Golden Eagle Hotel and Oyster Saloon


In 1979 we spent one really hot summer excavating the Golden Eagle site in downtown Sacramento. The project was a child of the urban renewal era of the 1970s and ’80s that established urban historical archaeology as a disciplinary specialty. It was an exciting time in the development of the new field of historical archaeology and the Golden Eagle site played its role.

How was the Golden Eagle project different from other archaeological excavations in the American West?

The Scale: The site available to us was nearly one-quarter of a city block.

The Research Design: Instead of trying to record everything (that would have been impossible) we focused on features and collections of artifacts that had clear interpretive potential.  The rest we simply let go. They were destroyed by construction.

The Methods: We made extensive yet judicious use of a backhoe/loader to reveal the site’s stratigraphy, interpreting the sequence by means of the Harris Matrix.

We present the report both for its research value and as a historic document in its own right, in the belief that it deserves a place in the history of our discipline.

The Editors

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