Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Applied Archaeology



First Reader/Committee Chair

Barber, Russell


Research on Chinese sites in California have focused on ethnicity, ethnic relations, and the material expression of ethnicity all of which are key issues in overseas Chinese archaeology. Chinatown sites produced data that helped define Chinese culture and experience in historical California. One railroad construction work camp site identified in 2016 located in the Cajon Pass in the late 1800’s offers the potential for insight into the lives of the workers. Chinese occupation in San Bernardino is not well understood, and the site may offer information on the culture, traditions, and integrations of the workers. Thousands of Chinese men left their impoverished villages; wrecked by the British Opium Wars, the Taiping Rebellion, and multiple clan wars, and were recruited by industries and immigrated to fill the demand for work as laborers, with wages lower than their white counterparts. Anti-Chinese racism and violence increased throughout the years in California, culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882, denying citizenship and pushing out those who did not meet criteria. Part of the field of historical archaeology focuses on the history of the modern world, such as early colonial settlements on the East coast or early Spanish settlers on the West, and is able to give unbiased accounts using the material remains, offering a perspective outside of written history. These trends left the study of the Chinese in California much to be desired, with segregated and static attention given where there was any at all. Chinese immigrants brought many items with them to California, including traditional ceramics for food storage, local currency, and leisurely items such as traditional games and smoking pipes. These objects can be found in archaeological sites throughout the western coast and states just further inland, like Nevada and Utah. Other kinds of work camp sites Chinese workers occupied were farming and agriculture, logging and mining. The framework of the project utilizes the theories of subculture group change, interactions between different ethnic groups and the expression of identity and other aspects through material culture remains, specifically the Chinese immigrant minority group, and their identity in the archaeological record. A surface survey and collection, along with several mostly sterile sample test pits, were the methods ultimately chosen for the Cajon Pass Work Camp site. Interpretations of the site and its artifacts, as well as suggestions for future studies, are presented along side tables and figures detailing the collection’s contents.