One of California's Earliest Visitors: The Discovery of Transbay Man

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The unexpected discovery of a well-preserved Native American burial 55 feet beneath the Transbay Transit Center site is incredibly exciting. The matrix surrounding the skeleton has provided unparalleled preservation of the human remains and the organic materials surrounding the burial. The adult male was wrapped in a large woven mat and fragments of a wood implement that resembles an atlatl were found at his hand. To date none of the burials recovered from San Francisco, the Bay Area, or central California, have preserved evidence of this nature. AMS radiocarbon dating indicates an age of 7570 cal BP, increasing the importance of this find in terms of the history of San Francisco and the history of native peoples throughout California. Burials from this time period are exceptionally rare, and the context in which the burial was found was deeper, older, and wetter than expected. This individual represents the potential to trace some of the earliest people to inhabit California, and to make a connection between them and the material culture and traditions that we know from historic period observations of living natives.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-5 of 5)

  • Documents (5)

  • A Burial in the Bay: Evidence for Environment and Diet 7500 Years Ago (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only R. Varney. Linda Scott Cummings. Peter Kovácik. Barbara Winsborough.

    Microscopic and macroscopic evaluation of samples associated with a 7570 CAL BP burial recovered on the west side of San Francisco Bay provides multiple proxy records representing the environment at the time this person was interred and possibly foods consumed by this individual. The pollen and macrofloral records indicate evidence of coastal or littoral plants, one of which, soaproot, also contributed abundantly to the macrofloral record. A wide variety of trees grew in the bay area, as did...

  • Genetic data from the Transbay Man (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Beth Shapiro. Richard Edward Green. Peter Heintzman. Sam Vohr.

    We present genetic evidence isolated from the remains of the Transbay Man. We compare extracted genomic data to other available gneomic data, placing the Transbay Man in an evolutionary context with other human populations, including previously sequenced Amerindian remains. We discuss the challenges of working with preserved genetic material from warm and wet locations such as the San Francisco Bay Area. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology...

  • Health and Mortuary Analysis of the Transbay skeleton (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christina Alonso.

    During the 2014 geothermal trenching for the Transbay Transit Center Project, a single burial was uncovered at approximately 1.8 meters below existing sea level, encased in estuarian clay. This anaerobic clay preserved the bone and associated artifacts almost perfectly. Radiocarbon dating placed this burial at ~7590 years BP, making it one of the oldest burials within the region. The young adult male was wrapped in a woven fibrous mat with numerous wood artifacts surrounding the legs and...

  • Holocene Transformation of San Francisco Bay and Transbay Man Site Stratigraphy (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jack Meyer.

    San Francisco Bay was created by post-glacial sea-level rise during the span of prehistoric human occupation. The Bay is the single largest Pacific estuary in the Americas (4,160 square kilometers) and is the outlet for California’s largest freshwater drainage system that carries 40% of the state's runoff. The earliest known evidence of widespread human use of the estuary or tidal resources in the Bay Area first appears at shell midden sites located around the Bay in the middle Holocene...

  • A Life History of the Transbay Man as Reconstructed through Stable Isotope Analysis (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marcos Martinez. Jelmer Eerkens. Alexandra Greenwald. Susan Talcott.

    By analyzing tissues that develop at different points in the life cycle, such as early-forming first molars and later-forming third molars, archaeologists can trace the dietary life histories of individuals from the past. Because environments differ in the food and water resources, these dietary patterns can also be linked to mobility patterns. This paper reconstructs a dietary and mobility life history of the 7600-year-old "Transbay Man" discovered in 2014 in downtown San Francisco, CA, a...