West Berkeley Shellmound, Village & Burial Site

Picture of West Berkeley Shellmound

The Site:

West Berkeley Shellmound & Ceremonial & Burial site, CA-ALA-307, USA.


Corrina Gould, Sogorea Té Land Trust

The Location:

1990 Fourth Street, Alameda County, Berkeley, CA, opposite Spenger’s Fish Grotto. It is located on private land.

The Threat:

A mixed-use development of shops, apartments and an underground parking garage that would destroy what remains of the West Berkeley Shellmound and its associated burials.

Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Descendants of the Chochenyo Ohlone people.

Why is it Sacred?

The Chochenyo Ohlone people lived here from 3700 B.F.C to 800 C.E. Where people lived, they buried their dead and conducted ceremonies. It is considered to be the oldest of more than 425 shellmounds that once ringed the shore of the San Francisco Bay.

It evolved over centuries of use, spanning hundreds of generations, around the mouth of Strawberry Creek where it flowed to the Bay. The Ohlone, principally ate shellfish and they discarded the shells and added soil until the site become a mound. The mound or midden eventually grew to approximately 20 feet in height and several football fields long.

What is its Status?

It was chosen to be a Berkeley City Landmark in 2002. In 2003, it was found to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The following year, it was deemed eligible for the California State Register of Historic Places.


Pahne Maritime Village, California

picture of a body of water in a marsh

Part of the Pahne Village Complex, a Traditional Cultural Property and Sacred Site, is known by its designation as CA-SDI-13325. It is currently endangered by US Marine Corps military operations that are degrading the site.

Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Descendants of Pechanga and Juaneño Acjachemen tribes. Pachanga and Juaneño Acjachemen tribal representatives made an inspection of the site in May of 2017. Even though the Sierra Training Program had not begun, heavy track vehicles had made deep ruts throughout the site, displacing the decomposed granite and the underlying geocloth and exposing the cultural midden.

The mitigation is not sufficient to protect the site from vehicles weighing in excess of 30,000 lbs. The Marines have promised to put more decomposed granite on the site after each use. However, each time they use the site, they will have  grade and compact it.

This will eventually cause impacting erosion on the site and the destruction of the intact cultural deposits, including possible human remains.

“Military training operations by the U.S. Marine Corps

degrade parts of the Pahne Village Site – a significant

ceremonial and burial site.”

picture of a part of the Pahne Village Site which has been damaged by U.S. Marine Corps' machinery

Damage to part of Pahne Village Site by U.S. Marine Corps

Why is it Sacred?

 It is considered to be culturally significant and a sacred site. As such, it has ceremonial significance and as a village site it may contain burials.

What is its Status?

 It was listed as eligible on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It is    also listed on the California Native American Heritage Commission’s Sacred Lands Inventory.

The Location

Located in San Mateo Valley, this U.S. Marine Corps Installations West Marine Corps Base is known as Camp Pendelton, CA. It is on Federal land owned by the Marines.


The Threat

Part of the Pahne Village Complex is used for heavy track vehicles by the U.S. Marine Corps in a program known as the Sierra Training Program. The top 50 cm has been disturbed by heavy track vehicles and sites plowed in this manner contain significant cultural materials. The Marine Corps mitigation of decomposed granite is not sufficient protection.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Uluru's Iconic Red Rock - Copyright - Yifei Wu

Uluru’s Iconic Red Rock – Copyright,  Yifei Wu


Uluru is one of the world’s most iconic natural sacred sites. It has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of Sites. The site is sacred to the Anangu people of Australia who also co-manage the site and give guided tours of areas accessible to visitors. Uluru is central to the Anangu’s Creation Time or Tjukurpa. It is a place that embodies core values of their culture and is associated with numerous totemic ancestors.

Uluru Pictographs -- Copyright Yifei Wu

Uluru Pictographs — Copyright, Yifei Wu


These pictographs are used to teach values and history to children by women. The concentric circles refer to places and the “C” shaped pictograph – on the right site of the panel – refers to a person. The hand-prints were made by ancestors.

The pictographs used to be in better condition, but, early visitors to the site would splash water on them in order to see them more clearly and this has eroded the images.

Anangu believe all of Uluru’s natural features were made by their ancestors.

