Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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C. A Note on Historical and Archeological Resources of Death Valley

1. Limited Scope of Present Study

The reader who is looking in this study for another rehashing of the adventures and adversities of the '49ers as they groped their way out of Death Valley, or for another summary of the early penetrations into the region by the Dr. Darwin French and Dr. S. G. George expeditions of 1860, the surveying mission of Lt. J. C. Ives in connection with the U.S.-California Boundary Survey of 1861, or for a resume of the accomplishments of the Wheeler Expedition of 1871 or of any of the later government surveys or U.S. Army reconnaissances, or of the biological survey of 1891, will be sorely disappointed. Although carrying the general title of Historic Resource Study, this work focuses totally on a history of Death Valley mining activities, past and present, and has consciously ignored more than a cursory mention of earlier white visitation. Mention of them can be found in varying degrees in almost every book on Death Valley, and Benjamin Levy's background study written for the NPS in 1969 contains detailed information on their various contributions.

2. Archeological Research and Fieldwork

In the realm of archeological resources, the park is estimated to contain approximately 1,400 archeological sites, most of them prehistoric. A few specialized archeological investigations have been undertaken in the past, such as those conducted by William J. Wallace and Edith S. Taylor in the Butte Valley and Wildrose Canyon areas, but most surveys have been accomplished only under threat of some type of imminent surface disturbance. The most recent archeological work has been carried out by personnel of the Western Archeological Center, Tucson, in the form of reconnaissance surveys requested to be made within 117 claim group areas to determine what resources are present, their condition, and the probable effects of renewed mining activity on them. Little historical archeology has been carried out in the monument in past years, but a number of new sites with potential for historical archeologists have been discovered as a result of the archeological center's recent work and of field explorations by historians from the Denver Service Center. Recommendations of the latter as to historical sites warranting further investigation by archeologists are found in this report. These sites could add substantially to our knowledge of mining techniques, communication and access routes, life-styles, and dwellings of this desert environment.

Illustration 1. "Mining Map of Inyo County," by J. M. Keeler, 1883. Courtesy of Inyo Co. Clerk and Recorder, Independence, Ca. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003