By Flossie Horgan
OC Voice guest columnist
Native American Discoveries at Brightwater, upper Bolsa Chica Mesa
Issues concerning the archaeological excavations at Brightwater continue to grow. In a letter dated April 8, 2008, to the California Coastal Commission, the Native American Heritage Commission Larry Myers states “The NAHC remains concerned about the Brightwater- Bolsa Chica Project. The NAHC has not received a report clearly showing the dates, locations and details of burial discoveries. At this point based on information available and the large number of burials recovered and associated items, it appears that the whole area may be a burial ground.”
We have learned:
- The reburials of the human remains were far more than “bone fragments” as conveyed by the coroner reports. Burials of “the ORA 85 people” are not a few bone fragments.
- The archaeologist for the developer has confirmed that “the 22 cogged stones found at the ‘house pit’ of an apparent Shaman or tribal leader are clearly associated grave goods.”
- Over 100,000 artifacts
- 4,217 artifacts found during the grading monitoring on ORA 83
- 83 prehistoric features uncovered with the burials
- 1,622 artifacts found during the grading monitoring on ORA 85
- 87 human “bone concentrations” need to be reburied
These recent disclosures raise much larger questions than who is to blame for the current situation. There has never been any doubt that the Cogged Stone site at Bolsa Chica was of international significance. The State Historic Preservation Commission voted in 2001 overwhelmingly to approve listing the Cogged Stone site as a historic site. The only other locations on earth that have such a concentration of the 8,000 year old cogged stones are two sites in Chile, Huentelauquen site and Quebrada Las Conchas. That alone speaks to the amazing significance of this site.
What is being missed in the recent discourse is the tragic loss of our collective history. The first people of our region lived and raised their families here 8,000 years ago, fished in the water off Bolsa Chica, fashioned tools and jewelry, manufactured these mysterious cogged stones, traveled across to Catalina and laid their loved ones to rest here. All of this was happening 4,000 years before Stonehenge was built, and over 3,000 years before the pyramids of Egypt were constructed.
The fact that it is the last early Holocene coastal village site with an associated cemetery in Orange County should give us all pause. If this had been a Christian burial site, the site would be treated with reverence it deserves. What can be done to recover and remember our collective history? We recognize that Hearthside Homes has the permits to build on the 65 acres. Would it be so difficult for Hearthside to stop and reconsider this development footprint?
Bolsa Chica is such a place of natural beauty and archaeological significance that a memorial would be a wonderful way to save our precious history and help us all remember the ancient history of this region. Our children and their children would have a way to connect with their first people of Bolsa Chica by visiting this significant site.
Footnote: There will be a revocation hearing on this issue at the November Coastal Commission meeting in Long Beach (The location changed since press time for the OC Voice print edition). The petition for revocation was signed by Native Americans from various tribes, the California Cultural Resources Alliance and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.
Flossie Horgan is Executive Director of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust