Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The black river: Deposits of coal silt along the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania
by Gunnels, Jesse Lewis, M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2014, 107; 1556516
Abstract (Summary)

Deposits of coal silt are significant because they provide archaeologists a baseline for investigating changes in pre-industrial and post-industrial landscapes in Pennsylvania. Beginning in the 1790s, miners extracted coal from seams near the surface with a pick and shovel. Over the next 120 years, coal mining evolved into a booming industry. In 1917, production peaked at over 100 million tons. By 1950, geologists discovered reserves of crude oil and natural gas, leading to the overall decline of the anthracite coal industry. Today, coal is no longer a dominant part of the local economy. Coal mining generated enormous quantities of waste, including small pieces of unburnt coal and other non-economic materials. Waste from mines entered the Susquehanna River, mixed with naturally occurring sediments, and formed deposits of coal silt along the banks and mid-channel islands of the river. To understand the effect of coal silt on the river, I use processual archaeology to characterize and examine the Anthropocene - an informal geologic era defined by human induced changes to Earth's ecosystems. What led to unburnt coal in the Susquehanna River? When did unburnt coal enter the Susquehanna River? I use data collected during a ten-week internship to answer these questions and define the occurrence and chronology of deposits of coal silt along the river. Archaeologists generally agree deposits of coal silt date to the late nineteenth century, but fine-tuning the date of deposition is not easy (Stinchcomb et al. 2013). To help solve the problem, I investigated two archaeological sites along the river - Fort Halifax and Calver Island. This thesis highlights reasons why archaeologists should take deposits of coal silt seriously. Considering the importance of energy to human economic and social life and the urgency of addressing contemporary energy problems, this thesis draws on evidence from the stratigraphic record to incorporate anthropological and archaeological perspectives for studying the past, present, and future of energy development and industrialization.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hays-Gilpin, Kelley A.
Commitee: Downum, Christian E., Vasquez, Miguel L.
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 53/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, American history, Geomorphology
Keywords: Anthracite, Anthropocene, Coal mining, Pennsylvania, Stratigraphy, Susquehanna river
Publication Number: 1556516
ISBN: 978-1-303-91958-9
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