1st Edition

Privy to the Past

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ISBN 9781598743005
Published October 15, 2007 by Routledge

USD $61.95

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Book Description

This detailed and engaging documentary provides an outstanding introduction to the goals and methods of historical and urban archaeology. It chronicles a major cultural resource management project conducted in advance of reconstruction of a freeway through West Oakland, California, after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The video follows the archaeologists as they excavate and interpret structures, features, and objects of 19th century Oakland. It shows how the archaeologists use historical documents, tax records, insurance maps, and oral history interviews with descendants to broaden and corroborate the archaeological finds. The difficulties of conducting excavation in urban settings, as well as the importance of cultural resource management work, are also demonstrated in the film.West Oakland was one of America’s first integrated cities, a working class community at the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. Finds from the excavation show the diverse lifeways of the various ethnic communities inhabiting Oakland a century ago and point to differences in material culture based on class and gender. An essential resource for students in historical archaeology, urban archaeology, and field methods courses. The project was sponsored by the California Department of Transportation and Sonoma State University.


"The project did a good job emphasizing the potential of urban archaeology. It will prove useful both as an introduction to historical archaeology classes and a supplement to the historical archaeology component of an archaeological methods and theory class." -Kenneth Kelly, University of South Carolina

"I found it to be a wonderful teaching aid. It was most useful in communicating the nature of provenience, and the need to be fully attentive to excavation techniques within proveniences. It also gave students a better idea of what rescue archaeology is all about and how it contributes to understanding the past." -Kathleen Deagan, Florida Museum of Natural History