SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Runoff from our wet winter could be damaging a piece of California history—a secret archaeological site along the Sacramento River.
“This part of California was heavily populated,” said Jelmer Eerkens, an archaeologist professor at UC Davis.
“Archeology is one of the means that we can recover and preserve information about the people who were here before us,” said Eerkens.
He says there are hundreds of Native American sites along the Sacramento River. One site in particular, which we have decided not to name, is protected and maintained by the City of Sacramento and several other agencies.
“[It is] definitely a large prehistoric site and people had been living there for thousands of years,” said Eerkens.
A city spokesperson said they have been working to preserve the site since 2005.
“It’s a culturally sensitive site, and we do not want to call out the area to the public, in case of safety and vandalism issues,” said Marycon Razo, with the City of Sacramento in a text message.
“We don’t want to tell people where these sites are because they do get damaged,” said Eerkens, talking about the threat of vandals and illegal excavators.
Another concern for ancient sites is the drastic changes in water levels that happen during a wet winter.
“The faster and more water that is moving through there, the more erosive capacity the water has,” said Eerkens.
He says archaeologists try to stop erosion by putting material on top of the site, or by excavating artifacts.
“There is a constant race to try to preserve some of that while at the same time a lot of it is being eroded away,” said Eerkens.
Ancient sites under constant attack, meanwhile, Eerkens says it’s up to everyone, not just the scientists and city leaders to save our history.
“Collectively, this is our sort of heritage,” said Eerkens, “and we need to protect sites.”