that can be incorrectly taken as actual historical events associated with the region. Historical archaeology can help revise the prevailing mythic understanding of western history by fostering an anthropological research agenda to highlight the West's lesser-known, but cosmopolitan heritage. The archaeology of boomtown saloons, including research at an African-American saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, USA, provides a venue for such an endeavor, using the popular appeal of archaeology in the wild West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-585
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Archaeology
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2006

Keywords

  • African diaspora
  • American West
  • Historical archaeology
  • Public archaeology
  • Saloons
  • Virginia City, Nevada

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