7,000-5,000 Years Ago

A report from the Sacramento Archeology Association’s visit to the Marsh Creek State Historic Park in 2010. 

 

​"On Saturday, April 10, 2010 State Park Senior Archaeologist, Rick Fitzgerald, an expert in prehistoric archaeology and part of the NSF-funded team that has been studying the area led a group of 18 SAS members on a tour of the Marsh Creek Windmiller site in Contra Costa County near Brentwood. 

This site along a major creek that flowed into the Delta in earlier times ... contains stratified series of archaeological deposits dating 7,000 to 3,000 years old.

Research has indicated that the first inhabitants occupied the area by at least 7,000 years ago.  These people and culture are virtually unknown yet they resided on the property for about 15 centuries.  It is unclear what happened to these people. They either left on their own or were forced to move away by a changing environment.  Either way the Marsh lands were abandoned by about 5,300 years ago.”

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10,000-7,000 years ago, people were living in central California and most other parts of the state, from the High Sierra to the Pacific coast – including the Los Vaqueros area, just three miles to the south of the Marsh Stone House. They lived in traveling bands as hunters, gatherers, and fisherfolk, and some of their camps survive today in the archaeological record. Many of these ancient sites lie buried beneath several feet of sediment deposited by flooding, landslides, and other events – even historic-era gold mining. When these buried sites are exposed, they give us a tiny glimpse back into the distant past.

(Source: Written On The Land: 10,000 Years of Human History Along Marsh Creek - CA Department of Parks and Recreation)

The First Californians

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Six-feet of sediment buried archaeological deposits about 5,400 years ago onto the Marsh Creek plain. ​It appears that no one lived on this spot for 300-400 years. Then the land stabilized again, forming a new surface suitable for people to live on.

5,000-3,000 Years Ago

The erosion that occurred after 5,400 years ago dumped at least six feet of sediment onto the Marsh Creek plain. This would have been a period when the landscape was changing too much for long-term human occupation. The deposited sediment shows as a thick band of brown, silty clay loam.

 

​It appears that no one lived in this region for 300-400 years. According to radiocarbon dates on Olivella shell beads and burned wood from the site, this happened sometime before 3,700 BP (Before Present). 

 

​By around 4,000 years ago, the Windmiller culture makes its first appearance in the Marsh Creek region.  The Windmiller people represent one of the most sophisticated and advanced prehistoric cultures of aboriginal California.  They were accomplished artisans who made finely rendered ornamental and ceremonial artifacts out of alabaster, marble, diorite, steatite, shell and slate.  They lived on acorns, fish and hunting game. 

 

​The Marsh property was their home for about a thousand years (4.000-3,000 years Before Present), in what appears to be a large community, currently the largest known.  They lived in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys with their heartland being the Delta Region. 

 

Windmiller culture may have also occupied portions of the Sierra foothills to the east and apparently were a powerful influence on the Berkeley cultures to the west based on the presence of their stylized artifacts found through the Bay Area.  The Windmiller occupation eventually gave way to what is called the Meganos people who carried on the Windmiller culture until about 1,000 years ago.  Evidence of these people also exists at the Marsh property."