Uluru Cave -- Copyright -- Yifei Wu

Uluru Cave — Copyright, Yifei Wu


Uluru at Sunrise -- Copyright -- Yifei Wu

Uluru At Sunrise– Copyright, Yifei Wu

Australian Aboriginal Sacred Site Rediscovered After 70 Years

Elder's Survey the Site Photo: Central Land Council

Elders Survey the Site
Photo: Central Land Council

A Sacred Site, called Kurlpurlunu, seemed lost for over 70 years, as elders had unsuccessfully searched the Tanami Desert. They were recently flown over the land and an elderly pair recognized the site, which had a distinctive rock and tree.

82-year-old Jerry Jangala said it was the rock he used to visit when little. He recognized  two prominent sand mounds and a waterhole. He began singing the song of the place and then cried, proclaiming that this was a place for making rain called Kurlpurlunu.

News Source: abc australian news

An Ancient Sacred Burial & Barrow Site Destroyed in The Netherlands

Neolithic barrow or tumulus sites are being lost at an alarming rate in the Netherlands. Development projects for housing and industrial use employ archaeologists who excavate these ancient sites, often leveling them in the process before they are paved over to accommodate the development.

Photo copyright by Sacred Sites International

Dalfsen Mound Leveled Photo Copyright Sacred Sites International

Such is the case in Dalfsen, located in the province Overijssel, where during the process of building a housing project, 120 graves were discovered from the Funnelbeaker culture. The acidic soil had long ago eaten away at the skeletal remains leaving only shadowy, ghostlike images. The people buried here lived between 3400 to 2700 BC and they were the makers of hunebeds, or dolmens.  Beside the burials were grave goods including the elaborately decorated pottery for which the culture was known.

Funnelbeaker Pot

Funnelbeaker Pot
Photo Copyright by Sacred Sites International

According to ADC Archeo Projecten (ADC), the archaeological firm chosen for the dig, the burial site measured approximately 120 X 20 meters wide and and included remains of an earthen monument, which was marked by an oval ditch measuring around 30 X 4 meters wide or approximately 98 X 13 ft. The earthen mound was located in the center of the burial ground. The monument would have looked like a dolmen or hunebed, but not made of stone. A remarkable and very rare, ritual platform was on top of the central mound and was likely used for staging rites connected with the burials. All finds were south of a 5000-year-old sand road, the so-called Middenweg, which disappeared during the 1960’s due to land consolidation. Along this road the dead were transferred for burial. Postholes indicate a Stone Age farmhouse, measuring approximately 12 meters long, with a burial found near the mound. The oldest finds at Dalfsen are Mesolithic flints dating from between 8800- 4900 BC.

Daan Raemaekers, of the University of Groningen, commented on the importance of the discoveries at Dalfsen. His colleague, Henk van der Velde, manager of ADC Archeo Projecten, a firm that conducts about 500 excavations a year, stated on Dalfsen.net, “The discovery of this graveyard is not only important for Dalfsen and Overijssel, but it even transcends the national interest.” Although this was presented as the largest grave field of the Funnelbeaker culture in North-West Europe, the site was not be saved. Neither Raemaekers, nor ADC Archeo Projecten, with Niels Bouma as Project Director, recognizes the earthen monument as sacred, despite the fact that it was a burial site.  The cost to excavate and level the sacred mound was estimated at US $720,870, the amount paid to ADC Archeo Projecten.

Municipal authorities and Dutch archaeologists usually do not inform the wider public until after an excavation is finished, so there is no process for voicing opposition to the development project. The discovery of such a large Funnelbeakers burial ground in Dalfsen changed all that, and the news was reported on television while the dig was ongoing. The finds at Dalfsen were presented as new discoveries, however, the excavation appears to have been started earlier in the Spring of 2015, the first Funnelbeakers having already been dug up during February. If the public had known about this important site in February, then perhaps it could have been stopped and the site preserved. The lead archaeologist from ADC, Henk van de Velt, reported that they kept the excavation secret because of the fear of looting.

Once the news broke on Dutch television there was such a large interest by the public, that authorities felt compelled to open the site for a one-time only public viewing.

