An abandoned settlement consisting of several building foundations and a mining site with placer gold deposits near the town of Elko, Nevada were recently discovered. An archaeological investigation of this site was conducted in order to determine the age of this site, and to look for clues as to why this site was abandoned. In order to do this, archaeologists completed multiple surveys as well as an excavation of the mining site. Great care was taken to preserve the site as well as the surrounding environment which is why only a singular excavation took place at this site. The survey of the abandoned settlement unveiled domestic artifacts that suggested the last time the site had been inhabited was in the early twentieth century, from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. The survey and excavation of the mining site suggested that the mining occurred sometime in the late 1800s and had ended in the early 1900s. Due to the relative dating of these findings, the time of abandonment of this settlement looks to correlate with the Great Depression and its negative impact on the economy of Nevada and the Nevadan mining industry1.
Despite its notorious reputation for sex and gambling, Nevada actually has a long and less sordid history of being a mining state. Before 1859, the state had been sparsely populated by small mining camps and trading outposts as people migrated through Nevada on their way to the west coast1. In 1859, a rich silver deposit, otherwise known as the Comstock Lode was discovered in the state2. This caused an influx of people and a sudden outcropping of settlements, towns, and cities such as Virginia City. Partly due to the sudden rise in population, Nevada became a territory in 1861 and a state in 18643. Elko was created as a settlement for the railroad crews that were building the central pacific railroad portion of the first transcontinental railroad in 18684. When, the railroad crews left, Elko remained and served as a center for mining in northeastern Nevada during the late 1800s. The mining industry in Nevada dramatically decreased around the 1890s and the state had a sudden population slump5. This bad luck was brief, though, because gold and silver would be found again in the early 1900s. Throughout the early 1900s, Nevada enjoyed a period of prosperity. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the mining industry and therefore the state’s economy suffered heavily. In order to survive the Great Depression, the state made gambling legal in 1931 after it had been abolished in 19106. Gambling then overtook mining as the state’s main industry. Despite all of this, mining survived the Great Depression and is still contributes strongly to the state’s economy today. Today, Nevada is the primary producer of gold in the nation and the fourth largest producer of gold in the world7. Nevadan mines also harvest other valuable minerals such as copper, gypsum, limestone, molybdenum, precious opals, salt, silica sand,...