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UC Berkeley Web Feature

UC Berkeley expert, campus officials refute protesters' latest charges

– In response to claims made to the media today (Tuesday, Feb. 20) by protesters camped at the grove outside California Memorial Stadium and by their attorney stating that the grove could be the site of a Native American burial ground, Kent Lightfoot, curator of North American archaeology at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, provided the following statement to the media:

"In 1923, during the construction of Memorial Stadium, a partial skeleton was unearthed. A site record (Archaeological Site Survey Record) was filed in what is now the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. The site record indicates that no artifacts were recovered with the skeletal remains. It is possible that a Mexican coin dating to the second quarter of the 19th century was found. However, this coin was never accessioned into the museum. The ethnic identification of the human skeletal remains is unclear. The records of the museum indicate that this is an isolated human skeleton. There is no indication from the records that this isolated skeleton is part of a larger archaeological site given that no other archaeological materials such as shellfish remains, charcoal, organic rich soils or artifacts appear to have been unearthed. The university has in place standard procedures for undertaking an archaeological survey of the proposed development that follows all relevant state and federal regulations. Currently accepted professional protocols will be followed to evaluate if additional archaeological materials exist in the vicinity."

Campus officials also strongly rejected charges by the protesters that the Environmental Impact Report did not report the existence of potential archaeological resources at the project site. The EIR clearly reports the "high likelihood" of discovering such resources, they said, and it does so properly by closely adhering to the state's guidelines.

The guidelines state:

"In order to protect the sites from unauthorized excavation, looting, or vandalism, the Lead Agency should not publicize the location of known archaeological resources beyond what is necessary. Records in the Information Centers are exempt from the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.). Government Code Section 6254.19 states that "nothing in this chapter requires disclosure of records that relate to archaeological sites information maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the State Historical Resources Commission, or the State Lands Commission." Along this line, Government Code Section 6254 explicitly authorizes public agencies to withhold information from the public relating to "Native American graves, cemeteries, and sacred places maintained by the Native American Heritage Commission."

The EIR for the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects, which includes the Student-Athlete High Performance Center, includes the following statements:

(A record search) "has indicated a high likelihood of locating prehistoric archaeological sites within the project boundaries, given the location of previously recorded sites and the proximity of the Integrated Projects Area to the historic course of Strawberry Creek. Prehistoric settlements in the East Bay area were often situated along or near the banks of creeks or other fresh water sources." (page 4.2-11)

It also states:

"There is thus a possibility that significant historic and/or prehistoric cultural remains still exist beneath the Integrated Projects area. Until actual subsurface archaeological testing takes place, it is not possible to predict with total accuracy the likelihood of finding archaeological sites or their precise locations. Therefore, though some areas are more sensitive than others, any ground disturbance to native soil has the possibility of disturbing an archaeological site."

The EIR requires every project proposed, including the Student-Athlete High Performance Center, to incorporate a number of preservation measures if archaeological resources are found. It states:

"In the event resources are determined to be present at a project site, the following actions would be implemented as appropriate to the resource and the proposed disturbance:

  • UC Berkeley shall retain a qualified archaeologist to conduct a subsurface investigation of the project site, to ascertain the extent of the deposit of any buried archaeological materials relative to the project's area of potential effects. The archaeologist would prepare a site record and file it with the California Historical Resource.
  • Information System. If the resource extends into the project's area of potential effects, the resource would be evaluated by a qualified archaeologist. UC Berkeley as lead agency would consider this evaluation in determining whether the resource qualifies as a historical resource or a unique archaeological resource under the criteria of CEQA Guidelines section 15064.5. If the resource does not qualify, or if no resource is present within the project area of potential effects, this would be noted in the environmental document and no further mitigation is required unless there is a discovery during construction (see below).
  • If a resource within the project area of potential effect is determined to qualify as an historical resource or a unique archaeological resource in accordance with CEQA, UC Berkeley shall consult with a qualified archaeologist to mitigate the effect through data recovery if appropriate to the resource, or to consider means of avoiding or reducing ground disturbance within the site boundaries, including minor modifications of building footprint, landscape modification, the placement of protective fill, the establishment of a preservation easement, or other means that would permit avoidance or substantial preservation in place of the resource. If further data recovery, avoidance or substantial preservation in place is not feasible, UC Berkeley shall implement LRDP Mitigation Measure CUL-5, outlined below.
  • A written report of the results of investigations would be prepared by a qualified archaeologist and filed with the University Archives/ Bancroft Library and the Northwest Information Center.
  • LRDP Mitigation Measure CUL-4-b: If a resource is discovered during construction (whether or not an archaeologist is present), all soil disturbing work within 35 feet of the find shall cease. UC Berkeley shall contact a qualified archaeologist to provide and implement a plan for survey, subsurface investigation as needed to define the deposit, and assessment of the remainder of the site within the project area to determine whether the resource is significant and would be affected by the project, as outlined in Continuing Best Practice CUL-3-a. UC Berkeley would implement the recommendations of the archaeologist.
  • Continuing Best Practice CUL-4-b: In the event human or suspected human remains are discovered, UC Berkeley would notify the County Coroner who would determine whether the remains are subject to his or her authority. The Coroner would notify the Native American Heritage Commission if the remains are Native American. UC Berkeley would comply with the provisions of Public Resources Code Section 5097.98 and CEQA Guidelines Section 15064.5(d) regarding identification and involvement of the Native American Most Likely Descendant and with the provisions of the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to ensure that the remains and any associated artifacts recovered are repatriated to the appropriate group, if requested.
  • Continuing Best Practice CUL-4-c: Prior to disturbing the soil, contractors shall be notified that they are required to watch for potential archaeological sites and artifacts and to notify UC Berkeley if any are found. In the event of a find, UC Berkeley shall implement LRDP Mitigation Measure CUL-4-b.