Historical Archaeology

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 85–95 | Cite as

Arrastras: Unique western historic milling sites

  • Roger E. Kelly
  • Marsha C. S. Kelly


In Western North America during 19th and 20th centuries, lined circular depressions were used to reduce ores by gyratory crushing. These ‘arrastras’ represent primitive but effective milling methods and are found in historic mining districts as nodes in economic and resource exploitation patterns. From mid-19th century to the 1930s, the arrastra process was used and now offers a data base to historical archaeologists and others for a variety of research and interpretive approaches. The basic form, use, and placement did not change although power sources, installation methods, and complexity of associated technology may have changed. Arrastra sites were periodic or semi-permanent occupations, reflective of national or regional economics, and are ‘mini-industrial archaeological’ resources as well. Two examples are described and potential research suggested.


Mining District Recreation Area Kern County Pivot Mechanism Mining Journal 


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger E. Kelly
    • 1
  • Marsha C. S. Kelly
    • 2
  1. 1.National Park ServiceSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Novato CaliforniaUSA

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