Monday, December 1, 2008
(Photo: Where Esselen Indians prepared acorn meal in Big Sur courtesy of surharper), all rights reserved.)
Detailed recording of Monterey Peninsula history started in 1770 when Spanish missionaries landed and brought a written language. But there were people living here for at least 5,000 years before that. They were collectively called Coastanoans (coast people) by the Spanish, but they called themselves Esselen, Rumsen, Salinan and Ahma Mutsun, different groups and cultures with different origins. Archaeologists have found at least 30 of the early Indian settlements on the Peninsula and have carbon dated the rock tools, sea shells, trash and bones left behind. The most recent find uncovered the oldest known residential site in the area – near Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. Archaeological Consulting of Salinas found Esselen lived there about 5,300 years ago. DNA testing reported in 2006 found those earliest known inhabitants lived on diets of mostly sea otters and seals, with some shellfish and fish and very few plants, seeds or nuts.