Water played a crucial role in gold mining in the Australian colony of Victoria during the nineteenth century. Recent archaeological research has identified extensive surviving evidence of water supply networks, industrial applications of water and downstream pollution. The integration of this physical evidence with Google Earth, LiDAR imagery and historical maps in GIS reveals how the use of water in mining continues to shape modern landscapes.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Alpers, C., Hunerlach, M., May, J. and Hothem, J. (2005). Mercury Contamination from Historical Gold Mining in California. Publications of the US Geological Survey, Paper 61.
Barca, S. (2010). Enclosing Water: Nature and Political Economy in a Mediterranean Valley, 1796–1916, The White Horse Press, Knapwell.
Bell, P. (1987). Gold, Iron and Steam: The Industrial Archaeology of the Palmer Goldfield, James Cook University, Townsville.
Bland, R. H. (1890). History of the Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Company, in connection with the Clunes Mine, F.W. Niven & Co, Ballarat.
Board (1909). Report of the Sludge Abatement Board for 1908, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Bowie, A. J. (1905). A Practical Treatise on Hydraulic Mining in California, Van Nostrand, New York.
Bradfield, A. H. (1937). Work Journals of Arthur H. Bradfield 1934–1937, Manuscript in the possession of Jeannie Lister, Castlemaine.
Branch, N., Canti, M., Clark, P., and Turney, C. (2014). Environmental Archaeology: Theoretical and Practical Approaches, Arnold, London.
Branton, N. (2009). Landscape approaches in historical archaeology: The archaeology of places. In Majewski, T., and Gaimster, D. (eds.), International Handbook of Historical Archaeology, Springer, New York, pp. 51–65.
Carpenter, L. (2012). A 35-year endeavour: Bendigo’s Rise and Shine sluicing syndicate. Australasian Historical Archaeology 30: 5–13.
Cathcart, M. (2009). The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent, Text, Melbourne.
Commission, 1860–61, Beechworth Water Rights. Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Subject of Water Rights in the Beechworth District. Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Council, L. C. (1989). Rivers and Stream Special Investigation, Land Conservation Council, Melbourne.
Dasmann, R. F. (1999). Environmental changes before and after the gold rush. In Rawls, J. J., and Orsi, R. J. (eds.), A Golden State: Mining and Economic Development in Gold Rush California, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 106–121.
Davey, C. (1996). The origins of Victorian mining technology, 1851–1900. The Artefact 19: 52–62.
Davies, H. C. (2008). The Archaeology of Water, The History Press, Stroud.
Davies, P., and Lawrence, S. (2013). The Garfield Water Wheel: Hydraulic power on the Victorian goldfields. Australasian Historical Archaeology 31: 25–32.
Davies, P., and Lawrence, S. (2014). A ‘mere thread of land’: Water races, gold mining and water law in colonial Victoria’. Journal of Australian Colonial History 16: 165–184.
Davies, P., Lawrence, S., and Turnbull, J. (2011). Harvesting Water on a Victorian colonial goldfield’. Australasian Historical Archaeology 29: 24–32.
Davies, P., Lawrence, S. and Turnbull, J. (2015). Historical maps, geographical information systems (GIS) and complex mining landscapes on the Victorian goldfields. Provenance 2015. http://prov.vic.gov.au/publications/provenance/provenance2015/.
Deagan, K. (2008). Environmental and historical archaeology. In Reitz, E., Scarry, C. M., and Scudder, S. (eds.), Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology, Springer, New York, pp. 21–42.
Dingle, T., and Doyle, H. (2003). Yan Yean: A history of Melbourne’s Early Water Supply, Public Record Office Victoria, Melbourne.
Edgeworth, M. (2011). Fluid Pasts: Archaeology of Flow, Bloomsbury, London.
Fagan, B. (2011). Elixir: A History of Water and Mankind, Bloomsbury, New York.
Felton, D., Porter, B., and Hines, P. (1979). Survey of Cultural Resources at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Sacramento.
Garden, D. (2005). Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific: An Environmental History, ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara.
