Remixing El Presidio

June 11, 2008

Google Earth and Sketchup

Filed under: Uncategorized — colleenmorgan @ 3:01 pm
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Cinzia, one of the instructors for the Remixing El Presidio project, has created some incredible geospatial mash-ups with Google Earth and Sketchup.  First, Sal’s 1792 plan of the Presidio with the 1812 extension of the main quadrangle overlay in yellow:

My favorite is the 3D model she created with sketchup:

You can adjust things like the time of day to check out the color variations and the shadows:

If you want to check it out for yourself, just download this folder and open the files in Google Earth!

More permanent hosting TBA.


Juana Briones

Filed under: Uncategorized — bectha11 @ 2:34 pm

The Briones Experience

While gazing into the life of Juana Briones, I found that she was more than just a woman. She was a healer (of medicine) and businesswoman. She accomplished and overcame several obstacles during the Spanish Colonial period. I became very interested in Briones for many reasons, one: she was a woman of color, two: her occupation as a healer and three: her being an independent individual. When I first begun my research on the Remixing EL Presidio Project, I was moving toward women involvement and just looking at medicine that was used by Briones and the Native Californians (Ohlone). However all of that changed when I started to explore the uses of the plants that were here during Briones time.

I got a chance to talk to one of EL Presidios Park Rangers, Fatima Colindres; she has been studying Briones herself for the past few years. The information I received from Colindres about EL Presidio and Briones inspired me to learn more about plant use and African Americans in California. She also explained some controversy of Briones being labeled as mulatto and other roles of the Bay Area Natives; I was amazed at everything she had to say.

At first I was getting all my information from one source, until I had went to visit the El Presidios Archaeology Lab. When I got their there were numerous archives and other books that referenced Briones and El Polin Springs. The Archaeologist who worked at the lab was very helpful and bombarded me and two other classmates with data. Overall learning about Juana Briones helped me lift my researching skills and pin pointed me toward other directions. I have learned so much about Medical Plants that I will be furthering my understanding of natural healing.

Rebecca Caroline McGee

June 10, 2008

The Joys of Metadata

Filed under: Uncategorized — megballock @ 3:07 pm

When Colleen asked me what it was like to be Metador I instantly thought that stressful was the appropriate answer, I then began to realize the Joys of Metadata. Being the Black Sheep Business major I am upfront and honest about my control issues, my favorite thing about Metadata is that I get to exploit these issues and own them. Although it is a big task to undertake I am glad that I did, sleep is now a thing of the past but that is OK. Editing Metadata is not the easiest or most thrilling of positions, however, it does allow rules of methodology and organization come in to play, and these things take me to my happy place. As Metador I feel that we are creating a resource, that if done correctly could benefit a variety of people or organizations, this is what keeps it interesting for me. That and writing vicious comments on my post-its, those at the end of the night are the luckiest…

June 9, 2008

Remixing El Presidio Open House

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Please join us on Friday, June 13th at 11:00AM for an open house at the El Presidio of San Francisco.  We will demonstrate the digital interpretive trail created by the University of California, Berkeley class, Digital Documentation and Representation in Archaeology.  We will be walking around the footprint of the 1790 fort and visiting El Polin Springs, home of the famous Juana Briones.  Come and experience San Francisco history at this unique technological event.

When: 11:00 AM

Where: The Officers’ Club at the San Francisco Presidio, 50 Moraga Avenue

The idea of this field-school has developed as a result of both the design charrette held in August 2007 by the archaeologists of the Presidio Trust to plan their research and public programs of the El Presidio (Spanish and Mexican) fort and the Presidio Trusts new plan for the Main Post including the Anza Esplanade. Ruth Tringham is a consultant on this project. In addition the UCB Dept of Anthropology is currently administering and sponsoring a large private grant (Shaw Foundation), which includes funding for the new Coordinator of Public Programs for the El Presidio (Levantar) project at the SF Presidio.

The course is on “New Media and Cultural Heritage” and focuses on the real world challenge of creating interpretive walks and other installations for the public that involve wireless technology, digital geomapping, storytelling etc, globally and, specifically, at the El Presidio fort and the de Anza trail (the Levantar Project), which is the current focus of research of the Archaeology Group at the SF Presidio. The course involves the design, field trial, and documentation of these different formats of representation of cultural heritage places. The aim is to seek alternatives to permanent markers of information about places, leveraging different forms of digital media. The course takes advantage of the many specialists in these technologies in the Bay Area with whom we have contact and who have offered to contribute their help to the course (CyArk, Cultural Heritage Imaging and others). It will also build on our own research in the Remediated Places project at Catalhöyük and the SF Presidio.

June 4, 2008

Using Flickr to Geospatially Embed Archaeological Interpretation

Presidio iPhone/Memory Map Test

The Presidio Archaeology Lab created an amazing GIS overlay of Sal’s 1792 plan of the original San Francisco Presidio, triangulating the position from excavations performed by the many field schools over the years. Using the GIS overlay as a guide, I recreated the footprint of the 1792 Presidio Quad as a Memory Map in Flickr, accessible by mobile phones and geospatially located.  This is a small part of a larger project of interpretation trails at the San Francisco Presidio, and it factors heavily into my dissertation on emplaced archaeological interpretation.  Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating your own enhanced landscape.

1) Take a screenshot of the area you’d like to annotate.  On Macs you can do this by typing command-shift-3.

2) Edit this image down to the desired size/location.  I usually use photoshop and correct the satellite image for color.

3) Upload this image to Flickr.  You can also use google earth for this same effect, but as of yet, you cannot access google earth from cellphones.

4) Add notes to the photo using Flickr’s toolbar.  When someone moves their mouse over the photo, then the notes appear.  This also works with touch-screen cell phones such as the iphone.  Unfortunately you can only add rectangles, but that should work for Americanist archaeology, at least!  You can also add links to other images inside of the note.

5) Add the photo to Flickr’s map. This gives you a (very) rough lat/long that will allow other people to locate your interpreted data.

6) Embed your photo into your blog/website with Mbedr. Unfortunately I’ve been having problems with this on wordpress–for an example, check out this post on livejournal.  Using Mbedr preserves your flickr notes outside of flickr.


7) You should now be able to access the image on your cellphone, with the notes intact.  This also works on the One Laptop Per Child laptops, which delights me to no end.

The Quad/Transitional Area

Filed under: Uncategorized — colleenmorgan @ 6:06 pm

A love affair
On April 8, 1806 the Russian ship Juno, on a desperate mission to obtain food, entered the bay of San Francisco carrying the Chamberlain Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov (Iverson 2). For four weeks the Russian ship stayed in the harbor, in an attempt to trade with the residents of el Presidio. These efforts were aided by Maria de la Concepcion Marcela Arguello, the eldest daughter of the Comandancia Arguello. During their time together Rezanov fell deeply in love with Concepcion, proposed to her and she accepted (Iverson 3). When Rezanov asked the Comandancia for Concepcion’s hand in marriage, a bigger issue was at play Rezanov was Russian Orthodox while Concepcion was Roman Catholic, the union was to be a “mixed marriage” and while the betrothal was allowed, permission from the pope was required for a wedding to take place. So, Rezanov left and promised to return in two years with permission to wed and Concepcion promised to marry him and no one else (Iverson 4). Once back in Russia he was urged to return to St. Petersburg, in the midst of winter he travelled by sleigh and fell ill multiple times, the last time however he fell off of his horse suffered a fatal injury to his head (Iverson 4). It is unknown exactly when Concepcion found out about the death of her love, and although urged by others she kept her vow and never married. The tragic tale of Rezanov and Concepcion has become one of the most beautiful love stories in the history of San Francisco.
Megan Ballock

Works Cited
Iverson, E. 1998 The Romance of Nikolai Rezanov and Concepcion Arguello: A Literary Legend and Its Effect on California History. The Limestone Press, Fairbanks, AK.

Social Interactions
Once the colony was established at Fort Ross and trade with el Presidio de San Francisco became a regular activity. And as an increasing number of European visitors sailed through the mouth of San Francisco Bay the settlers needed to escape from the monotony of colonial life. They also needed to prove to incoming ships that they were still apart of the civilized European community, and the quadrangle of el Presidio de San Francisco represented the face of this new thriving community (Voss 66). A welcomed break was often found through, “social events between the two settlements foster[ing] friendships, alliances, and romance among the colonial communities” (Voss 201). While it is difficult to envision what these social interactions would look like, we do know that they included dinner parties, dances (fandangos) and the infamous bull-and-bear fights. Traditionally these fights would include a bull, representing Spain, and a bear, representing Russia, in a fight to the death. The colonists would send hunting parties out to retrieve a California Grizzly Bear from the north and a traditional Spanish Bull from a southern ranchero (Blind 2008). Although extremely friendly towards one another there was always small scale underlying territorial hostilities between these two forts (Voss 66). Nevertheless they found a way to happily co-exist.

