'Devastating' looting hits Native American archaeological sites

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
State parks archaeologist Robin Connors inspects a grinding hole at a village site in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, where looting has been discovered. (John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

AUGUST 15, 2015, 7:22 PM ;  Reporting from San Diego
By J. Harry Jones

State parks officials and Native American leaders are decrying what they say has been a devastating spate of vandalism and looting at historically and culturally significant sites in San Diego County's backcountry.

 

At least five times in the past two years, looters have targeted American Indian archaeological sites within Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, authorities said.

At one site, 21 dig holes were found, each the size of a dinner table.

"I've seen some pretty looted sites across California, and that one was one of the worst I've ever seen, and it was one of the first ones we found," said Dan Falat, superintendent of California State Parks' Colorado Desert District, which includes Cuyamaca Rancho, Palomar Mountain and Anza-Borrego Desert state parks.

At another archaeological site, not too far west of State Route 79, the remains of an ancient village had been plundered. That site features a huge slab of granite in which more than 40 bedrock mortars had been dug by generations of Kumeyaay women. Deep and cylindrical, the mortars — used to grind acorns — had been created over several centuries, with some up to 1,000 years old.

Authorities said that, at some of the locations, they've found shovels, screens, rakes and other tools that looters have used to dig up the earth and sift through soil to uncover arrowheads, other stone projectiles, and pieces of pottery. [...]

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[Image caption: State parks archaeologist Robin Connors inspects a grinding hole at a village site in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, where looting has been discovered. (John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)]