Getzler, J. (2004). A History of Water Rights at Common Law, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Gosden, C., and Head, L. (1994). Landscape – A usefully ambiguous concept. Archaeology in Oceania 29: 113–116.
Greenland, P. (2001). Hydraulic Mining in California: A Tarnished Legacy, The Arthur H. Clark Company, Spokane.
Hardesty, D. (1988). The Archaeology of Mining and Miners: A View From the Silver State. Special Publication No.6, Society for Historical Archaeology.
Hardesty, D. (2009). Historical archaeology and the environment: A North American perspective. In Majewski, T., and Gaimster, D. (eds.), International Handbook of Historical Archaeology, Springer, New York, pp. 67–75.
Hodge, A. T. (2002). Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply, Bloomsbury Publishing, London.
Isenberg, A. (2005). Mining California: An Ecological History, Hill and Wang, New York.
James, L. A. (1989). Sustained storage and transport of hydraulic gold mining sediment in the Bear River, California. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 79(4): 570–592.
Kanazawa, M. T. (1998). Efficiency in Western Law: The development of the California Doctrine, 1850–1911. Journal of Legal Studies 27(1): 159–185.
Kelly, R., and Kelly, M. (1983). Arrastras: Unique Western historic milling sites. Historical Archaeology 17(1): 85–95.
Knapp, B., Pigott, V., and Herbert, E. (1998). Social Approaches to an Industrial Past: The Archaeology and Anthropology of Mining, Routledge, London.
Lawrence, S. (2000). Dolly’s Creek: An Archaeology of a Victorian Goldfields Community, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Lawrence, S., and Davies, P. (2014). The Sludge question: The regulation of mine tailings in Nineteenth-Century Victoria. Environment and History 20: 385–410.
Lawrence, S., and Davies, P. (2015). Cornish tin-streamers and the Australian gold rush: Technology transfer in alluvial mining. Post-Medieval Archaeology 49(1): 99–113.
Lawrence, S. and Davies, P. (in press). The archaeology of Anthropocene Rivers: Water management and landscape change in Gold Rush Australia. Antiquity in press.
Lloyd, B. (2006). Gold in the North-East: A history of mining for gold in the old Beechworth Mining District of Victoria, Histec Publications, Hampton East.
Macklin, M. G., Lewin, J., and Jones, A. F. (2014). Anthropogenic alluvium: An evidence-based meta-analysis for the UK Holocene. Anthropocene 6: 26–38.
May, P. R. (1970). Origins of Hydraulic Mining in California, Holmes Book Company, Oakland.
Morse, K. T. (2003). The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush, University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Mrozowski, S. (2006). Environments of history. In Hall, M., and Silliman, S. (eds.), Historical Archaeology, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 23–41.
Nathan, E. (2007). Lost Waters: A History of a Troubled Catchment, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
O’Gorman, E. (2012). Flood Country: An Environmental History of the Murray-Darling Basin, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.
Office of Mines (1884). Mineral Statistics of Victoria for the Year 1884, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Ortloff, C. R. (2009). Water Engineering in the Ancient World, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Petchey, P. (2014). The archaeological interpretation of the New Zealand stamp mill. Australasian Historical Archaeology 32: 3–13.
Peterson, L. (1996). Reading the Landscape: Documentation and Analysis of a Relict Feature of Land Degradation in the Bendigo District, Victoria, Monash Publications in Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Melbourne.
Phillips, G.N., Hughes, M.J., Arne, D.C., Bierlein, F.P., Carey, S.P., Jackson, T. and Willman, C.E. (2003). Gold: Historical wealth, future potential. In Birch, W.D. (ed.), Geology of Victoria, Geological Society of Australia Special Publication 23, Geological Society of Australia (Victoria Division), pp. 377–433.
Powell, J. M. (1989). Watering the Garden State: Water, land and community in Victoria 1834–1988, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Rockman, M. (2003). Knowledge and learning in the archaeology of colonization. In Rockman, M., and Steele, J. (eds.), Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes: The Archaeology of Adaptation, Routledge, London, pp. 3–24.