A Sacred Sites member  journeyed to the Funnelbeaker site, and on the way visited the forest of Veluwe, (province Gelderland) where there are  two preserved barrows that are part of an approximately, 6-km-long alignment, that is probably lunar oriented. This visit was designed to view barrows that were naturally and respectfully preserved in contrast to what had been done at the newly excavated Funnelbeaker site in Dalfsen.


Tumulus at Grafheuvelweg near Niersen

Tumulus at Grafheuvelweg near Niersen
Photo Copyright by Sacred Sites International

Detail of Veluwe Barrow on the Right

Detail of Veluwe Barrow on the Right
Photo Copyright by Sacred Sites International

There were thousands of people who flocked to the site on visiting day, which was advertised thusly, “Ontdek het grootste grafveld van de hunebed bouwer”s (Discover the largest gravefield of the hunebed builders). What did the visitors see at the dig? Well, nothing, for the archaeologists had destroyed all visible traces of the ancient monument.

Crowds at the “Visitors’ Day” Photo Copyright Sacred Sites International

ADC Archeo Projecten, despite being a professional archaeological firm, had contracted with students to do the physical labor involved in the archaeological excavation. There were some young students from the University at Groningen digging a trench, and recording information for teaching purposes or merely just for show, however, the actual excavation was over. Other students participating in the excavation were from Saxon High School and the Missing Link Mangers for Archaeology.

Daan Raemakers from the Archaeology Department at Groningen is also involved with the Funnelbeakers site which may indicate the elaborately decorated pottery found at the site will be studied at his University, along with the amber chains, polished axe, and flints.

The Visitors’ Day included a slide lecture that was given on the findings by Henk Van de Veld. To the side stood glass cases with some of the relics taken from the site, amber beads, stone axes, and the amazing Funnelbeakers pots, of which 120 were excavated.

Henk Van de Veld, Archaeologist, on Visitor's Day Photo Copyright by Sacred Sites International

Henk Van de Veld, Archaeologist, on Visitor’s Day
Photo Copyright by Sacred Sites International

In fact, Mr. Van de Veld appeared at a television talk-show where he actually passed around some of the pots for participants to hold. Of particular interest was a very small, decorated pot that was taken from a child’s grave. Imagine what would have happened if someone had dropped the fragile, low-fired pots. See link below for a Dutch TV broadcast.

Passing around very fragile ancient pottery from the Delfsen Burial Site

When the presentation over, Mr. Van de Veld was asked whether anything would be saved or consolidated for posterity. He replied, “That’s impossible.” A good example of consolidation is at Woodhenge in England which was consolidated by pouring concrete in the ancient postholes. This, at least, leaves a sense of what was there and preserves the orientation and layout of the site.

Woodhenge, England Photo: Wikicommons.org By GothamNurse

Woodhenge, England
Photo: Wikicommons.org
By GothamNurse

When asked whether he had contacted the Mayor of Dalfsen, to discuss with him the possibility of consolidating the ritual platform, sacred center of the Stone Age site? Surely the plans for houses and new neighborhood could be modified somewhat, so that the ancient memorial heritage would be saved? Van de Veld became very nervous, then evasive, his speech blurred, and then he walked off.

The path to destruction took years and involved a covenant with the Province of Overijssel which had the final approval over the development plans. It began on September 27, 2010 when the Municipal Council of Dalfsen presented their “Structural Vision” for building 900 houses. The municipality of Delfsen noted that the housing site had “high archaeological expectations.” For four weeks, the municipality of Dalfsen provided the citizens with insight to their development and building plans and ultimately concluded that the project had sufficient public support and the Municipal Council agreed upon the project.

According to Dalfsen’s Archaeology Policy, because of “high archaeological expectations,” archaeologists had to be employed as required by the Treaty of Malta.

Dalfsen drafted an Archaeology Policy in 2012 that stipulates:

a)     The commitment to meet technical regulations by which archaeological values in the ground can be preserved.

b)    The commitment to carry out an excavation.

c)     The commitment for the work or workings that lead to ground disturbance should be guided by an expert in the field of archaeological care of monuments which meets the standards set by the mayor and high municipal officials for the permit to meet specific qualifications.

ADC Archeo Projecten, the firm chosen to perform the excavation of the building site, presented the Municipal Council with three options for their dig and when asked by the Council which would be best, ADC recommended the second of the three, US $720,870. – the most expensive option.

