No Evidence of Burial Ground Found at Planned Athletic Center Site

Photo: Independent contractors drill, sort and analyze ground samples taken from the site of the planned student athletic center.
Lara Brucker/File
Independent contractors drill, sort and analyze ground samples taken from the site of the planned student athletic center.

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Investigators found no evidence of human remains or artifacts at the planned site of the new student athletic center near Memorial Stadium, an area activists said was once a Native American burial ground, according to a UC Berkeley-commissioned report released Jan. 8.

The investigation, conducted last October, found no cultural remains, but it unearthed fragments of brick and ceramic determined to be from the 1923 construction of Memorial Stadium and 19th century Piedmont Avenue houses, the report said.

The area adjacent to the stadium is the designated site for the controversial construction of the Student-Athlete High Performance Center, a training facility that is to be used by 400 student athletes.

Full construction began in December and workers are now prepping the site and setting up underground utilities, said Christine Shaff, communications manager for facility services. The excavation stage of the project-slated to be complete by summer 2011-will begin later this spring.

In December 2006, protesters occupied the oak grove at the site in an attempt to prevent the removal of 42 oak trees and protect what they said was an Ohlone tribe burial ground. Because of the possibility of uncovering human remains, an archeological monitor from the Ohlone tribe oversaw the process.

The report concluded that, because the area could still contain other artifacts, a monitor would also oversee the excavation phase.

Andrew Galvan, a historian and an Ohlone tribe member, said he supports the university's actions so far.

"(If) cultural remains-including human remains-were encountered, the university would do what is appropriate," he said. "So far, to me it seems what Cal has been doing is appropriate."

The campus was not required to conduct archeological testing, but did so to ensure any remains found are handled "with dignity and in accordance with law," said Dan Mogulof, the campus's executive director of public affairs.

But local historian and Berkeley resident Richard Schwartz said the report contradicts itself by citing articles and research that calls the area a burial ground.

"Maybe they are using a really narrow definition (of burial ground), but I don't think it serves the truth," he said.

Schwartz added that the testing could have been more thorough if the investigators had used ground radar. However, James Allan, vice president of the independent consulting firm William Self Associates, which conducted the investigation, contended that ground radar would be ineffective for a project this size.

Instead, the firm tested for cultural and human remains by extracting 31 core samples 15 to 50 feet deep.

Despite the fact that about 12 burials have been unearthed in the last century in the area between Memorial Stadium and Faculty Glade, Allan said the area did not constitute a burial ground because the remains are so widely dispersed.

"Burial ground is (a) dedicated piece of property dedicated for burials," he said.

He added that it was unlikely human remains would be unearthed as construction proceeds.


Contact Alexandra Wilcox at [email protected]

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