A Clean Slate: The Archaeology of the Donner Party’s Writing Slate Fragments

Donner Map

Publication: University of Montana

Author: Molly Elizabeth Swords

Date of Publication: 2008

PDF File: Swords-A-Clean-Slate-The-Archaeology-of-the-Donner-Party.pdf


Archaeologists use material remains to better understand the lives and experiences of people who lived in the past. In the case of the 2004 archaeological investigation at Alder Creek, the location of the Donner Party’s Donner family camp, writing slate fragments were found. When I first started this project, I was given the task of examining writing slate fragments to explore ways in which it might be possible to identify remnant writing on those slate fragments to better understand the experience of the people who were stranded in one of the infamous Donner Party starvation camps.