Work crews excavating the building foundation of the new gymnasium at San Ramon Valley High School have discovered over a dozen more bodies believed to be the remains of Bay Miwok tribesmen.
A skeleton was first discovered at the site July 8, while workers dug a water line. At that time an archeologist and a Native American representative were named by the Native American Heritage Commission to oversee the removal and re-interment of the remains.
Andrew Galvan, named by the commission as the Most Likely Descendant, said that more remains were uncovered Monday.
"As of the end of the day Thursday, a total of 22 discreet individuals have been identified. Twenty-one of them remain in the ground. The one originally found on July 8 has been removed," Galvan said.
Testing is expected to determine how old the remains are, but Galvan said he would estimate somewhere between 250-2,000 years old. He added that because they have found some remains as deep as 8 feet below the ground and some as shallow as 3 feet that there could be a wide range in the timeframe the individuals were buried. Workers will examine artifacts found near the remains as a rough means of estimating their ages.
Galvan, who has served as Descendant on numerous occasions during the past three decades, said he is expecting that they will find still another 20 or more individual remains over the course of examining the area.
Several archaeological sites surround the high school location. Galvan said Tatcan was a Bay Miwok village located near the high school, and the workers may have uncovered a mortuary complex.
"Think about the little church on the hillside with the fenced in cemetery in back," he posed. "People did that because they wanted to be able to bury their loved ones close by."
An archaeological team will be brought in to take over the disinterment of the remains. "Each burial will be exposed," Galvan explained. "Think Discovery Channel, with the lines and the grids, using the brushes to carefully expose it all. Archaeology in America."
Once the remains have all been exposed, they will be carefully removed to an undisclosed location where they will be examined and prepared for re-burial in the Ohlones Indian Cemetery in Fremont.
In the meantime, work is proceeding at the high school, albeit more slowly. Earth moving machinery is continuing to excavate, but a layer at a time under supervision to watch for further remains. The major foundation work is expected to be completed by early next week.
School District spokesman Terry Koehne said the project is continuing. "We're still allowed to work in certain areas, areas where we have not yet found any remains," he said.
At this point Koehne said it is unknown if the discovery of the remains will delay the conclusion of the gym project or whether it will add to the nearly $10 million price tag of the construction.
Because the remains were found on district property, it is up to them to pay the costs associated with the removal process, an amount Koehne said would be around $25,000.