Native American Remains Found at Berkeley Construction Site

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A construction trench outside Spenger's in Berkeley, where Native American remains were found on March 20.  (Wendy Kenin/Berkeleyside)

Construction workers have uncovered what appear to be “pre-contact” Indian remains while working on a commercial development project in Berkeley's Fourth Street neighborhood.

Workers excavating adjacent to 1919 Fourth St., the building that houses Spenger's seafood restaurant, immediately stopped all work on the site after the March 29 discovery and notified authorities, as required by the use permit, according to Matthai Chakko, a city of Berkeley spokesman.

Jamestown, the corporate owner of the property, brought in an expert who determined the bones, which lay among remnants of an ancient shellmound that sat for centuries in that area, were human. The Alameda County Coroner’s Office later confirmed the finding.

“Because of the context with shell midden around it, and because we know that part of town contained shellmounds, we know it was a burial and it was human,” said Andy Galvan, a Chochenyo Ohlone Indian. He serves as curator of the Mission Dolores Museum in San Francisco and often helps developers determine whether there are Indian artifacts on their properties. He is currently working for the developer of a major commercial project planned for the parking lot across the street from Spenger's.

The discovery of human bones triggered a series of steps required by state law, said Galvan. Jamestown notified the Alameda County Coroner’s Office, which notified the state Native American Heritage Commission, which then looked for the remains’ “most likely descendant.” The state appointed Galvan to that post on April 6. He now has the authority to determine the treatment and disposition of the bones found near 1919 Fourth St.


The owner of the property is Jamestown, a real estate investment company with a huge portfolio across the United States, including Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, Chelsea Market in New York City and the square block in Berkeley that includes Spenger’s, Anthropologie and Paper Source.

Update, April 10:
The developer of the Fourth Street site issued a statement to Berkeleyside through its publicist, in response to the original April 8 story:

“Jamestown is complying with local stakeholders, including the recommendations of the appointed Most Likely Descendent, in order to ensure the respectful and dignified treatment of the remains. In light of this discovery, Jamestown is performing further archaeological studies of the property and has enlisted a member of the Ohlone Tribe to monitor future excavation work. Construction will continue but all excavation work will stop until a monitor is in place. We are committed to the local community and protecting the traditions of the native peoples.”

Read the full story on Berkeleyside:
Ohlone human remains found in trench in West Berkeley