Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay as Sacred Landscapes

Author(s): Alan Leventhal; Rosemary Cambra

Year: 2015


Prior to the time of European contact ancestral Ohlone tribal groups of the San Francisco Bay region buried their dead within many "shellmound" sites located near the bayshore. Archaeological inquiry over the past century has revealed that many of these burials had rich grave associations. Even so, the prevailing assumptions held by the scientific community has been that these bayshore mounds were the result from the refuse of habitation/village activities focused around the exploitation of shellfish as an explanation of site formation process.

The analysis of the mortuary complex from CA-ALA-329 has permitted the development of an alternative perspective. This alternative perspective suggests that the burial activities represented at many of these mounds were central to, rather than peripheral to the function of these sites. Indeed, the resultant analyses support the position that many of these "shellmounds" served principally as formal ceremonial sites and mortuaries for high-ranking individuals over the centuries. It can therefore be postulated that, the important socio-religious Funerary and Annual Mourning ceremonies also figured centrally in the lives of these ancestral Ohlone. Furthermore, not only were these mounds deliberately constructed over time, given this alternative perspective these sites can also be interpreted as "Sacred Landscapes."

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Cite this Record

Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay as Sacred Landscapes. Alan Leventhal, Rosemary Cambra. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396110)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;