Megan Ballock

Works Cited

Blind, Eric. Personal Interview. May 27 2008.
Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

The Materialization of Trade
Once the Spanish-American war broke out el Presidio de San Francisco became increasingly isolated from Spain. It was actually recommended that el Presidio de San Francisco should be closed, however it was allowed to remain open without the help that it had once received (Voss 64). The ships that the people once relied upon were no longer appearing and the colonists had to find other means for manufactured goods. Luckily, this was coupled with the increasing interaction from European maritime expeditions, including science and expansion missions, which created a foundation for the new economy of el Presidio to be based more on trade than political sovereignty. El Presidio, became especially dependant on the Russian colony of Fort Ross for access to manufactured goods, while the Russians desperately needed agricultural products (Voss 201). This mutually beneficial relationship sparked a bond between the two colonies that elevated Russia to a most-favored-nation status amongst the early colonist. Although, a friendship was beginning to flourish on the coasts of California it is important to note that back in their native lands these countries were progressively more hostile towards one another. In fact, the primary function of el Presidio de San Francisco was to “forestall the maritime invasions of European forces” (Blind et al. 136). This notion seemingly goes away when you realize the excitement a citizen of el Presidio would have received when they saw white sails on the horizon. Hoping for a variety of things, from news to manufactured goods, wine and even chocolate. One could assume that instead of bunkering down into the safety of their fort, they would have run out to welcome visitors with open arms.
Megan Ballock

Works cited
Blind, E., B. Voss, S. Osborn and L. Barker 2004 El Presidio de San Francisco: At the edge of empire. Historical Archaeology Newsletter 38(3): 135-149.
Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

El Presidio de San Francisco

Gwendolyn Blair

When the Spanish claimed el Presidio de San Francisco and decided to construct a fort, the First Quadrangle, depicting the first enabling of the fort. At each subsequent renovation of the fort, was indicative of each Quadrangle. There were three Quadrangles performed at el Presidio.

The occupation of el Presidio, 1776 to 1780 by Spain, is the site of the current Pershing Square, and is where the personal quarters of Commandant Jose Moraga resided. Commandant Moraga arrived with plans in hand to begin the construction of el Presidio’s initial Quadrangle. The flag of Spain, during their occupation of el Presidio, remained northwest corner of the Commandant’s home (Voss 2008:182). The northern-most corner is presently marked with a corner stone depicting where the end of the fort was built and the flagpole looks to be at least three meters inside the fort to the north side of the Commandant’s dwelling.

There are plans are to excavate this area, in the near future, to accommodate new and progressive activities at el Presidio de San Francisco.

National Park Service. “Outpost of an Empire” Posted sign commemorating the northern- corner of el Presidio.

Voss, Barbara (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenisis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University Press.

Spanish Occupation
Gwendolyn Blair

When the Spanish claimed el Presidio de San Francisco, the fort depicted as the First Quadrangle was constructed in 1776. In 1792, Commander Hermenegildo Sal designed and began reconstruction of the Second Quadrangle of the fort (Voss 2008:183). The construction of the Second Quadrangle was during the years 1792 to 1815. Sal’s plans for the reconstruction of el Presidio were set forth.

The occupation of el Presidio, 1776 to 1821, by Spain, is the site of the current Pershing Square. This area was where the personal quarters of each serving commandant of el Presidio de San Francisco resided.

The northwest corner is presently marked depicting where the end of the fort was built, at the northern-most corner. The flagpole appears stationary at least three meters inside the fort, on the north side of the commandant’s home (NPS 2008).
Each year several celebrations are held in honor of a vast number of cultural aspects of el Presidio. Festivals are held annually to celebrate the past of Native American, Spanish and Mexican histories. Over the years, el Presidio has represented the historical atmosphere, of these cultures that initially contributed to American society.

Currently, there are plans to excavate this area, for archaeological research and remediate this area for new and progressive activities at el Presidio (THM:2003, 6, 24).


The Main Parade. July, 2003. Environmental Assessment Report.

National Park Service. “Outpost of an Empire” Posted sign commemorating the northern- corner of el Presidio.

Voss, Barbara (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenisis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University Press.

The Presidio
Gwendolyn Blair

When the Spanish claimed San Francisco, a fort was constructed and progressively remodeled through two Quadrangles. The Third Quadrangle , began construction in 1815 and ended in 1821, under the command of el Capitan Luis Argüello (Voss:2008, 187). The Third Quadrangle was the final and last reconstruction of el Presidio de San Francisco that included a physical expansion of buildings and perimeter of the fort.

The Officers’ Club adobe walls were replaced (Voss 2008: 182). However, the borders of el Presidio at the north, west and eastern wings were expanded. The commandant’s, sergeant’s and soldiers’ quarters, clothing warehouse, guard room, jail cells and soldiers barracks were a vital part of the 1815 expansion. Apartments were also a part of this expansive construction, to accommodate the growing population of el Presidio (Voss 2008: 195-6). The flag of Spain remained posted at the northwest corner approximately three meters from and in alignment with the commander’s residence (Voss 2008:71). Also, the “expansion of the quadrangle’s plaza … [was] asserting collective Californio identity in place of the ethnic/racial markers … “(Voss 2008:196)

The present plans are to excavate certain footage of this area, making way for new and progressive activities at el Presidio, while maintaining el Presidio’s quaint and simple atmosphere.

National Park Service. “Outpost of an Empire” Posted sign commemorating the northern- corner of el Presidio.

Voss, Barbara (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenisis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University Press.

Imagining a Different Landscape

As the first Spanish settlers of 1776 approached the top of the hill overlooking their future destination for el Presidio in San Francisco, they experienced a much different landscape than the one you see today. Imagine sand colored hills with no trees, and vegetation consisting of sand dunes and grass lands. Many of the plants that were native to the area at the time of Spanish occupation have been lost to grazing cattle that were imported by the Spanish; grazing cattle were a common thing to witness during their time. It was nothing like the Presidio that you experience today, full of well established trees and landscaped yards. None of the trees that exist in the Presidio in the present are native to this land and they have all been transplanted from other locations. Since the Spanish time of rule over el Presidio de San Francisco many transformations of the landscape have taken place. When the Spanish controlled el Presidio de San Francisco their infrastructure was a U shaped quadrangle and was located in the space just in front of the present Main Post that is now a parking lot. When the United States took over the Presidio after a short occupation by Mexico, they removed most of the quadrangle, and erected many new structures, such as barracks, houses, an infirmary, and structures for entertainment. The United States Military also implemented a beautification project with the help of children and boy scouts they changed the look of the Presidio with trees and plants. It is important to think about these transformations when enjoying the scenic beauty of the Presidio today.

Jonathan Holm

Langelier, J.P. and Rosen D.B. 1992, El Presidio de San Francisco: A History Under Spain and Mexico, 1776-1846

A New Way of Life

When the Spanish settlers began their journey in 1776, they were traveling to a new place that they had never experienced before. They didn’t know what to expect, and began only with an idea of how they would survive in their new destination. They came across new land that looked as though it would be manageable to survive in, and it was a very strategic location for Spanish control over the San Francisco Bay, and that place was the el Presidio in San Francisco. They set up their quadrangle on their newly found land, and during that time they had to adapt to many new circumstances in order to survive. The Spanish settlers of el Presidio “were responsible for “enforcing colonial rules and regulations.” (Voss 47). But the regulations were manipulated by the settlers and new cultural paths were followed in el Presidio de San Francisco in order to survive. A whole new community emerged because the Spanish settlers could not rely solely on their mother country for support to survive. So new relationships emerged and a less harsh racial perspective was adopted by the Spanish settlers. Relationships with the surrounding native villages were forged so that the Spanish settlers could achieve in acclimating the natives to their way of life. Once this was achieved the settlers had the work force they needed to achieve their goals. The emigrants of the el Presidio also built relationships with the Russians of Fort Ross so that they could trade with them, to get supplies that they were lacking. So new relationships were created that would not have happened in their mother country, and a new community was created that operated as a separate entity. (Voss 2008)

Jonathan Holm

Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenisis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco, University of California Press, Berkeley CA.

Forced to Change

Who are these strange people coming to our land with unsavory weapons and foreign animals that are eating all of our vegetation that we rely on….
What were the Native Californians thinking when the Spanish settlers came to their land and began to settle and force them into assimilation? This is what happened to the Native Californians surrounding the San Francisco el Presidio. Upon the Spanish arrival a process of change for the Native Californians had begun and their way of life was forever altered by colonial rule. “In only one year, the Yelamu district was transformed from a network of interconnected native communities to a landscape dominated by colonial institutions.” (Voss 53). The Spanish did not stop there they repeated this process of colonial influence until all the Native Californians of el Presidio region had been changed to work for and help support the Spanish cause. (Voss 54). The Native Californians were able to self sustain themselves for survival before the Spanish arrived, and when the Spanish began to settle the Native Californians were forced to adapt to survive. This created a whole new community for the Native Californians that they were not previously use to, and many new tasks and jobs were necessary for the Native Californians to perform in order to receive supplies to keep themselves and their families sustained. There were also many Native Californians that were “coerced to join and remain at the missions” (Voss 59). If the Native Californians joined the mission by choice it was irreversible and they would be considered neophytes. However, neophytes were never considered full members of the society instead they were looked upon as children and laborers (Voss 60).

Jonathan Holm


Voss, B 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenisis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco, University of California Press, Berkeley CA.

Native Californian Labor in El Presidio
Not long after El Presidio’s establishment in 1776, the fort outgrew its labor source and needed to recruit outside workers. At the same time, Franciscan missions were springing up to convert Natives to both Christianity and to the colonial way of life. Yet another one of the missions’ other functions was to help with the running of El Presidio by producing material artisan goods and helping with tasks like construction (Voss 2008, 59). Mostly, the newly converted Natives, called neophytes, were contracted to work either on agricultural projects or in El Presidio on more laborious tasks like building the fort’s adobe walls. Many Natives also learned European crafts like blacksmithing, masonry, and weaving (Allen et. al.1995:7).
Although many Native laborers willingly worked for a wage of food or European material goods, many of them did not work voluntarily (Voss 2008:78). When El Presidio needed more laborers around the year 1790, the colonizers began contracting labor from the local Natives’ villages. Many of the natives who had been living in villages ran away shortly after they had been taken to the Presidio because they did not want to leave their homes to work on the colonizers’ fort. In addition to this unwilling labor source, El Presidio soldiers had enacted a series of military campaigns into villages to capture Native Californians who did not convert to Christianity. Between 1782 and 1826, about 200 or more Natives were captured in military campaigns and forced to work on El Presidio (Voss 2008:80-81). These native workers often worked in shackles to keep them from escaping.

Briana Robertori

Works Cited:
Voss, Barbara 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Barker, Leo R., Allen, Rebecca, Costello, Julia G. 1995 The Archaeology of Spanish and Mexican Alta California. Historical Archaeology 3:3-21.

Gender Roles and Honor on El Presidio
During Spain’s colonial occupation of El Presidio, perceptions of gender and gender roles were very different than the perceptions of modern Californian culture. Because life on El Presidio was heavily influenced by the Christian church, colonial policy strictly regulated colonists’ sexuality (Voss 2008:95). Christianity’s notion of original sin implied that women were considered inferior to men; when a woman got married, her husband had spiritual and material control over her (Voss, 2008:95). Sex and gender were also defined by secular values of gender and honor. According to Barbara Voss, an archaeologist who studied and dug at the Presidio, “men amassed honor through extramarital sexual conquests…their female sex partners and assault victims lost honor and shamed themselves and their families” (Voss 2008:95). El Presidio had a very hierarchical culture that was defined by a stratification of racial identities. Therefore, when a man sexually assaulted a woman, he gained more honor and his social status improved, but the woman and her family were disgraced. As a result, male and older female relatives kept watch over a colonial woman’s sexuality. However, Native Californian women frequently did not have this element of outside control over their sexualities, and the colonists therefore frequently sexually assaulted Native women. In 1834 Moraga, a leader at El Presidio, decreed that Native women should do their chores “outside the doorway, in plain view, without being permitted to go inside” the houses (Voss 2008:78). According to Voss, cleaning hides or milling grain would have been done inside. This National Park Service image of El Presidio in 1792 includes an image of people who are probably Native female laborers cleaning a hide outside and in plain view, although this may not have been the custom at the time.

Briana Robertori

Works Cited:
Voss, Barbara 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Spanish iron Griddles and sugar cakes

Racial Structure
When Anza and 193 Spanish colonialists established El Presidio de San Francisco, the voyagers were already an ethnically mixed group (Voss 2008:86). In the initial sistema de castas, the class system, there were a number of racial terms that traced a person’s lineage. Each term carried with it an implied social status within the social hierarchy, for example a mulato is person with a Spanish mother and “negro” father and a mestizo is a person with a Spanish and an “indian” parent (Voss 2008:86). According to a roster of El Presidio’s first residents, only 39 percent of the colonizers identified themselves as español; of the other 61 percent, 31 percent were mestizo, 18 percent were mulato, and 12 percent were indio (Voss 2008:89). Despite this clear delineation, El Presidio culture actually permitted a degree of racial mobility. In a 1776 census report, 3 people regarded themselves as mestizo, but in 1782 these same people regarded themselves as español. This example of upward mobility represents the fact that it was a cultural tendency for residents to reestablishing themselves in higher castas throughout their lifetimes. When El Presidio was first established, a sistema de castas dictated a person’s social identity within a racially stratified cultural hierarchy. Yet, switching races to move up within the hierarchy was so common that notions of status were ultimately replaced by a separation of the population into two groups: personas de razón and Indian. These groups were not defined racially. Instead, they were defined by factors like legitimacy of birth, economic means, and social practices like occupation, dress, speech, mannerisms, diet, material possessions (Voss 2008:85). This picture of some sugar cakes represents how food consumption, among other social practices, was one of the factors that played into the definition of social status.

Briana Robertori

Works Cited:
Voss, Barbara 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.


Household Ceramics, Tableware

Tableware ceramics recovered from El Presidio de San Francisco offer some indications of how food products are being consumed by the Spanish colonists and their families during the late 18th century. Items for serving meals to people, such as cups, bowls, plates and platters are all examples of tableware. The preference for certain materials used to craft tableware items and their more robust aesthetic compositions could be interpreted as the dining activities being a shared, social setting. This creates a sharp contrast to the items found which are being associated with the more utilitarian, private aspect of food preparation (Deagan 1983).

Tableware ceramics found from this period are all imported. Mexico, which was part of the Spanish Empire at the time, was a primary importer of tableware goods to El Presidio. To a lesser extent, tableware items from China, France and Britain are also present in the assemblage. Economic and ethnic status is considered to be tied to where the ceramics are imported from, with Spanish majolica, Chinese, and English ceramics ranking the highest. (Voss 2008, 210).

Status was also associated to these items based on their overall condition. As noted in portraits of Spanish life, lower and upper class would possess ceramic tableware items of the same higher quality material. The primary difference between the two, however, would be in the better condition of the higher-status family tableware items versus the chipped and damaged condition of a tableware items from a lower-status family (Loren 1999:150-155).

I see tableware affecting social status and social identity both from an internal and external element. From an internal perspective, meals are taking place in a group setting among family members. The presence of this tableware plays a part in reinforcing the family group identity, and it can define how the family is seeing itself in relation to the rest of the community. Externally, these meals are sometimes shared among families. The internal elements are raised to a more public level through the heightened social experience, reinforcing a sense of community while at the same time playing a part in how that community is defined.

Works Cited

Deagan, K. 1983. Spanish St. Augustine: The Archaeology of a Colonial Creole Community, ed. K Deagan, 99-124. New York: Academic Press.

Loren, D.D. 1999. “Creating Social Distinction: Articulating Colonial Policies and Practices along the 18th Century Louisiana/Texas Frontier.” PhD diss., Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, Binghamton.

Voss, Barbara. 2008. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: University of California Press.

– Michael Rutledge

Food Preparation

The practice of food preparation at the El Presidio de San Francisco is a departure from the institutional lifestyle present in day-to-day compound life during the later part of the 18th century. During the early periods of El Presidio life, maintaining organized labor is among the highest priorities. While many aspects of life here are highly socialized, such as day-to-day activities and even the dining habits, artifacts recovered from the Building 13 midden offer some insights as to how meal preparation at the compound can be seen as less labor intensive activity and a less social component of Spanish colonists’ interactions with food.

Many food preparation vessels recovered from the site can be cataloged as hollowware, best utilized for the creation of liquid-based meals such as stew, soups, and gruels. Liquid-based meals are chosen mostly due to the low maintenance required during their preparation. Because labor is a high priority, food preparation activities are most likely being modified to require the least amount of effort. Cooking with hollowware allows those who must prepare the food more time for other activities around the compound (Voss 2008, 249).

Another interesting aspect of the cooking vessels found at El Presidio de San Francisco is the surprisingly low number of flat ceramic cooking vessels known as comales. These griddles are commonly used for tortilla cooking and the heating of dry foods. This scarcity is curious, as documentary evidence has shown tortillas to be a staple in the diet of military personnel and their families at El Presidio. Yet material evidence taken from a residential dig site offers little support to back up this claim (Voss 2008, 248). The amount of time and effort required to make tortillas from scratch, when taken into consideration with the benefits of food preparation via hollowware, offer some support to the idea that food preparation is being tied to how labor is being organized.

Works Cited:

Voss, Barbara. 2008. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: University of California Press.

– Mike Rutledge


Processing Cattle

Beef was a centerpiece of the Spanish diet at El Presidio. So much so, that a thousand head of cattle were brought along with the Spanish military colonists when the expedition made its way to the San Francisco Bay. Details of herd composition beyond the basic head counts are few but examination of faunal materials can provide more insights.

Estimations of cattle age have been taken using evidence from Building 13’s midden deposit. Analysis has shown that these animals were probably aged between seven to ten months and thirty months at the time of their death. This information can only be used as a guideline however, due to the limited sample size and variation between modern-day cattle and those raised here in the 18th century. The age of the cattle in the sample, though, indicates that these cattle are not being kept around for prolonged periods of time. If a larger sample base produces similar results, it could suggest that these cattle are being kept predominately for slaughtering and not for other goods they may produce, such as diary (Voss 2008, 313). Continuing research is required to reinforce this line of thinking as well, as future midden discoveries could uncover a larger sample base and perhaps remains from older cattle to further support the possible existence of diary food processes.

Further evidence of cattle being raised mostly for slaughter is the patterns found on a number of the mammal bones. These blade-cut markings reflect a style of butchering that is distinctly Spanish, in which the meat was manually stripped from the bones after the muscle attachment points and tendons had been severed (Voss 2008, 313). There is some difficulty, however, in recognizing whether these marks are made by the Spanish or by local Native Americans who are being taught the technique. It is possible the slaughter practices are being passed on, blending Spanish lifestyles into local native populations.

Works Cited:

Voss, Barbara. 2008. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: University of California Press.

-Mike Rutledge

The Officers’ Club

Filed under: Uncategorized — colleenmorgan @ 6:05 pm


Add your narratives and media to this post.


Rachel Marks
Narrative 1: How to Make Adobe in San Francisco
“Adobe architecture provides relatively simple, economical, and thermally efficient building in dry, desert climates. In such climates, stone is often rare and wood is too scarce for building or to fuel brick kilns,” says Eric Blind, Presidio Trust archaeologist.
Adobe is, at first glance, a very simple building material that is seen in various cultures across the world. The basic supplies necessary to make adobe are dirt and water, which can be found in abundance pretty much everywhere. Yet, in order for adobe structures to survive, every element that goes into the mix has to be carefully formulated against weather conditions and the time-consuming labor to construct with the bricks must be managed against the time it takes for them to dry properly.
Making adobe is more complex then placing mud into brick-shaped molds. The mixture requires dirt that is taken from a clay context, sand, hay, horse and/or cow manure, and water. It must be mixed for hours, placed into wooden molds to dry for a month or longer and carefully monitored to ensure there are no cracks. The sensitivity of materials and labor intensive quality of adobe may not have made it the most attractive building option for the Spanish colonists. There are only a few months out of the year in which the weather would have been warm enough, long enough, to dry the adobe, the hay and manure could have been used to fuel fires for cooking and the labor involved could have been put to use modifying the landscape to more adequately fit the colonist’s ideals. Despite the pitfalls of using adobe it remained the most viable building option until the American period due to lack of wood and stone in the immediate area.
The complicated adobe recipe and the technical knowledge of how to construct adobe buildings originated from the colonists’ home villages in Central America. It traveled with the Spanish colonists across California and must have been foremost in their minds when they realized this lack of suitable wood and stone in the immediate vicinity. Adobe would have been familiar and its production would have been plausible from the areas they traveled through in order to reach northern California. The industry associated with making adobe may have also been an additional reason for capture of a Native American workforce.

Blind, Eric
If These Walls Could Speak. Internal Presidio Trust document. Document given to author June 4th, 2008 by Liz Clevenger.


Narrative 2: Ceramic Production and Consumption at El Presidio
“El Presidio de San Francisco’s military settlers inhabited a world of clay. The vertical walls that defined their built environment, whether of wattle-daub, rammed earth, palisade, or adobe, were surfaced in clay: the settlers walked across floors and plazas made of packed clay and fired-clay ladrillos: and, after the 1790’s, they slept under roofs of curved clay tejas.” (Voss 2008: 203).
The native laborers who built the clay adobe structures mentioned above by Voss would have been largely unfamiliar with ceramic technology because their traditions involved basketry and stone bowls. These two materials are not well attested in the archaeological records at the Presidio for several reasons. Native American lives were generally not allowed to continue ‘as is’ after conquest because their lifeways tended to change dramatically with European contact. Their presence at El Presidio would have been allowed if they adopted the ways of the colonists; therefore they may not be distinguishable in the archaeological record.
The best archaeological records regarding ceramic use come from 1999 and 2000 excavations of a midden pile outside Building 13 [Voss, 2008]. As with all archaeological deposits, this represents only a partial record of ceramic production, use and discard. The findings were wide-ranging enough to present a clearer picture of what ceramic types were utilized and where they were coming from. There are also documentary records containing the colony’s annual shipping requests and receipts, which is helpful in assessing the needs that were not met by the Spanish crown and subsequently what they would have had to produce on their own.
The families who moved to coastal California must have been enterprising and resourceful. They journeyed not just with their material possessions but cultural knowledge of how to maintain the lifestyle they wanted to pursue. But they had to adapt their material preferences to accommodate different environments. By the late eighteenth century the colony was feeling more and more estranged from the Spanish Empire. Around this time the archaeological record shows an increase in locally produced ceramics, which co

Voss, Barbara
2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press.


Narrative 3: Adobe in the Officers’ Club Structure
“For theirs were the hands that carried out, under the direction of overseers, the projected plans of the Padres.” (Webb 1952: 104). So says a poetically framed and accurate statement regarding Native Californian labor at El Presidio. Their labor was, by far, the most important cultural resource to the colonists. The Mission’s purpose was to convert and El Presidio’s purpose was to establish a colony under the Spanish crown. Several missions and presidios had been established by Spain along the California coast, so the settlers had an idea of what to expect when it came to native relations and came prepared for armed conflicts. Both groups, religious and military, would have competed for native labor in their attempts to fulfill their manifest destinies.
Although most historical reports list El Presidio as being in a general state of disrepair there are a series of Spanish military accounts that describe seismic activity and storms in 1812 and 1813 that damaged the buildings enough to require extensive reconstruction. This was undertaken in 1815 under the supervision of Commander Luis Antonio Argüello, who decided to raze most of the quadrangle and start rebuilding it from scratch [Voss 2008: 186-188].
The adobe underneath the current Officers’ Club building probably dates to this 1815 reconstruction. Most of what is known dates to archaeological work done between 1996 and 1999 by Cabrillo College in order to asses the structural integrity of the building and if preservation steps were necessary. This excavation also revised the notion that the adobe was from the original 1776 construction, as assessed by the U.S. Army in the early twentieth century.
The U.S. Army had very romantic notions of the Spanish colonial period and created the current building façade with white stucco, red roof tiles, and ironwork grating meant to evoke Spanish architecture as they understood it. In the process of remodeling the Officers’ Club they also installed a peep-window that allows visitors a view “inside” the walls to some remaining adobe bricks. This small view into a wall interior is symbolic of the ways in which the relationship between the past and present are continuously negotiated at the Presidio.

Voss, Barbara
2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press.

