OAKLAND, Calif. (MCT) – A human skull and bone fragments unearthed June 5 by a construction crew working on a sidewalk on Dennison Street near the Oakland Estuary have been determined to be from an American Indian burial site, police said.
“The coroner had a historian working with the Native American Heritage Commission examine the skull and fragments,” said Oakland police homicide Sgt. Rachael Van Sloten. “He was able to determine they came from a burial site through various observations, such as noting that the teeth showed wear consistent with individuals eating food ground by stone. In addition, this was found in a location well-documented as burial grounds.”
The site is adjacent to the Hide-A-Way Cafe in the 1900 block of Dennison, near the Embarcadero, and historians say maps from 1878 and 1910 show that area was indeed the site of numerous American Indian burial grounds, also known as shellmounds.
The skull found last month was about three feet below ground when the construction crew started digging to remove two sections of sidewalk on a contract job for AT&T to replace an underground cable, police said.
There was clearly “no evidence that would make it a recent burial. No items such as modern dental work, a pocket watch, rings, and so on,” said historian Andrew Galvan, who examined the bones. Galvan can trace his ancestry to Native Americans in the East Bay before 1769 and holds the designation as a “Most Likely Descendant.”
He said the burial site dates anywhere from 250 to 2,000 years ago. The age or gender of the person was not determined. According to Native American practices, the remains will be reburied near the site where they were found, he said.
A similar case occurred in January, when human remains – which were later determined to be those of an American Indian child about 4 years of age – were found underneath an Alameda street when public works crews dug up a section of the 3000 block of Washington Street.
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