West Side property home to artifacts

March 13, 2003 12:00 am
Layers of cultural deposits are unearthed in 10-cm segments by JoEllen Ross. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
Layers of cultural deposits are unearthed in 10-cm segments by JoEllen Ross. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By LENORE RUTHERFORD

Workers have discovered what appear to be remnants of an old Indian encampment on the former West Side Lumber Company property in Tuolumne.

Archaeologist Shelly Davis-King said she believes the encampment was recent in archaeological terms — within the last 300 years.

"This site is incredibly important," she said, "because it is a snapshot in time and is directly related to people who live here now."

A layer of discolored soil a foot or two deep, containing animal bones, charcoal, burned logs, arrowheads and other artifacts embedded in it — 2 to 3 feet below the surface — was discovered by a Me-Wuk tribe representative.

To prevent vandalism or theft, the Central Sierra Me-Wuk Cultural and Historical Preservation Committee requested that the exact location not be given.

When workers last week started digging a trench on the property, owned by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk, Tom Carsoner of Tuolumne noticed what seemed to be an unnaturally colored layer of soil with a "cultural deposit" of artifacts.

He called Reba Fuller, the preservation committee chairwoman, and she confirmed it was an archaeological site.

Fuller and Carsoner contacted Davis-King, who contacted Pacific Legacies, a public resources management firm in Cameron Park, to help identify the find.

Soil has been sifted to find the artifacts, which need to be identified and preserved.

Archaeologist Lisa Shapiro of Pacific Legacies said less than 1 percent of the site will be disturbed. The rest will be covered and protected during any construction that occurs on the property.

She said her work would be finished this week.

Davis-King and Shapiro agreed the site could have been established by intense occupation for a short time or by a family returning year after year for several generations.

Davis-King said this is not the first time the site has been found. It was excavated during the 1990s when developers were planning a housing- and golf-course project for the property. That plan was never completed and the site was mapped, but left alone.