In Defence of the Fence in the American West

Author(s): Melonie Shier

Year: 2015


The fence is integral to the mythology of the American West, particularly the barb wire fence, such as in the battle between cattle and sheep raisers and between pastoralists and agriculturalists. The years of the open range were short lived in comparison to the decades of fence construction and maintenance. Serving as boundaries and divisions of landscape, fence lines can give valuable insight into how peoples shaped their landscapes in the past and continue to shape it in the present. Although they were often set in line with the Cartesian grid of land division, many lines also follow the landscape, limiting access of people and animals to particular resources of importance. These division can allow for archaeologist to discover what landscape features peoples in the past protected and what was not. Often constructed of mass produced materials fence lines can give insight into technological changes, consumerism patterns, landscape based identity, and stylistic preferences. This paper will discuss the significance of fence lines as linear features, as well as discuss possible dating strategies for fence lines, particularly barb wire fence lines.

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Cite this Record

In Defence of the Fence in the American West. Melonie Shier. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396621)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;