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ANTH 442A/642A - Historical Archaeology: Getting Started

Primary and Secondary Sources

"Primary sources provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic or question under investigation. They are usually created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later." 

-- Yale University Library (More)

"Secondary Sources: The function of these is to interpret primary sources, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event or phenomenon under review. Secondary source materials, then, interpret, assign value to, conjecture upon, and draw conclusions about the events reported in primary sources."

-- University of California, Santa Cruz (More)

Annotated Bibliographies

For more information on annotated bibliographies, see this guide on How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.

Documentary Research Assignment

Themes/sites (choose one):

  • Cornish miners in Virginia City
  • Native Americans (e.g., Paiute) in historic Virginia City, Carson City, or Reno
  • Stewart Indian School, Carson City, NV
  • Early Mormon settlement in Genoa
  • Fort Churchill, Churchill County
  • Lumberyards and flume sites (supported historic NV mining industries by providing timber)
  • Basque sheepherder camps and aspen art (might go to the Basque Library for this one)
  • Pyramid Lake Divorce Ranch
  • Donner Party sites
  • Sutro Tunnel


Find at least 10 resources that are relevant to your project; at least three should be secondary sources and at least seven should be primary sources.  Note that non-scholarly secondary sources (e.g., Wikipedia) are not acceptable.  Do your best to find sources that discuss both historical and archaeological evidence that would be relevant to understanding your theme/site.  If at all possible, find documentation describing archaeological studies relevant to your topic.  Choose your sources from at least four of the following categories (more diversity of data is better):

  • historic newspaper articles
  • historical photographs
  • unpublished manuscripts (e.g., ledgers, diaries)
  • books
  • articles
  • maps
  • architectural drawings
  • reports (e.g., CRM reports, archaeological site forms, Environmental Impact Statements)
  • US Census, City Directories, etc.


Jeremy Floyd's picture
Jeremy Floyd
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
University of Nevada, Reno 89557

Room 417H
(775) 682-5698

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