Archaelologists Find Evidence of Chinese Town

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Archaeologists have uncovered evidence near this Sierra town of what's thought to be a Chinese logging camp that dates back to the 1870s.

Artifacts found at the Tahoe National Forest site off Sawtooth Road include an ax head, metal files, opium can fragments, a Chinese medicine bottle and tableware fragments.

"The area is just covered in artifacts," Forest Service archaeologist Carrie Smith told the Sierra Sun newspaper.

The excavations will determine the historical significance of the site and whether it might qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The abundance of artifacts led archaelogists to speculate that the site either housed a large number of people for a relatively short period of time or was a more permanent camp.

Evidence of Chinese camps has been found in many areas around Truckee, but this was the first such site found on public land.

"It's an ongoing battle to preserve these sites," Smith said.

Also found at the site were remnants of an old two-person "misery whipsaw" used by loggers in the 1870s, fragments of a ceramic tobacco pipe and numerous nails that might have been used for a cabin.

"We've already found a lot more artifacts than I expected ... and it's pretty diverse stuff related to logging, metal working and recreation," said archaeologist Scott Baxter of Past Forward Inc., which specializes in historic resource evaluations.

"Basically, we're out here trying to determine if this site is important or not. Does this site have the data potential to tell us how it fits into the greater scheme of all the logging camps in the area," he added.

Extensive logging took place in the 1860s and 1870s in the Lake Tahoe area to supply timber during a mining boom in Virginia City, Nev., 20 miles southeast of Reno, Nev.

Collecting artifacts on public land is illegal and can carry fines of up to $10,000

"The really sad thing about archaeology sites is that if people come and collect things, it's like little pieces of puzzles getting picked up and taken away," Smith said.