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Unearthing Local History Artifact Found at Newhall Land Commercial Development Site

April 18, 2007

By JUDY O’ROURKE\ Staff Writer

VALENCIA — As earthmovers flatten land near town for a new commerce center, they’ve unearthed a relic of the past: a stone bowl used by indigenous peoples for grinding food.

The bowl — called a metate — was found under the watchful eye of a tribe member standing guard as the land near Castaic Junction is graded.

“You can’t stop development … that’s why it’s important for us to be the protectors and caretakers of our land,” said Randy Guzman- Folkes, cultural and environmental director for the Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. “The Tataviam people consider this a shrine area, that’s why we take caution with cultural resources.”

The artifact measures 10 inches in diameter. Tests will be performed to determine its age.

The Tataviam inhabited the Santa Clarita Valley hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years ago. Some groups lived in the area year around. They hunted small animals and gathered yucca, acorns and berries.

Metates were used for milling and grinding acorns.

Guzman-Folkes has been on the premises since October and could remain for months more as the Newhall Land and Farming Company erects the center on a parcel near state Route 126, adjacent to Interstate 5.

Dirt has been redistributed by dozers and flooding over time. Unlike archaeological digs, which tie items to a fixed plot of land, the bowl may have migrated from points unknown. It was found March 26.

Earth-moving ceased for two hours after it emerged as workers searched for more items — including a pestle that would have partnered with the bowl — but none was found. Guzman-Folkes praised efforts made by Concord, Calif.-based Independent Construction Co., particularly foreman Kit Sauer.

“(They) were very compassionate to our needs of finding more around the area where we found the metate,” he said.

Work resumed the next day.

Monitors such as Guzman-Folkes, 43, help identify historically significant areas and protect discoveries from harm. They represent tribal interests and serve as liaisons among tribes, the city and developers. Guzman-Folkes has been on hand since October and could remain for five months more.

The general area was found to be rich in cultural resources when Caltrans built a junction years ago. Remains of 34 ancestral tribe members were found within in a half-mile radius of the project site.

Tribal administrator Rudy Ortega Jr. said similar bowls were packed for travels from village to village. Native villages dotted outposts such as Sumo, Camulos, Piru, Castaic, the downtown Newhall area and Towsley Canyon.

Newhall Land is hands-off with the finds, he said.

“The ownership of the land is (theirs) but since they’re artifacts of our ancestors they (agreed) they should rightfully belong to the tribe,” Ortega said.

Earlier, grinding stones and arrowhead fragments likely used by members of the Tataviam hundreds of years ago were found adjacent to where the extension of Newhall Ranch Road will be built.

They were spotted by an archaeologist hired by Newhall Land to survey the area where its 1,089-home River Village development was planned, at the eastern end of Newhall Ranch Road north of the Santa Clara River. Significant artifacts were found in two areas.

The lower of the two sites will be preserved in perpetuity and artifacts were collected from the upper site, a terrace above the riverbed. The surveyed area made up fewer than 10 acres of the 695- acre site.

Of the recent discovery, Ortega said: “It takes us back. Everyone in our tribal government was very excited — it gives us our connection to our ancestors.”

They may have more connections in the next 20 years as Newhall Land develops Newhall Ranch, a 21,000-home project west of Valencia and stretching to the Ventura County line.

judy.orourke@dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255

(c) 2007 Daily News; Los Angeles, Calif.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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