While looking through shelves of donated books at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, I found a comb-bound publication that looked as though it was made at Kinko’s. There was a black-and-white sketch of a Native American man dressed in feathers holding a staff on the cover, with a transparent plastic sheet bound over it. The document was published by the California Department of Transportation and was titled I-880 Cypress Replacement Project in Oakland & Emeryville, Archaeological Research Design & Treatment Plan Volume II: Prehistoric Archaeology. It was dated 1995. Inside were a variety of pullout maps, showing the proposed route of the I-880. One of the maps showed railroads, another landfills, and then, towards the end, Xeroxed almost into oblivion, was a map that showed burial sites and shell mounds of the Ohlone people.

This was a partial map of archeological sites. Its drawback was that it focused solely on sites that could potentially effect the construction of Interstate 880. I went to the Oakland library and looked for another map. I found an article written in 1909 by N.C. Nelson with a map indicating some of 425 Native American archeological sites. It wasn’t a complete list, but I was awestruck. I grew up around here and never realized the density of the native populace. I tried finding the most accurate locations of a handful of the burial sites, and then with photographer Paul Barron, visually documented what currently exists on their respective locations.


This spot, near Lake Merritt, was used as burial ground.



Remains were removed from here in 1876. Some artifacts were also found. Later, in 1952, Pacific Gas and Electric discovered a “bag of bones.”



The Emeryville shell mound stood 60 feet high and had a diameter of 600 feet. It was among the largest, if not the largest, in the Bay Area. Sally Salzman Morgan, an archeologist hired by the city of Emeryville to study the area, stated, “We did find a lot of intact burials. It’s too inflammatory to say how many there were. But most [burials] were disturbed.”



Although the exact location is disputed, the West Berkeley shell mound was located close to this intersection on Fourth Street.



This Burger King is located above another burial site.



There was once a large shell mound located here, adjacent to the 580 freeway.



The shell mound located in Richmond, CA, was a minimum of 3,000 years old. It was calculated to be 1,260,000 cubic feet.



A “large shell heap” containing some tools was located close to this intersection in Alameda.



This is a photo of the book I found at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse that inspired me to learn more.

Roberto Miguel is an artist, DJ and East Bay native.


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7 Responses

  1. Corrina Gould

    I am very interested in looking at this report. As an Ohlone woman working on the protection and preservation of our burial sites, I would am always curious about where things turn up. We do an annual protest at the emeryville site on the day after thanksgiving each year and our group led an occupation of a burial site in Vallejo for 109 days in 2011, and have led shellmound peace walks in the Bay Area.

  2. Christine Chun

    Watch Andres Cediel’s documentary, _Shellmound_, if you want more information about the Bay Street shellmound. He even has maps of where they found burials and how many sets of remains were found at each site. They drove piles into the ground to avoid remains, but still found hundreds while driving piles. All remains they found were consolidated into one mass grave on site, although the developers don’t indicate where it is.

  3. Katie Malling

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if these sites were still available to see feel and touch, so we could all experience the history that is here among us. What is wrong with us that we have to destroy all that is good and wonderful about ourselves that we cannot preserve that to share with future generations!

  4. Sharifa

    There is a request to boycott the Bay Street Mall in Emeryville as it was built on the shellmound there over the protests of the Ohlone. I have spoken with members of the Ohlone community in person who let me know this, however have found little about it online. Thank you Corrina Gould for letting us know. Here is one link I found: http://ipocshellmoundwalk.homestead.com/shellmound.html


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