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The Archaeology of Anthropocene Rivers: Historic Mining and Landscape Change in Australia

Author(s): Susan Lawrence ; Peter Davies ; Ewen Silvester ; Darren Baldwin ; Ian Rutherfurd

Year: 2017

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The impact of gold mining on rivers in the Australian colony of Victoria during the nineteenth century provides a case study of the acceleration of human intervention in world systems characteristic of the Anthropocene. As miners used water to extract gold from the soil they also re-shaped river systems, turning rivers into artefacts that were modified and manipulated as tools in order to achieve cultural goals. The cumulative and widespread effect of mining activity is made evident through the use of a landscape approach that integrates archaeological evidence of water supply systems, mining activity, and downstream impacts from waste water and sludge. Anthropogenic changes to Victoria’s rivers demonstrate the future visibility of the Anthropocene in the stratigraphic record of the Earth’s crust, the role of industrialisation in accelerating landscape change in the past 150 years, and the relationship of localised (archaeologically visible) activities to change at a global level.

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The Archaeology of Anthropocene Rivers: Historic Mining and Landscape Change in Australia. Susan Lawrence, Peter Davies, Ewen Silvester, Darren Baldwin, Ian Rutherfurd. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428814)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15221

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America