- More than 100,000 artifacts from three centuries of military
life have been dug out of the ground at San Francisco's Presidio
by University of California, Berkeley, archaeologists.
also have found some extremely early 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
other findings from excavations at the Presidio are being
reported this month by UC 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.
June 27, the public is invited to see the artifacts, meet
the archaeologists and view the pits, walls and living floors
of past centuries at the Presidio. The archaeological open
house will be held at the Funston Avenue dig from 1 p.m. to
7 p.m. and is timed to coincide with the June 29 anniversary
of the establishment of the city of San Francisco.
Voss, co-coordinator of the project and a UC 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."
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.
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."
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 that are known to have been imported
from Mexico in the late 1700s and early 1800s may produce
a more exact date.
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.
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.
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."
that tree-planting at the Presidio was undertaken by the U.S.
Army in 1880 to break the wind and replicate an eastern woodland.
But before that, the area was bleak.
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.
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 UC Berkeley graduate student.
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.
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.
said that at first the American houses faced west toward the
Pacific. Later they were changed to face east toward the new
City of San Francisco.
reason to change the orientation of the houses, she said,
would have been to protect front parlors from the ever-blowing
sand. It would be years before tiny saplings planted in 1880
would become the dense woodland that now covers Presidio lands.
dig is among the first steps taken by the Presidio Trust to
develop an archaeological management plan for the park, as
part of its mission to preserve the park's natural resources
while making it self-sufficient by the year 2013.