Rare Indian Burial Ground Quietly Destroyed for Million Dollar Houses

A 4,500-year-old American Indian burial ground—one of the richest and best preserved found in California in the past century—has been paved over for a multimillion dollar housing development in the Bay Area. And archeologists are pissed.

One angry archeologist had this amazing quip in the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story.

"The developer was reluctant to have any publicity because, well - let's face it - because of 'Poltergeist,' " said [archeologist Dwight] Simons, referring to the 1982 movie about a family tormented by ghosts and demons because their house was built on top of a burial ground.

So yeah, sorry developers.

For thousands of years, this soon-to-be housing development in Larkspur, California had been a burial site containing some 600 sets of human bones as well as instruments, tools, weapons, bear bones, and an extremely rare ceremonial California condor burial. "In my 40 years as a professional archaeologist, I've never heard of an archaeological site quite like this one," E. Breck Parkman, the senior archaeologist for the California State Parks, told the Chronicle.

In keeping with the California Environmental Quality Act, developers did bring on consulting archeologists to inspect the burial ground, though they all had to sign non-disclosure agreements. It was all kept hushhush until chatter at a recent archeology conference blew the lid off.

But the whole situation is more complicated than archeologists versus developers. The remains have since been reburied according to the wishes of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the most likely descendants of the area's indigenous people. The tribe was not keen on turning the burial ground into an archeological site. "How would Jewish or Christian people feel if we wanted to dig up skeletal remains in a cemetery and study them? Nobody has that right," a chairman for the tribe said to the Chronicle.

Ultimately, development in Larkspur sits at the uncomfortable intersection of competing interests among developers, archeologists, and American Indians. It's too late to undo the decisions in Larkspur—the 22-acre expanse is well on its way to becoming townhouses, senior housing, and multimillion dollar homes—but is there a solution that could have satisfied everyone? [San Francisco Chronicle]

Top image: House construction (not in Larkspur) via Helen's Photos/Shutterstock