Webb, Edith
1952 Indian Life at the Old Missions. University of Nebraska Press.

El San Pedro

El Poder


By: Jason Felix
Milestone 3
Narrative 1
The Antiquated Cannons of El Presidio: A Budgeted Defense System

Two cannons appear to guard the entrance doors of the Officers’ Club on the Main Post of the Presidio. They were once used to defend the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. These cannons, El San Pedro and El Poder, were cast in 1673 and imported to El Presidio from Peru between 1776 and 1822 (National Parks Service Website, 2008). This means that they were at least 103 years old when the Spanish military imported them to El Presidio.
It is interesting to think about why the Spanish colonists imported antiquated weaponry to defend the coast of San Francisco. One would assume that better weapons developed during the 103 years gap since the Spanish settlers obtained the cannons. Why would the colonial Spaniards want to use outdated weapons to defend their coastal home?
One reason might be that the Spanish military did not need to defend El Presidio extensively because surrounding Native Californians were not much of a threat to them. Barbara Voss asserts that the absence of defensive capability suggests a lack of fear by the military settlers that their home would be attacked (2008: 155). The early Spanish settlers probably developed peaceful relations with bordering tribes and deposed the natives that posed a threat to them. It is stated that, “Some local people sought out the colonial explorers, offering gifts of firewood, food, and water. Others brandished weapons and threatened the colonists but stopped short of directly attacking them” (Voss 2008: 43). The peaceful relationships that the early colonists developed with the indigenous tribes may have led the Spanish to believe that they only needed antiquated weapons to defend themselves.
Lack of financial support from Spain may also have been a likely reason that the colonists used the outdated military technology. California was envisioned as a military colony but was not given the support to subdue the native population while simultaneously guarding against other European powers. (Voss 2008: 58). Also, “Although El Presidio de San Francisco was allowed to remain open, it did not receive any increase in royal support and continued to decline throughout the remainder of the 1780’s” (Voss 2008, 64). Perhaps the early colonists could only obtain the 103-year-old cannons because it was too expensive to fund El Presidio.

Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

National Parks Service Website accessed June 4, 2008.

National Parks Service Website accessed June 4, 2008

Replica of colonial Spanish Military uniform


Milestone 3
Narrative 2
El Presidio’s Offensive Strategy: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

El Presidio housed the Spanish Military and served as the initial barrier defending the San Francisco Bay from other European threats. Although the Spanish settlers wanted to protect the gateway to their existing land, they were even more interested in expanding their territory and converting indigenous people. Spanish Priests drove the notion that their mission was to convert Indians to Catholicism. Barbara Voss states that, “The military settlers who lived at El Presidio were tightly bound to their government, their church, their commanding officers and to each other through a dense web of legal obligations, religious observances, and social ties” (Voss 2008: 63). The inherent need to spiritually save natives and find new resources were what motivated the Spanish colonists to leave their fort and explore new places.
In order to explore outside of El Presidio’s locale the Spaniards needed to free themselves from the burden of defending their base of operations. They strategically placed the Spanish Flag to mark their territory which geo-politically positioned the Spanish Army on the Northern California coast. The colonists probably established peaceful relationships with neighboring native Californians and deposed local people that posed a threat to them.
Like the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. The Spanish colonists engaged in offensive military excursions that inadvertently defended themselves from outside threats. They did this by seeking encounters with far off unfamiliar indigenous people. Voss states, “As the nineteenth century began, the soldiers of El Presidio de San Francisco turned away from the problems of foreign defense to engage in protracted punitive campaigns against unbaptized and runaway Indians” (Voss 2008: 66 from Phillips 1993). This brought battles away from the central military hub and into uncharted territory. By doing this, the early Spaniard settlers were able to march their troops to explore, expand, and colonize native Californian land.
The Spanish military also instituted rape and other harsh tactics as standard military practices. It is stated that, “The colonial military attacked Native Californians in their own inland villages, regionalized armed conflict farther and farther inland. Sexualization of military conflict through rape and sexual assault also terrorized Native Californian communities” (Voss 2008: 155). These unethical strategies were what made the colonizers successful in their initial militaristic endeavors prior to Mexican revolt. Offensive attacks gave the Spanish an advantage and turned out to be one of the ways they defended El Presidio.

Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Phillips, G.H. 1993. Indians and Intruders in Central California, 1769-1849. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

An artist’s conception of the original Presidio

The Eastern Corner of the original El Presidio on a windy day

Milestone 3
Narrative 3
El Presidio of 1792’s Missing Fourth Wall: Lack of Windfall for a Windy Fort

For a number of years El Presidio’s Quadrangle, which was supposed to have four impenetrable sides according to standard Spanish military practice, lacked a fourth facade on the eastern side. Barbara Voss states, “The Presidio never met regulation standards for defensive capabilities. This finding seems especially surprising when we recall the settlement’s primary purpose: to provide security and defense against both indigenous and foreign aggressors” (2008: 154). This means that El Presidio was a three-walled fort until 1815. It is interesting to think about why it only had three adobe enclosure walls and how it affected the structure’s defense. One would assume that strong fortification would be required to protect soldiers. But, why was there no fourth wall until 1815? Was it necessary to enclose the entire quadrangle of El Presidio?
The missing fourth wall was likely due to lack of funds and materials. It is stated that, “They had brought few tools and little hardware with them on the overland journey from Tubac, and no serious construction could begin until the needed materials were available” (Voss 2008: 176). Also, “With few personnel or funds available, Acting Commander Sal was unable to maintain–let alone improve–the condition of the quadrangle.” (Voss 2008: 181). Although El Presidio began as extremely permeable it is surprising that this had little effect on their defense. This might be due to the peaceful relationships that the Spanish colonists developed with the natives or perhaps because they eliminated Native American threats. If this was the case, then what possible benefit could the three-walled fort have provided for 40 years?
Some may conclude that only three walls were needed to protect from the strong ocean winds and sand coming from the Bay. As any San Franciscan can attest, the Bay Area has very strong coastal gusts. During that time El Presidio did not have the trees that presently block some of the wind. Since El Presidio was mostly sand dunes, with sandstorms being a prevalent problem, perhaps the walls served more to block those strong oceanic winds until they could afford to build a fourth wall.

Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Langellier, J.P., and D.B. Rosen. 1992. Historic Resource Study: El Presidiode San Francisco—A history under Spain and Mexico, 1776-1846. Presidio of San Francisco. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Denver Service Center.

El Polin Springs

Filed under: Uncategorized — colleenmorgan @ 6:03 pm

Add your narratives and media to this post.

Lauren Matley

Portion 1

June 4th, 2008

El Presidio de San Francisco holds one of California’s most famous waterways, El Polín Springs, and its famous legend .El Polín Springs, also known as Ojo de Agua de El Polín, is one of the oldest local legends of the San Francisco bay area. The origin of the name of the spring as noted Geoffrey Coffey is “the word for the great phallic rollers used dockside to load cargo aboard ships…[though] the origin of the tale hints back to the Ohlone tribe, the origin of the name is Spanish” (2007). “Whispers of this place have permeated San Francisco history from the earliest times” (Geoffrey Coffey: 2007). It is said that if a young maiden were to drink from the spring under a full moon, she would then obtain great fertility, and was sure to have an abundance of twins (Geoffrey Coffey: 2007). As for the young men who ventured to the spring, with just one drink would gain great vitality.

Aside from El Polín Springs’ serene and enchanting appearance, which only adds a romantic quality to the tale, the native and early settlers of the area did not understand the annual water flow of the spring. The flow of the water fluctuates with the changing of the seasons; flowing abundantly in the spring (due to the rains and melting mountain snow) which is then reduced to a dry bed in October (from lack of rain in the summers). This misunderstanding in turn added more mystery to the presence of the spring. Over time, El Polín Springs and the Presidio’s past has been forgotten. This fantastic tale, for those who hear it, are reminded of the land’s rich heritage and those who thrived from it.

Works Cited:

Coffey, Geoffrey

2007 “Whispers in the Water: Reviving the Past at the Presidio’s

ElPolín Springs”

Lauren Matley

Portion 2

June 4th, 2008

The legend of El Polín Springs not only exists through story telling. Mariano Vallejo remarks in his 1876 Discurso Historico that the legend of the spring was further believed by the locals because several of the families who resided near El Polín at the Presidio had several children with multiple sets of twins. “In proof of my assertion, I appeal to the families of Miramontes, Martinez, Sanchez, Soto, Briones, and others, all of whom several times had twins; and public opinion, not without reason, attributed these salutary effects to the water of El Polín” (Vallejo: 1876). Ranger Marcus Combs, who has been associated with the grounds of the Presidio since 1980 and who is very familiar with the legend, questions its validity; speculating that the amount of children per family was a product of the cultural trend of the time of having large families, in an effort against the high infant mortality rates.

