This article examines the intertwined cultural politics of geology, mining, and archival media in the context of Japan's development as an archipelagic empire. The first Japanese geological map (1876) was completed by American geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman, who surveyed mineral deposits in Hokkaidō, Japan's northern island, long inhabited by the Indigenous Ainu people. Following anticolonial and archipelagic scholarship, the author reads across earthly archives of geological strata and colonial archives of historical documents to elucidate the conceptual duality of the archipelago as both a geological formation and a geopolitical territory. In tracing this formative era of Japan's resource extraction and settler colonialism, which precedes and informs the current rush to extract rare earth minerals necessary to maintain global digital infrastructures, this article aims to both de‐Westernize the methodological orientation known as media geology and offer a prehistory of contemporary rare earth mining in the Pacific Ocean.

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