Berkeleyan Masthead HomeSearchArchive

This Week's Stories

Summertime, and the living is... hectic

State budget provides increase for UC

Economist Rabin wins prestigious fellowship for work on human behavior

Rabin wins for work to model people's irrational behavior

Fitting jobs to people

Presidio excavations turn up three centuries of artifacts

Understanding the sun's fury

Archaeologist's work buries the enduring myth of humans in paradise

Astronomy awaits the next challenge: to study the dawn of the universe

24-hour news through the looking glass

Campus proposes major changes to salary plans

Human Resources gets new leadership, structure

Professors join senior management

Barbara Christian, professor and pioneer of contemporary American literary feminism, dies at age 56

Experimental solid state physicist and former dean Walter Knight has died at the age of 80

Richard Newton appointed new dean of College of Engineering

A river runs through us

Summer reading list introduces freshmen to great campus writers

Regular Features




Campus Calendar


News Briefs


Presidio excavations turn up three centuries of artifacts

By Patricia McBroom, Public Affairs
Posted July 12, 2000

More than 100,000 artifacts from three centuries of military life have been dug out of the ground at the Presidio by Berkeley archaeologists.

The archaeologists also have found some refuse pits that may date to the earliest days of the original Spanish fort established in 1776. The pits provide new information about how colonists were using the Presidio lands when they first arrived in San Francisco.

These and other findings from excavations at the Presidio are being reported this month by Berkeley's Funston Avenue Archaeological Research Project, which continues its work this summer. Sponsored by the Presidio Trust in cooperation with the National Park Service, the project is the first to examine the daily lives of military families in the Funston Avenue officer's quarters.

Barbara Voss, co-coordinator of the project and a Berkeley graduate student in anthropology, said the dig had exceeded expectations. "We thought we would find a lot of material scattered around the surface. Instead we found these deep, dense features that are far richer and older than we ever expected."

Just how old the deepest layer is remains to be seen, said Voss. It could be part of the original 1776 occupation because it was discovered beneath a foundation constructed in the early 1800s as part of an expansion of the Presidio.

"The pieces of ceramic we found there date to the late 1700s," said Voss. "It's hard to tell if this is from the absolutely first settlement, but it could be. It is certainly older than any other deposit found so far in the Funston area."

Voss said that a fine-grained stratigraphic analysis of the site this summer should give more information on the early find. A study of ceramics from the pits, known to have been imported from Mexico in the late 1700s and early 1800s, may produce a more exact date.

The discovery consists of five pits, probably dug originally for clay to make bricks and later used as refuse dumps. In the expansion of the Presidio of the early 1800s, the pits were topped with fresh clay and foundations were laid over them.

The excavations also have shed new light on the lives of San Francisco's first colonists who came here to set up a military outpost and establish a Spanish colony, said Voss.

"Soldiers and their families lived within the fort. Most of the population were women and children," she said. Isolated for most of the year, the "outpost community of about 200 to 300 people had to develop its own way of living, learning how to cope on a cold, windswept, foggy, barren plateau."

Residents who lived there had to become self sufficient, perhaps even making their own ceramics, because ships arrived only once a year at this outpost of colonial Spain.

American occupation dates from 1847 and is evident in the sudden appearance of manufactured goods, including manufactured soda water bottles, according to Amy Ramsay, co-coordinator of the project, and also a graduate student.

It was a small outpost throughout the Gold Rush years. Speculation has it that many of the soldiers may have decamped in the night, headed for the gold fields.

During the Civil War, life at the Presidio bloomed again, said Ramsay. Excavations have turned up a substantial amount of intact Civil War material, including ceramics, costume jewelry, smoking pipes, pieces of ammunition, a live bullet and a tiny rhinestone the size of the head of a pin.



July 12 - August 16, 2000 (Volume 29, Number 1)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail