Rare Indian Burial Ground Quietly Destroyed for Million Dollar Houses

Illustration for article titled 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.

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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.

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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

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DISCUSSION

Iwantmystarback
Iwantmystarback

I think we need to start a very real discussion about the fact that a majority of the dead are still given a traditional burial plot and eventually, we will run out of land to put these bodies into.

I get why archaeologists are upset but I also put very little value on a corpse. I know I am not the only one who thinks this way and I know there are others who think differently but a corpse is an emtpy vessel. I don't want you to take valuable land to give my corpse a place to rot any more than I want you to buy a parking spot for my car to rust into pieces after I am gone.

I think we are still very in the dark ages when it comes to funeral arrangements and death. We focus so much on the physical appearance of a human being that it overshadows the spirit of them. I want to be remembered for who I was, not how I looked. I don't want people to then see me as a stone or placard. I don't want to be some screwed up dedication site, where people can lay flowers.

That said, do whatever you want with my body, just don't bury me in a $2000 box under 6 feet of soil. Stuff me, launch me into space, burn me, compost me, blend me into a smoothie, etc. I'm no longer living and my body is of no use.

Again, I understand that others opinions on this are much different than mine.