Friday, May 22, 2009

First Farms in Carmel Valley

The agricultural roots of Carmel Valley are frequently traced to Spanish priests who, in the 1770s, planted crops and orchards to feed the new settlements at the missions. But the European presence actually ended the original farming that had been going on in the valley for nearly 4,000 years. Rumsen Indian families had learned centuries earlier to harvest seeds in the meadows, till and plant them with “digging sticks” and turn wildlands into gardens. They also learned how to detoxify the acorns in the woods and mill them into edible flour. It took 13 acres of hard seeds and hundreds of pounds of acorns to support each family, according to Mark Hyklema, an archeologist with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The Rumsen, one of the 50 or so tribes generally called Ohlone, also burned their gardens periodically to control poison oak, clear the land and release new seeds. But after the Spanish arrived and started building settlements, they forbid the Ohlone fires and ended 40 centuries of Indian farming in Carmel Valley.

(Mortar hole for acorns apparently used by Rumsen Indians found in Garland Park courtesy of tsallam)

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