PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (May 19, 2022) – A team of archaeologists has solved the mystery of what lies beneath a layer of abalone shells at a proposed construction site at the Presidio of Monterey.
Laura Prishmont-Quimby, archaeologist and cultural resources officer for the U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, said when stormwater exposed the shells a few months ago, she knew right away that archaeologists should investigate.
Abalones are large sea snails, and since humans eat them, finding their shells means humans put them there. The question was whether Native Americans deposited the shells – a frequent indication of a burial site – or others such as army personnel.
A team of four contract archaeologists spent May 17-19 digging and carefully examining the site, and after finding a horseshoe-shaped object and a mouth-blown bottle of wine more than a foot under the shells, the team determined that Army personnel most likely deposited the shells.
“Given what I know of the Presidio’s history, which goes back a long way, it all appears to be from the early to mid-19th century,” said John Schlagheck, project archaeologist for Dudek, a building services firm. under contract for the project. .
Prismont-Quimby agreed. “When you see a big, thick patch of abalone like this, but underneath you find bottles and horseshoes, you know from the stratographic sequence that the abalone patch came long after the historical period,” she said.
The military officially established the facility as the Presidio of Monterey in 1904, and Native Americans lived on the land where the Presidio stands today long before that. They also lived on the land before Spanish explorers first arrived in Monterey Bay in 1602, or began colonizing in 1769.
Prishmont-Quimby said the resolve of archaeologists is important because government officials need to know what is under construction sites before crews start digging.
If staff discover a site during construction, all work stops and the government is still required to pay the construction crew, Prishmont-Quimby said.
The site is located at Bldg. 279, a dilapidated former wagon shed, and garrison officials plan to address the facility’s critical parking deficit by constructing a parking lot on the site, Prishmont-Quimby said. The facility is currently using the area for parking, but it is haphazard and dangerous. A well constructed car park would allow for more space.
In addition to highlighting the importance of investigating potential archaeological sites prior to construction, the project also highlights how the Presidio’s intergovernmental support agreement with the City of Monterey makes obtaining services more efficient, said Prishmont-Quimby.
The company that carried out the work is the city’s on-call archeology society, so the Presidio had direct access to the society through IGSA, Prishmont-Quimby said.
“This is an example of a good partnership with the City of Monterey,” Prishmont-Quimby said.
To learn more about the archeology and history of the area, the Lower Presidio Historical Park offers walking trails with interpretive signs. Also, the city’s Presidio of Monterey Museum has a lot of information and people can find out more at https://monterey.org/city_facilities/museums/discover_museums/presidio_of_monterey_museum.php. To learn more about the history of PoM, visit https://home.army.mil/monterey/index.php/about/history.