The Archaeology of Nate Harrison: Legends and Legacies of an African-American Pioneer in San Diego County



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Home >> Special Collections & University Archives >> Exhibits and Events >> Exhibits Library >> The Archaeology of Nate Harrison: Legends and Legacies of an African-American Pioneer in San Diego County

September 15, 2008 - January 15, 2008

Nate Harrison Exhibit PosterDonor Hall
Library and Information Access, San Diego State University

The legend of Nate Harrison looms large in San Diego County. Mythical stories abound of the region’s first African-American homesteader, this former slave from the South who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries atop Palomar Mountain. The tall tales have grown over time; each subsequent generation adds to Harrison’s larger-than-life status as mountain man, pioneer, and emancipated slave. Dr. Seth Mallios, professor and chair of Anthropology at SDSU, started the Nate Harrison Historical Archaeology Project in 2004. Over the past five years, Mallios and dozens of SDSU students have excavated Harrison’s historic hillside home, unearthed over 20,000 artifacts, and, in the process, revealed numerous insights into everyday life on the frontier. In addition, Mallios and his students have analyzed all of the historical records, photographs, and narratives regarding Harrison, pinpointing important transformations in the stories of this famed Palomar pioneer that reveal as much about modern San Diego as its past. The following exhibit showcases their work as well as the archaeology of legend and everyday life.

  • Harrison standing at spring next to man on horse
  • Horseshoe found at Harrison site
  • Comb found at Harrison site
  • Harrison's mountain-based hide-tanning industry
  • Tobacco accessories found at the Harrison site

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Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Love Library Room 150
Phone: 619.594.6791

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