Archaeologist Dr. Allen Pastron, under observation by Ohlone Indian and cultural resource consultant, Andy Galvan, conducted extensive excavation of the 1900 Fourth St. parking lot in 2014, searching for the remains of the West Berkeley Shellmound. They found no historically significant remnants of the Shellmound within the parking lot grounds, and the results of their research have been made available to the public.
click here to download an executive summary of the findings
click here to download the complete archaeological report
Archeological research and investigation on the project site was carried out in phases from 1999 through 2014 by the Bay Area’s leading shellmound archeologist, Dr. Allen Pastron, under the direct supervision of Chochenyo Ohlone Indian monitor and cultural resource consultant Andrew Galvan. Their systematic program, which included borings (1999 & 2000), trenching (2014), and ground penetrating radar (2014), was designed to identify and evaluate archaeological resources in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines. The primary focus was to determine whether intact and/or disturbed deposits of the West Berkeley Shellmound exist within the parking lot property. Berkeley writer and historian Richard Schwartz provided pertinent historical data, and was present for parts of the archeological investigation.
Dr. Pastron’s & Mr. Galvan’s work established with a high level of certainty that the West Berkeley Shellmound is not underneath any part of the site. They found no historically significant remnants within the parking lot site. In fact, prior to the intensive development of the Bay Area, the 1900 Fourth parking lot was primarily under water near the original shoreline, covered with marshy land and willow trees, as can be seen in historical maps as well as the soil profile seen during excavation.
The parking lot had been landmarked by the City of Berkeley based on the possibility of what lay beneath the surface. This was a speculative and cautionary move in the absence of real scientific evidence available in 2000 as the presence of Shellmound on the site had never been properly examined. The landmarked locations included the 1900 Fourth site and the two blocks to the west – not to the properties surrounding the site to the East, North or South.
Because this site had been flagged for this potential, the archeological team completed the highest level of scrutiny on the ground, using the most cutting-edge and rigorous techniques. Dr. Allen Pastron’s archeological testing included borings, trenching, and ground penetrating radar. This archeology went above and beyond what was required by law. The law requires a higher level of investigation at 1900 Fourth than what is required on other properties due to its Landmark status. All of the archeological work was supervised and directly observed by a Chochenyo Ohlone monitor.
1900 FOURTH PROJECT MITIGATIONS
Even though it appears based on significant research that no culturally stratified resources exist on the 1900 Fourth Street site, the project team continues to involve our Chochenyo Ohlone consultant and archeologist to work closely with us on the project moving forward, so that we can appropriately address and incorporate best practices for the treatment of cultural resources while the project’s Environmental Impact Report is being prepared and as the project continues through the development phase. During construction, an archeologist and Chochenyo Ohlone field monitor will be on site for observation during all ground-disturbing activity and in full compliance with all local and State regulations.
Although research has shown that it is unlikely that remains of the shellmound exist on the 1900 Fourth St. project site, the project team recognizes the long history and importance of the Chochenyo Ohlone in West Berkeley. The team has worked with members of the Chochenyo Ohlone community to present several options to recognize the long history and vibrant presence of the Chochenyo Ohlone in West Berkeley and support cultural activities and research on an ongoing basis. The proposed program includes providing a community gathering room within the project for use by Chochenyo Ohlone people for cultural and educational activities as well as several other options that are currently being discussed.
HISTORY AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WEST BERKELEY
The Ohlone people who inhabited the San Francisco Bay shoreline for thousands of years built massive mounds of shells and fish and mammal bones. As time passed, the mounds, sometimes tens of feet tall and hundreds of feet in diameter, also became places within native settlements where homes were built and eventually were transformed into mortuary complexes where the Ohlone would bury deceased members of their community. What remains of these sacred places are at once among the region’s most significant archaeological sites while at the same time largely hidden beneath foundations and pavement laid during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The West Berkeley Shellmound is considered one of the oldest and largest shellmounds in the Bay Area. Its true size, however, is not known. “Though a variety of archaeologists from the University of California conducted field research on the West Berkeley Shellmound through the mid-1950s, the exact limits and dimensions were never precisely determined,” said Dr. Allen Pastron, president of Archeo-Tec, Inc., of Oakland. The research conducted at the 1900 Fourth site, as well as the new findings on the east side of Fourth continue to contribute to the public’s knowledge of the shellmound as well as the history of Ohlone habitation in West Berkeley.
Note on Archaeological References: Per California Government Section Code 6254.10, information included in the archaeological report that references the known locations of other archaeological sites has been redacted from the public report. The full text of the report has been made available for review by the City of Berkeley and will be studied as part of the archaeological peer review under CEQA.