MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Future improvement plans on base have archeologists digging for more than just pipeline and electrical wire.
Camp Pendleton’s archeologists are revisiting more than 50 previously designated dig sites to safeguard the base’s history and environment. Site research and excavations are being conducted to ensure Public Works projects, totaling more than $700 million this year alone, preserve Pendleton’s past.
“It is just a real benefit to science that Camp Pendleton has protected so many resources,” said Roy E. Pettus, archeological consultant, Assistant Chief of Staff Environmental Security, MCB. “The preservation of archeological sites and prehistoric history allowed by Camp Pendleton is nothing short of amazing.”
Recent artifacts discovered by Pendleton’s archeological crew include; pieces of pottery, prehistoric grinding tools, and food remains, such as shells, suggesting occupation.
“Just three weeks ago, we were surveying and found bits of shellfish and pottery,” said Wayne R. Glenny, archeological consultant, AC/S Environmental Security, MCB. “This tells us that at one time there was some sort of prehistoric occupation in the area.”
More than 20 archeologists are working on Camp Pendleton’s improvement project, with some coming from as far as South Africa.
“We have some of the greatest minds in Southern California archeology out here with us today,” Glenny said, who also served as an officer in South Africa’s National Defense Force. “Regionally specific archeologists have the ability to better recognize environmental trends and past civilizations’ migratory patterns.”
Excavation sites on Pendleton range anywhere from 200 to more than 9,000 years old. A majority of this area at that time was home to the Luiseño Native American Tribe.
“It is because of Camp Pendleton that these sites have been preserved,” Pettus said. “Otherwise, most of these sites would have been gone 20 years ago. This base is almost like a safe haven for the environment.”
The base also ensures that a monitor from the Luiseño Native American Tribe is present to oversee research and digging.
Camp Pendleton is unique because of certain types of stone that can be found here, said Pettus, who is also a Navy Vietnam veteran. The next closest sites some valuable stones can be found are Orange and Riverside counties, which is many days travel for their past owners.
Piedra De Lumbre, or stone of light, is one of these minerals and was a trade item. It was extremely valuable to past civilizations, because it could be easily shaped into arrow heads and spear points.
This stone’s rarity made it a valuable trade commodity and really encouraged civilizations to settle here, Glenny said.
“We never know quite what to expect,” Glenny said. “We might not find anything today, but the next artifact is right around the corner.”