Collaborative Insights from Faunal and Human Remains from a Shellmound Site in Alameda, CA

Nicolette Lecy, Graduate Student Researcher

Sixth-year Interdisciplinary Humanities Ph.D. Candidate Alyson Caine led one of our spring 2022 humanities seminars discussing her archaeological work on fauna and human remains found at a shellmound site, which is a mound of earth and organic materials made by Indigenous people over hundreds or thousands of years, in Alameda, California. This project was made possible through funding from the UC Humanities Consortium Collaborative Research Grant and Caine worked under the supervision of UC Merced Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Christina Torres-Rouff. The pair collaborated with UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz scholars and the Confederated Villages of Lisjan.

Caine described the process of working with an archaeological firm, Archaeological/Historical Consultants Inc., and within the Native American Heritage Commission’s burial regulations when performing a rescue excavation at the Alameda Marina. She also emphasized the importance of the wishes of the Indigenous community, which had opposed the planned construction at the site and worked with the archaeological firm toward the goals of identifying the most likely descendants and the protection, proper storage, and reburial of material culture as well as the 187 individuals’ skeletal remains recovered.

Caine ended by discussing the value of this research opportunity in collaborating with other faculty across the UC to gain experience in various archaeological methodologies and discussed some of the struggles of working during the pandemic. Methodologies used included osteological, isotopic, and aDNA analyses, which can assess sex, familial relationships, diet, migration patterns, disease pathogens, and cultural practices of an individual. Beyond the individuals’ health profiles, the team was also able to gain insight into burial practices, material culture, and wealth distribution through the excavation with various scholars still conducting research on cultural patterns at this site.

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