Among these families was the Briones family. Juana Briones in particular, had eleven children which also incorporated sets of twins. Juana Briones was also known as a curadera (traditional healer) (Barbara Voss 2008: 165). Misunderstandings and rumors of what natural healers do circulate around ideas of witchcraft and black magic, which is not the case in regards to Juana Briones. In recounts of her descendants, the reasoning for the Briones family to reside next to the spring was due to Juana’s use of natural remedies from the local plant life that was restricted to growing only around the spring (Voss: 2008). The notion of a woman with multiple sets of twins, who happens to be a healer, and who lives next to a “magical” spring lends itself to the list of legends of our history.

Works Cited:

Combs, Marcus

2008: Personal Interview. at the Officer’s Club, The Presidio of

San Francisco. June, 4th 2008.

Vallejo, Mariano

1876: Discurso Historico

Voss, Barbara

2008: The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in

Colonial San Francisco . (165). University of California Press

Lauren Matley

Portion 3

June 4th, 2008

The legend of El Polín Springs is now marked with a well. Though not a real well, used for gathering water, the well rests peacefully in the center of what is today the El Polín Springs picnic area. The well marks the presences and remembrance of the spring to the public. Though the well does not rest on top of the mouth of the spring, the flow of its waters runs down into the small valley weaving in and out of the landmark. Like most legends, the legend of El Polín Springs is subject to the passing of time; becoming a bedtime story for the young and hopeful. “Today, El Polín seems more forlorn than fecund; the water falls from its brick work cascade and meanders across a lonely picnic area into a dilapidated cobblestone “well”” (Geoffrey Coffey). What remains today is the sound of birds, the rustling of the forest, a whisper of trickling water, and a few words from those few who keep the legend of El Polín Springs alive.

Works Cited:

Coffey, Geoffrey

2007: “Whispers in the Water: Reviving the Past at the Presidio’s

El Polín Springs”

Lauren Matley

Film Script: Spoken by Gwen

June 6th, 2008

Under a full moon’s light, hidden in the bush, runs a magical spring.

It is said that if a young maiden drinks from these waters, she will be blessed

With great fertility, and will be sure to have an abundance of twins.

If a young man ventures there, he too will possess great vitality.

The legend is old and forgotten, but if you happen to hear a trickling spring, be cautious of the legend of El Polín.

Milestone 3 – Symbiotic contact through life-giving herbal medicine

Jean Wallace

Fresh, flowing water in a scrubby sand-scape is a welcome sight and sound, giving life to the dry earth and to the creatures that feed upon it. The many forms of life flourishing in this fertile valley represented the greatest biodiversity in El Presidio (Voss 2008:166), and the symbiosis of plant and animal species was reflected in the cultural intermingling between the Briones family and the Native Californians. Unlike in the main quadrangle, where archaeological evidence of native habitation is found only in the prison cells, Native Californians lived and worked in close proximity to the Briones family in El Polin Springs (need ref – Eric Blind?). Curandera Juana Briones came to El Presidio with her own knowledge of traditional healing using wild plants. Rather than blindly trying to impose her own traditions on a new environment, Juana worked with Native Californians to modify her knowledge to fit the naturally occurring plants available in the San Francisco Bay Area (Voss 2008: 166). Although the Briones’ food production focused on traditional colonial agriculture rather than native food acquisition techniques involving foraging and landscape management, Juana’s interest in learning locally useful forms of herbalism may have been a rare and significant incidence of symbiotic cultural contact in the developing colony.

*Attach audio of ambient noise next to El Polin outlet trickle

*Attach REP20080604cam16007.jpg, image of luscious El Polin outlet (needs photoshopping) Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.


The Ranunculus; Buttercups that may of been used to make medicine.

Medicine by Rebecca McGee

The practice of medicine was common in EL Presidio de San Francisco. Albeit there was a hospital on the Presidio, people would rather see a local healer than a military physician located on the premises.  Juana Briones was one of the healers who resided northeast of Presidio in El Polin Springs. The plants that local healers may have used for their healing practices were Ranunculus (Buttercup), Asteraceae (Sunflower family), and Poaceae (Grass family); (Voss, 2008,167),  in the settlement Briones used naturally healing to further her own practice. The military peronnel who populated the area may have contracted illnesses (ie. Survey) when coming into the Presidio.

Some of the ingredients were apart of the local plant life. Ranunculus (Buttercup) is used as a painkiller; the plant is heated then dried. After it is prepared it could be stuffed into cavities and infusions from the plant would be rubbed against the gums of infants who were teething (A. Nels, J.F. Macbr.). The Asteraceae (Sunflower) has numerous species like Artemisia afra. The roots, stems, and leaves of the plant is made into a tea drink, “Wilde-als brandy” is another drink that is made with the sunflower. Wilde-als helps to treat colic, respiratory ailments, stomach disorders, coughs, cold sores, eye and ear infections (Hammond, 2008). The Poaceae is a plant that is used for the removal of worms or parasites from the body. Vermifuges is a medicine that is made from Poaceae, it is transformed into tea that takes care of fevers to induce abortions (Herbvideos). This would have been a relevant use for Briones and the other midwives in El Polin Springs. The plants can be very harmful to livestock if the animals were to eat them, therefore the some of the plants would have been separated from the animals. Not all the plants had to be located in the same environment, the habitat of certain plants could not of been grown in El Polin depending on the soil it needed to survive. Through counts of historical plant life, the Artemisia afra, for example, is seen today in South Africa. This may have been one of the plants that the healers may have traded with some of the ships that docked near the area.


A.Nels and J.F. Macbr CPC Plant Profile- National Collection of Endangered Plants: Ranunculus reconditions. (Accessed 3 June 2008). Hammond, D. Wilde-Als (Accessed 3 June 2008). http://windowboxherbs.50megs/wild%20als.htm

Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Walt, L. 2004. Artemisia afra. Kirstenbosch National Garden. (Accessed 3 June 2008).

E. Section Echinacea, Purple Cone Flower. (Accessed 3 June 2008).

National Standard. The Authority on Integrative Medicine. (Accessed 1 June 2008).

Ranunculus. Dictionary Definition of ranunculus. (Accessed 1 June 2008).

The El Polin Spring. This is one of the main sources of fresh water for the indigenous bird population. Birds are the most abundant and diverse type of wildlife at El Presidio.

The El Polin Spring. This is one of the main sources of fresh water for the indigenous bird population. Birds are the most abundant and diverse type of wildlife at El Presidio.

Plants and the Water Supply System by Rebecca McGee

The plants in EL Presidio de San Francisco and El Polin Springs were located in specific areas depending on what type of the habitat the plant needed to survive. Some of the plants may have been traded with individuals that sailed in. The plants and animals were separated because the plants could cause extreme harm to the livestock if they were to eat it. Therefore the plants were spread throughout the landscape. In Voss’s research archive, “Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeology Project: Excavation in El Polin Spring”, she indicates that dogwood (Cornus) grows in moist habitats, including riparian forests (Tennessee Hollow Watershed Project, Excavation in El Polin Springs, Report, 2004-2005, San Francisco). The condition of the soil is important for the plant to continue growing.

The Water Supply Systems were important on the Presidio and El Polin Springs. El Polin Spring is located northeast of the Presidio, it was not the only water source that the Native Californians and the Presidio residents used. In “Tennessee Hollow: Archival Research: Water and Water Supply Systems”, J.B Bowman had research the information that was given by Colonel W.H. Tobin, who had resided in Presidio during the 1850s through 1860s, located the well about 5 to 6 feet of the old main stream running through the broken dam west of the landscaping (Tobin and Voss 2002, 2). Tobin suggests the spring was  not the main water source. Some of the other water sources mentioned is Mountain Lake, Lobos Creek, an unnamed spring located in front of the Infantry Terrace, and a spring which is now located at Lyon and Green Street and Far Tunnel Hill, which is half a mile south of the Presidio quadrangle (Voss 2002,6). The water supply systems made it possible for vegetation to prosper.


