Delphinium nuttallianum

The path winds through alders,
climbs above a waterfall, opens suddenly
to uncovered rock beds, strangely prehistoric.
Back in the shade: upland larkspur
already growing limp.
Spring is browning at the edges.
In bed you trace circles around my nipple
with your fingernail. I watch you watch me
bite my lip in the afternoon light,
already forgetting the indigo blossoms.
Forgetting to mourn them.
When I pull you into me
it is a different kind of grief.
I never know when this might end.

Indian burial ground paved over for million dollar houses
April 29, 2014

A treasure trove of Coast Miwok life dating back 4,500 years - older than King Tut’s tomb - was discovered in Marin County and then destroyed to make way for multimillion-dollar homes, archaeologists told The Chronicle this week.

The American Indian burial ground and village site, so rich in history that it was dubbed the “grandfather midden,” was examined and categorized under a shroud of secrecy before construction began this month on the $55 million Rose Lane development in Larkspur.

The 300-foot-long site contained 600 human burials, tools, musical instruments, harpoon tips, spears and throwing sticks from a time long before the introduction of the bow and arrow. The bones of grizzly and black bears were also found, along with a ceremonial California condor burial.

"This was a site of considerable archaeological value," said Dwight Simons, a consulting archaeologist who analyzed 7,200 bones, including the largest collection of bear bones ever found in a prehistoric site in the Bay Area. “My estimate of bones and fragments in the entire site was easily over a million, and probably more than that. It was staggering.”

No artifacts were saved

All of it, including stone tools and idols apparently created for trade with other tribes, was removed, reburied in an undisclosed location on site and apparently graded over, destroying the geologic record and ending any chance of future study, archaeologists said. Not a single artifact was saved.

Lost forever was a carbon-dated record in the soil layers of indigenous life going back approximately to the time the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in Egypt. It was, said several prominent archaeologists, 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," said Jelmer Eerkens, a professor of archaeology at UC Davis who visited the site as a guest scholar.”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.”

The shell mound was first documented in Larkspur in 1907, but no one knew its significance until a developer decided to build homes, prompting an examination of the grounds.

Archaeologists brought in

The development was approved by the city in 2010, but the developer, Larkspur Land 8 Owner LLC, was required under the California Environmental Quality Act to bring in archaeologists to study the shell mound under the direction of American Indian monitors before it could build.

The developers hired San Francisco’s Holman & Associates Archaeological Consultants to conduct an excavation, and that firm spent the past year and a half on the site, calling in 25 archaeologists and 10 other specialists to study aspects of the mound. As required by the environmental act, their work was monitored by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who were designated the most likely descendants of Larkspur’s indigenous people.

The American Indian leaders ultimately decided how the findings would be handled, and they defended their decision to remove and rebury the human remains and burial artifacts.

"The philosophy of the tribe in general is that we would like to protect our cultural resources and leave them as is," said Nick Tipon, a longtime member of the Sacred Sites Protection Committee of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. “The notion that these cultural artifacts belong to the public is a colonial view.”

But Eerkens and several other top archaeologists said a lot more could have been done to protect the shell mound. The problem was that the work was done under a confidentiality agreement, so little was known about it until March when some of the archaeologists discussed their work during a Society for California Archaeology symposium in Visalia.

Full article

5

Bioscapes

The beauty of life as captured by these award-winning microscopic images:

  • Delphinium seed, otherwise known as the larkspur plant
  • Branching red algae
  • Mushroom coral
  • The reproductive structures, or spores, of a common U.S. East Coast fern
  • The scales covering the wings of this prola beauty butterfly

Delphinium plants (high magnification of a seed shown here), commonly known as larkspur, derive their name from the Latin for “dolphin,” referring to the shape of the flower’s nectar-producing glands. Larkspur is in fact very toxic to humans and is a significant cause of cattle poisoning in the United States. Death occurs within a few hours of ingestion by blocking signaling between nerves and muscles.

Image by Sahar Khodaverdi, University of Tabriz.

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Archaeologists say the burial ground and village site in Larkspur held a treasure trove of information about Coast Miwok life and should have been preserved for future study.

But The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which made the decision to remove and rebury the remains and artifacts, say the items belonged to their ancestors, and how they are handled is no one’s business but the tribe’s. Read more.

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