Pave Paradise, Landmark the Parking Lot 

Spenger's Indian Shellmound

The commission landmarked this fine parking lot as a monument to Native Americans (some of whom might have preferred a casino on the site). Actually, it isn't so much the parking lot as what may lie beneath: ancient Indian shellmounds of the type buried throughout West Berkeley and Emeryville.

Some people asked how the commission could landmark something no one could actually see. The panel itself had no such reservations. One commissioner at the time even griped about how Berkeley's landmarks ordinance favors "above-ground historic structures."

While some shellmounds are filled with archaeological treasures like ancient tools, bones, and shells, workers excavating for the Spenger's parking lot didn't find much of anything. Some Cal archaeologists think the good stuff is actually a block west, though no one disputes that Native Americans once inhabited this part of town and threw out their trash here. Yet neither is it disputed that most of the artifacts were carted off a century ago by the white man to fertilize his gardens and pave his roads -- and, uh, parking lots.


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