Voss, B (2004-2005). Tennessee Hollow Watershed Project: Annual Progress Report; Excavation in El Polin Springs; Macrobotabical Analysis of Soil Samples From 2004 Excavation at El Polin Springs: San Francisco County, California

Tennessee Hollow: Archive Research, Water and Water Supply System: Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California 2002

Bowman Jacob N. On the Trail of Provincial Traditions: Presidio Trust Library, San Francisco, California. Berkeley, 1966


Plant Recipes by Rebecca McGee

Plants that the Natives of the San Francisco bay area used were prepared for specific reas. The methods for preparation of the plant was just as important as the specific part of the the plant that conatined healing properties.  Some were for health reasons, food, and technical needs like basket weaving or oven lining. In Kashaya: Pomo Plants, Goodrich, Claudia and Vana Parrish Lawson, shared several recipes that demonstrates aspects of their needs (Goodrich et al.1980). The Southwestern Pomo are Native Californians or Kashaya Pomo, who were located at Stewarts Point that lies on the coast of Sonoma County (Goodrich et al. 1980). With the plants they made cakes, flavoring for food, deodorants and medicine for diabetics.

Recipes for food and medicine:

Cats Ears (Food)

Plant name: Calochortus amabilis. (Lily Family) Leaves: basil; 6”-9’ long; ½ “-3/4” wide, black like. Flowers: 2 or 3 nodding golden yellow globe shaped flowers 1” long on top of stem 6”-9” tall. Bulb: 1/2 “-1” across, covered with brown skin.

*The bulb baked and eaten with corn, eaten April – June. (Goodrich et al. 1980).

Fern, Bracken (Medicine)

Plant name: Pterdium aquilinum Fern 12”-60” tall. Fronds (leaf blade of a fern): 16” -40” long, 3 times pinnate, leaf segments linear Root: long, creeping, underground rhizome, with dark core and black bark.

*The juice is used as a body deodorant; grown in moist places in meadows and forest (Goodrich et al. 1980).

The Cats Ears and Fern, Bracken were two of the recipes of how the plants could be used. The Calochortus amabilis and the Pterdium aquilinum were only grown in certain places and at a certain time of year. These are recipes that may have been used in EL Presidio de San Francisco and El Polin Springs. They might have been shared recipes that Juana Briones and the other would might of learned for the Native Californians around Presidio San Francisco.


Goodrich, J, Lawson, C, & Parrish Lawson, V (1980). Kashaya: Pomo Plants. Los Angeles: American Indian Study Center.
Introduction to Juana Briones:

Upon historical analysis of the Spanish colonial period of El Presidio, we find that women are typically unaccounted for and left out of the colonists’ history. This is partly due to gender stereotypes that “link military conquest with masculinity and presume that women are more peaceful and nurturing than men” (Voss, 2008, p. 94). However, women did in fact play an important role in the society and up until the design of the third quadrangle of El Presidio in 1815, and helped design, implement and construct the Adobe buildings (Voss, 2008, p. 194). This then begs the question, why were women suddenly excluded from the third quadrangle’s design and implementation in 1815? One wonders who recorded the history of El Presidio, and why are women unaccounted for in these historical documents. Also, why are certain women recorded and not others? Juana Briones, born in 1802, is an example of a colonial woman, whose life story is in fact documented to a large extent. Juana Briones lived in El Presidio from the age of ten until about the age of eighteen (from 1812 to 1820), when she moved to El Polin with her husband, Apolinario Miranda (Voss, 2008, p. 165). Once at El Polin and thereafter, she developed a reputation as a curandera (traditional healer), midwife, ranchera and businesswoman (Voss, 2008, p. 168). Despite being barred from military service “by virtue of her gender, phenotypically marked by her African ancestry”, married to a man whose poor conduct was monitored military officials and adopting a Native Californian (Voss, 2008, p. 170-1), all contributing factors that mark her as lower class, Juana still developed a strong reputation for herself at El Presidio. One reason that Juana stood out in history is the fact that she divorced her husband and “made California history as the first woman to get divorced” (Albert, 2004, p. 7). Soon after, she came to be known as the widower. Being a healer and midwife also allowed her to “forge close personal relationships with Anglo-American and British families living in the new pueblo” (Voss, 2008, p. 167). “Her fame as a healer and her generosity made her a legend even in her own time” (NPS, 2004). (2004). National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from Presidio of San Francisco: Juana Briones Web site: history/bios/juana_briones.htm Albert, M. F. (2004, July 1). Signs of Life in the Presidio. The Examiner, p. 7. Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press.

1st Narrative – Gender and Space

Many people question why Juana Briones and her family lived in El Polin, an area about 0.8 miles away from the main quadrangle. As Barabara Voss claims, “Some people think they may have been stationed here. I think they wanted more privacy and entrepreneurial opportunities. It’s a mystery” (Kim, 2003). However, by living in El Polin, Juana Briones was slightly removed from the lifestyle at El Presidio, and gained opportunities she would not have been able to attain at El Presidio. As Voss writes, “some nonelite subjects were able to create physical spaces in which to advance their own and their families’ interest and to protect themselves, in some measure, from the abusive excesses of their social superiors” (Voss, 2008, p. 170-1). Also, Maria de la Luz remained unmarried throughout her life, a taboo in the Spanish colonial period (Voss, 2002). Perhaps being slightly removed from El Presidio allowed her the freedom to remain unmarried. Despite remaining unmarried, Juana’s sister Maria de la Luz did not gain the same reputation that Juana did. Juana’s other sister, Guadalso also lived there and she again did not get historically documented to the extent that Juana did. Hence, we cannot attribute Juana’s empowerment solely to her slight removal from the quadrangle of El Presidio.

Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press. Voss, B . “Stanfard University Research at the Presidio of San Francisco Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeological Project .” The Briones Sisters: Guadalupe, Juana, and María de la Luz. 2002. Stanford University. 5 Jun 2008 <;.

2nd Narrative: Catholicism and Gender

I look around me and can’t help but beam at how far along I’ve come. As I stand in the midst of El Polin, I can’t help but smile at the Adobe house my family and I have built for ourselves. It was more than a decade ago when I even created beautiful fruit orchards, a cattle corral and a farm at El Ojo de Agua. It’s 1845 and just last year I purchased a 4,400-acre Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, in my own name (Voss, 2008, p. 167). Not only am I thrilled at all the hard work I’ve put into the lands I own, yet I’m even more proud that I was able to accomplish all this as a woman. Being raised Catholic, I have always been accustomed to the discourse that women have to be subordinate to men. This I understood from the Genesis of the Bible, where Eve is made out of Adam’s rib. Also, the fact that I am only allowed to use the “missionary position” during sexual intercourse is another way I have come to understand my position as a woman as inferior to men (Voss, 2008, p. 95). The religious doctrines of the Catholic church places me and my fellow women under the control of our husbands (Voss, 2008, p. 95). Our catholic church also does not allow any woman to become a priest. Not only this, yet the “Alta Cailfornia mission projects do not include any nuns” (Voss, 2008, p. 93). Also, the monjerio was created in El Presidio. It’s “a long, narrow adobe room with high walls, small windows, and a single entrance which could be securely locked from the outside. Among baptized Native Californians, all unmarried women and girls were required by mission priests to live in the monjerio from late childhood until they married” (Schmidt and Voss, 2000, p. 43). Yet at El Polin, my sister, Maria de la Luz moved in with us, hence, we did not separate unmarried women the way El Presidio did. My sisters and I “centered familial and economic power not in a male head-of household”, but in a sororal partnership that has allowed Maria de la Luz to remain unmarried and supported me to divorce Apolinario last year (Voss, 2002). Schmidt, R. , & Voss, B. (2000). Archaeologies of Sexuality.London: Routledge. Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press. Voss, B. . “Stanfard University Research at the Presidio of San Francisco Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeological Project .” The Briones Sisters: Guadalupe, Juana, and María de la Luz. 2002. Standford University. 5 Jun 2008 <;.

