Calif. developer finds, then paves over ancient Indian village to build $55 million project
An ancient American Indian village and burial site in California that was older than King Tut’s tomb was discovered and then paved over so that a $55 million housing project could move forward.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the ancient site was found at the location of the Rose Lane development in Larkspur. The site reportedly contained a “treasure trove” of details about Coast Miwok life from as long as 4,500 years ago.
But all of the 600 human burials, the tools, the musical instruments and other items were reburied so that development could continue.
“This was a site of considerable archaeological value,” archaeologist Dwight Simons, who helped analyze the site, told the Chronicle. “My estimate of bones and fragments in the entire site was easily over a million, and probably more than that. It was staggering.”
After developers discovered the significance of the land in 2010, archaeologists and American Indian monitors were brought in as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. American Indian leaders were the ones who reportedly decided how the artifacts would be handled.
“The philosophy of the tribe in general is that we would like to protect our cultural resources and leave them as is,” Sacred Sites Protection Committee member Nick Tipon pointed out in defending the decision. “The notion that these cultural artifacts belong to the public is a colonial view.”
Tribal chairman Greg Sarris (pictured above) told KPIX that the first choice would be to leave the artifacts alone, and reburying the items was necessary if they had been exposed.
Archaeologists, however, said that all hopes of future study had been lost because developers had destroyed the geologic record by moving all of the items to an undisclosed location, and then paving them over.
Confidentiality agreements prevented researchers from discussing the site, until word got out at a Society for California Archaeology symposium in Visalia earlier this year. But by then, it was too late.
The Chronicle described what was lost as the “largest, best-preserved, most ethnologically rich American Indian site found in the Bay Area in at least a century.”
“It should have been protected,” UC Davis professor of archaeology Jelmer Eerkens explained. “The developers have the right to develop their land, but at least the information contained in the site should have been protected and samples should have been saved so that they could be studied in the future.”
New homes in the development were expected to be available for sale later this year at prices ranging from $1.9 million to $2.5 million.
Watch the video below from KPIX, broadcast April 23, 2014.