A ground plan for the sacred site before has, so far, not been released to the public. The ritual mound may have been oriented to either the sun or moon, and though this is quite possible, we are unable to confirm this, as sadly, the archaeological ground plan is beyond reach, hidden in the Archis database, only accessible to archaeologists.

Ancient Burial & Barrow Site after Archaeological Destruction Photo Copyright By Sacred Sites International

Ancient Burial & Barrow Site after Archaeological Destruction
Photo Copyright By Sacred Sites International




Nazca Lines Damage Update

NazcaLHummingbirdUnukornoNazca Lines Hummingbird  Photo source: WikiCommons by Unukorno

Peru’s Minister of Culture, Diana Álvarez-Caldrón, continues to pursue the highest legal measures against Greenpeace, who seriously damaged the hummingbird figure, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nazca Lines, one of Peru’s great cultural treasures. She is holding Greenpeace responsible for illegally entering a restricted area and placing large yellow letters spelling out a message urging climate action during a Global Climate Summit held in Peru in December of 2014.

Representatives of Greenpeace have continued to say the stunt was a mistake, not illegal activity. Greenpeace has suggested that they will send a team to evaluate and repair the damages. The Ministry of Culture will not allow this and they have already undertaken steps to evaluate and complete a Site Management Plan for the hummingbird. A Peruvian team will be visiting the site to see if the damage can be repaired.

Continue Reading →

Winnemem Wintu Sacred Sites may benefit from Biologists’ Report

Photo copyright: Toby McCloud

Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chair, in Front of Shasta Dam     Photo copyright: Toby McCloud


Will the U.S. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Biologists’ Report

Save the Sacred Sites of the Winnemem Wintu?

In 2014, Sacred Sites International launched a Letter-Writing Campaign to help the Winnemem Wintu, of Northern California protect their sacred sites from flooding from a proposed raising of the Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.  And, the Wintu and the McCloud River Watershed, were featured in our 2008 Most Endangered Sites List.

We feared that the Winnemem Wintu sacred places were going to be lost when, in November 2014, California voters approved a $7.545  billion Water Bond with $2.7 billion earmarked for new water storage. The water storage portion of the bond could provide funding for the raising of Shasta dam.

We learned, however, on January 28, 2014, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 394-page revised draft Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act report concluding that they cannot support any of the dam project’s 5 options under consideration. None of the options for raising the dam’s level would benefit endangered salmon – the primary justification given for the project. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was using a fraudulent premise for raising the height of the dam and for justifying billing taxpayers $655 million out of a total cost of 1.1 billion for the project.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Shasta Dam is claiming that the 18.5 foot increase in the dam would result in the lake behind the dam storing 14% more cold water, enough to boost the population of Chinook salmon. However, biologists at Fish and Wildlife have said that habitat restoration along the Sacramento River would be a better solution than any of the proposed options for the dam. The biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also found that historic rainfall records show that there would be no benefit in 90% of the years, and in some cases, negative impacts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that despite slight benefits to winter and spring run Chinook salmon upstream from the Red Bluff Pumping Plant (RBPP), conditions downstream of the RBPP are so poor in drier years, that upstream benefits are completely negated.

The concern is that some of the report’s language might be changed and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Regional Director, Ren Lohoefener, who was appointed by former Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald, a Bush appointee. It should be noted, that Julie MacDonald was the subject of an investigation finding that she rewrote biologists’ findings to benefit extractive industries.

The Bureau of Reclamation must take the biologists’ recommendations under consideration and is still scheduled to release a final Environmental Impact Statement which they need to provide to the Interior Secretary before Congress can consider whether to fund the project.

Volunteer Day at the Ohlone Village Site (Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont, California)

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont, California
Sunday, June 22, 2014, 2 – 4:30pm

Join Sacred Sites International as we care for a 2000-year-old Ohlone Indian village site. We will help clean, weed, and renew structures at the site. The park staff will make a presentation about the historical and cultural significance. There will be snacks, water, gloves and tools provided. This free event is open to individuals older than 12 years of age and registration is required: 888-327-2757. Tell us you’re coming and we will bring a free tee shirt!

Contact us at sacredsite1 AT gmail.com