Early History

of the peoples in the Central Contra Costa Area

Historians have identified the first local residents as probably members of the Bay Miwok linguistic division of Indians. Based on physical evidence found in the area, there are 500 known anthropological sites within Contra Costa County. At least two of, the largest are located within modern Concord’s city limits.

The first of these was a mound of considerable size, discovered when the Galindo Water Station Pumping Plant was built in 1906 on Solano Way, south of Arnold Industrial Highway. Indian artifacts and bones are occasionally still found at the site.

By far the largest and most significant Indian anthropological find was the Maltby Mound. Located on what was known as the Maltby Ranch (now Navy property north of Willow Pass Road), the site was excavated in 1908 by Ernest N. Johnson.

The mound, which was probably the main village of a Saklan tribelet of Miwok Indians dating from as early as 200 B.C. was further excavated in 1937 by a team of anthropologists from the University of California at Berkeley.

According to Professor James A. Bennyhoff, UC Berkeley professor of anthropology, the village was probably occupied almost continuously to about 900 A.D. It was then abandoned for approximately 800 years, perhaps because the nearby water supply dried up. It was used again as a campsite beginning about 1700.

The absence of glass beads at the mound leads anthropologists to believe that the site had been totally abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in 1772.

The mounds reveal much about the existence of these Indians. They spent the fall months in the oak covered hills gathering acorns for storage. They spent the winter in the village. In spring and summer, they divided into small groups and moved to nearby areas where fish, game animals, and greens were plentiful.

Their foods included acorns, buckeyes, grass seeds, shellfish, salmon, rabbit, deer, and elk, indicating they were hunters as well as harvesters and that they made many fishing and shell gathering trips to Suisun Bay.

A total of 38 Indian burials were recorded in the area by the UC anthropologists. When these Indians died, they were buried with all their possessions at the village site.

In 1838, smallpox drastically reduced the number of Indians. Hence, there were too few to put up any serious resistance when the Spanish took over their hunting grounds. The surviving natives were taken to ranchos or to the missions, where they . were eventually absorbed into the population.

Andrews — Page 7

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