Rohe, R. (1983). Man as geomorphic agent: Hydraulic mining in the American West. Pacific History 27: 5–16.
Rohe, R. (1985). Hydraulicking in the American West: The development and diffusion of a mining technique. Montana: The Magazine of Western History (Spring 1985): 18–35.
Royal Commission (1859). Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Best Method of Removing the Sludge from the Gold Fields, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Royal Commission (1885). Royal Commission on Water Supply. Further Progress Report, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Russell, G. (2009). Water for Gold! The Fight to Quench Central Victoria’s Goldfields, Australian Scholarly, Melbourne.
Secretary for Mines (1910). Annual Report of the Secretary for Mines for the Year 1909, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Seddon, G. (1994). Searching for the Snowy: An Environmental History, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Select Committee (1864–65). Report from the Select Committee on Castlemaine and Sandhurst Water Supply. Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Sinclair, P. (2001). The Murray: A River and its People, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Smyth, R. B. (1980). The Gold Fields and Mineral Districts of Victoria, Facsimile of 1869th ed, Queensberry Hill Press, Melbourne.
Spude, C.H., Mills, R.O. and Sprague, R. (2011). Eldorado! The Archaeology of Gold Mining in the Far North. University of Nebraska Press and the Society for Historical Archaeology.
Strang, V. (2004). The Meaning of Water, Berg, Oxford.
Strang, V. (2015). Water: Nature and Culture, Reaktion Books, London.
Surveyor, M. (1865). Reports of the Mining Surveyors and Registrars, Quarter ending 31st December 1865, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Teisch, J. B. (2011). Engineering Nature: Water, Development, & the Global Spread of American Environmental Expertise, The University of North Caroline Press, Chapel Hill.
Thorndycraft, V., Pirrie, D., and Brown, A. G. (2003). An environmental approach to the archaeology of tin mining on Dartmoor. In Murphy, P., and Wiltshire, P. (eds.), Environmental Archaeology of Industry, Oxford, Oxbow, pp. 19–29.
Tracey, M. M. (1997). No Water – No Gold: Hydrological technology in nineteenth century gold mining – an archaeological examination. In Kerr, R., and Tracey, M. M. (eds.), The Australian Historical Mining Association Conference Proceedings 1996, Home Planet Design and Publishing, Canberra, pp. 1–11.
Tvedt, T. (2014). A Journey in the Future of Water, I.B. Tauris, London.
Van Beuren, T. (2004). The ‘Poor Man’s Mill’: A rich vernacular legacy. IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archaeology 30(2): 5–24.
White, R. (1995). The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River, Hill and Wang, New York.
White, P. J. (2003). Heads, tails, and decisions in-between: The archaeology of mining wastes. IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archaeology 29(2): 47–66.
Wilson, E. B. (1907). Hydraulic and Placer Mining, 2nd ed, Wiley, New York.
Woodland, J. (2001). Sixteen Tons of Clunes Gold: A History of the Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Company, Clunes Museum, Clunes.
Woods, C. (1985). Beechworth: A Titan’s Field, Hargreen Publishing Company, Melbourne.
Worster, D. (1985). Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity & the Growth of the American West, Pantheon, New York.
Wynn, G. (1979). Life on the goldfields of Victoria: Fifteen letters. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society 64(4): 258–268.
This paper was prepared as part of a larger project funded by the Australian Research Council, ‘Cultural Landscapes of Colonial Water Management in Victoria’s Central Highlands’ (DP11010437), conducted in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University. We are grateful to individuals and organisations who have supported our research including Don Henderson (Shire of Hepburn); Kevin Tolhurst, Leon Bren and Ian Rutherfurd (University of Melbourne); Public Records Office Victoria and Heritage Victoria.
About this article
Cite this article
Lawrence, S., Davies, P. & Turnbull, J. The Archaeology of Water on the Victorian Goldfields. Int J Histor Archaeol 21, 49–65 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10761-016-0330-0
- Gold mining
- Industrial archaeology