Settling a Waste-land: Mapping Historic Can Scatters in the Western Mojave Desert

Author(s): Alaina L. Wibberly

Year: 2020


This is an abstract from the session entitled "California: Post-1850s Consumption and Use Patterns in Negotiated Spaces" , at the 2020 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

In the eyes of Anglo-American settlers, the Mojave served as a transportation corridor between habitable areas rather than a site of potential habitability itself. This paper uses GIS-based analysis of historic can scatters in the Mojave to investigate the relationship settlers held with the land they claimed but struggled to inhabit. This relationship informs the contemporary public image of the Mojave: defined by its “barrenness” and hostility to human survival, and thus suitable for extractive industry over sustained habitation. Unlike the Native groups they displaced, settler imagination of the Mojave limited the desert to a zone of potential extraction. Mining and its supporting transportation industries comprised most American settlements in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, while homesteading attempts were short-lived. This project maps the settler imagination of a land that resists settler notions of habitability, revealing the land-use patterns that eventually opened the desert to long-term settlement by the mid-1900s.

Cite this Record

Settling a Waste-land: Mapping Historic Can Scatters in the Western Mojave Desert. Alaina L. Wibberly. 2020 ( tDAR id: 456886)


Temporal Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 949