Pursuing the Comparative Analysis of Gold Rush Lives by Tracing Material and Quality-of-Life Trajectories

  • Sarah HayesEmail author


The comparative analysis of artifact assemblages is simultaneously enticing and daunting. New research questions can potentially be addressed but a number of limiting factors can hinder the process. The first section of this paper will examine these limitations; the remainder of the paper proposes a model for conducting comparative research via archaeological biography, data mining, and tracing material and quality-of-life trajectories. The model was developed for the Gold Rush Lives project, which seeks to trace how everyday people faired in gold-rush era cities in Victoria, Australia. Drawing from the comparison of two households in Little Lon, Melbourne, the paper will make the case for comparing material trajectories rather than data.


Comparative analysis Archaeological biography Quality of life Gold rush Little Lon 



This paper was written as part of an Australian Research Council funded project “An Archaeology of Quality of Life in Victoria’s Gold Rush Era, 1851–1880” (ARC DECRA DE150101203), La Trobe University/Deakin University. It also draws on two earlier Australian Research Council funded projects: “Suburban Archaeology: Approaching the Archaeology of the Middle Class in nineteenth-Century Melbourne” (ARC Discovery DP1093001), La Trobe University, Deakin University and University of Melbourne; and ‘A Historical Archaeology of the Commonwealth Block 1850-1950’ (ARC Linkage LP0989224) La Trobe University and Museum Victoria. Many thanks to all the staff involved on each of these projects and to Museum Victoria and Heritage Victoria for access to their collections. The majority of the research presented here was undertaken at La Trobe University and I thank the staff in Archaeology and History for their support, particularly Tim Murray and Susan Lawrence. Sincere thanks to Noriaki Sato for discussions on the theoretical and methodological aspects of this paper. Edwina Kay conducted a literature search for this paper (funded by La Trobe University and Deakin University).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and GlobalisationDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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