3rd Narrative: Juana’s Petition to Divorce

Through my interactions with Apolinario I realized that men see their patriarchal privileges as absolute. As Apolinario became increasingly abusive and alcoholic, I realized that I need to divorce him and that he does not have the right to his patriarchal privileges. Most women and I see patriarchal privilege “as contingent on certain rights and obligations” (Voss, 2008, p. 97) and therefore I feel that Apolinario was undeserving of these rights. I tried to get protection from the military officers at El Presidio, “but Apolinario ignored the reprimands he received”. Finally, I “petitioned for ecclesiastical separation” from my husband. I had a priest at Mission Saint Clara transcribe my petition (Voss, 2008, p. 169). Juana’s letter: “…I do not fear to shoulder the conjugal cross that the Lord my Father and my Mother the Holy Church have asked me to bear, being in a state that I have freely chosen. What I truly fear is the loss of my own soul forever, and what is more, I fear the destruction of my unfortunate family due to the scandal and bad example of a man who has forgotten God and his own soul, whose only concern is drunkenness and all the vices that come with it, and who no longer cares about feeding his family, a burden that I alone carry with the labor of my own hands, a fact that I can prove with testimonials of exceptional strength if necessary. Moreover, my own labor and the labor of my poor family sustain my husband, providing him not only with clothes and food, but also paying for his drunkenness. As to how much damage he brings home to me and my family, well, as soon as he is a little tipsy he begins to utter his blasphemies, swear, and to put into practice his abominable behavior, not only publicly and imperiously demanding the conjugal debt from me, but also wanting to abuse it, as he has tried to do several times with my daughter María Presentación, who fortunately is already married. Your Lordship, none of the blows, beatings with clubs, and grave dangers that I have seen in my life, nor the brutality and cruelty with which I have been treated, merit consideration because, if my sufferings were mine alone, I would not bear them with pleasure, but at least I would accept them as divine will […] Your Lordship, my husband is the greatest obstacle placed before my children, because from him they learn nothing but swearing, blasphemy, and ugly, lewd, and dissolute behavior. How will I excuse myself before God, if I do not seek, as much as I can, all possible means of ridding my family of such as bad example?” (Briones 1844) (Voss, 2008, p. 169) I am proud that I was able to divorce Apolinario and set an example for my children to follow. Yes, there’s a dominant discourse of men being superior to women, yet possibilities for something new to emerge always exist. During my years at El Presidio, there was a gendered production of space. However, this is not to say that we cannot overcome this. We must take agency of our lives! References Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press.

Milestone 3 – Native Burning
Jean Wallace

Wherever trees and plants live and then die, nature’s fuels accumulate, baiting fire. Long before the native scrubland of El Presidio was transformed into the forest you see today, fire management was key in maintaining a safe and productive homeland. Rather than attempting to suppress fire, indigenous Yelamu tended the harsh environment that supported them by burning it with intention, encouraging healthy regeneration of beneficial plants and animal habitats and keeping the area free of dangerous piles of fuel (Blackburn 19). Native burning also controlled the spread of unwanted insects and plant disease and promoted the recycling of nutrients, maintaining the productivity of the land (Anderson 2005:136). When accumulated dried plant matter ignites, it can spread quickly and powerfully, raging through dry areas and climbing from brush into trees. The modern landscape has been transformed by planting and fire suppression into the lush forest surrounding El Polin Springs. While evoking beauty and wildness, the dense modern forest is susceptible to catastrophic fire and lacking in beneficial native species. Prescribed burning is still practiced successfully by indigenous communities in Australia (need ref), and is regaining popularity worldwide as the consequences of modern fire suppression become evident in the frequency and intensity of recent fires. When we embrace the power of flame and allow it to keep us safe, we no longer need to fear and suppress fire.

*Text to be voiced over video made from images of dry fuels near El Polin, native burning in Australia, and dramatic crackle-pop-flames

Blackburn, Thomas C. and Kat Anderson. Environmental Management by Native Californians. Menlo Park: Ballena Press, 1993. Anderson, M. Kat. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources. Berkeley: UC Press, 2005. Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.

Milestone 3 – Food as power
Jean Wallace

In the interplay between Spanish settlers and the colonized land and people, the power of the colonial institution was asserted visibly through violence against Native Californians, but also subtly – yet powerfully – through access to food. Although Native Californians had sophisticated environmental management systems that allowed them to hunt and forage ample food (Voss 2008:48), traditional Ohlone foodways were halted by the colonists’ grazing livestock and prohibitions on controlled burning. Hunger thus became a site of power in the settlement; the Ohlone sought new land or became dependent on colonial foodways, converting to Catholicism or laboring for the colonists to acquire access to nourishment (Voss 2008:51). Hunger was a constant concern in El Presidio as well; supply ships were infrequent, and colonists had to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar environment not suited to their agriculture (Voss 2008:58). In the climate of colonial hunger, Juana Briones was able to gain remarkable independence and success for her large family through food production and trade. Juana grew fruit and vegetables and raised chickens and cattle to provide fresh produce, eggs, poultry and dairy to the growing settlement, as well as to sailors and traveling merchants (Voss 2008:165). Through her success as a farmer, Juana was able to gain financial security for her family, respect, and the right to own property, a remarkable feat for a woman of her status.

*Attach image(s) of chickens, veggies

Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.

June 1, 2008

Thinking about plazas and Milestone 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — chimeraspider @ 6:41 pm
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San FranciscoPresidio Main Post looking northI have been thinking about the plazas of the El Presidio Spanish Colonial Quadrangles. When we think of the quadrangles, we almost always think about the built environment that creates the perimeters of the Quadrangles. It’s easier for us to imagine, perhaps, the buildings with their challenges of building materials, builders with the necessary skills, the forces of entropy that want to destroy the buildings, the bustle of activity that went into building them and then into living in them or moving around them. In England, the public squares that were built in the 17th century have always focused in people’s minds on the built environment of the perimeter rather than the square as a whole. In fact, Covent Garden that was a public square designed by the famous architect  Inigo Jones deliberately copied the arcaded shaded perimeter of Spanish and Italian plazas and piazzas, focusing attention – because of the shops within the arcades – on the perimeter. And here are we at the Presidio continuing this traditional perception.


When we think about the interior of the quadrangles, what do we envisage? I believe that, if visitors think about the interior of the Quadrangle at all, they think of a void, at best an empty place that needs to be passed through quickly. Currently, the interior of all three phases of the Colonial El Presidio quadrangle is covered by an asphalted car park. The archaeologists do not expect any features to turn up in geophysical survey. The anomalies that were recognized in the middle of the 1815 quadrangle are in fact most likely to be vestiges of the northern perimeter of the  second (1780-1815) Quadrangle. In some Presidios (eg Santa Barbara) the built environment did encroach into the plaza area (Voss, 2008, xx), but not at San Francisco’s Presidio.


So we have this huge empty space – a void – and yet it’s the largest part of the built environment of El Presidio in all periods of its history, even if itself it is not built, but enclosed. And in fact the area became larger and larger. Barbara Voss has a nice illustration of this (Voss, 2008, xx). The 1815 plaza, for example, represents an increase of 220% of the previous phase. There seems to me, then,  a surprising dearth of the literature devoted to what went on in this very large place.


A general knowledge of history and geography of Mediterranean cities (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Dalmatia)  and their colonial outposts in the Americas, suggests a number of ways in which the plaza interior was in fact the center of event-centered community-building and social daily life. This suggests a very different pattern of movement, sound, and visual impressions from the empty images that we tend to be presented with. The plaza of Madrid, for example, knew bull-fights, executions, military parades, religious festivals. The great circular plaza of Siena is famous for its annual horse-racing, but this piazza along with every small and large town piazza and plaza is still to this day the location of the corso or its equivalent where the community struts and chats walking slowly around or stopping to gather every evening as the sun goes down.


Barbara Voss interprets the fact that the Quadrangle that was constructed in 1815  was the first time that all fours sides of the perimeter were built finally closing in the plaza does not represent the colonists finally bowing to the rules of the Spanish crown. Quite the contrary – this represents a strengthening of the  community building activities of the Californios and their symbolic and actual separation from the Native Americans on whose labor they depended. It represents a turning inwards of attention on themselves.


Just as the Quadrangle is more about demarcating its residents from the outside world, (rather than defending it from aggressors), the plaza itself represents the center of this inward looking activity and attention. The plaza is not just about military mustering, training and drilling, it is about audio-visual visibility and control of movement. As Barbara Voss says, the construction of the 1815 Quadrangle represents an important shift in the ethnogenesis of the Californios and the Californianas, in their self-awareness as an ethnicity, in their performance of  actions and behaviors that set them apart. Thus the plaza is larger in this construction, not to enable more soldiers to drill, but to make sure that the whole population could participate at once, to have grander events (perhaps even bullfights and horse-races).


We need to think what difference it makes if you have a more enclosed plaza like the one built in 1815, in contrast with a more permeable construction such as those of the first and second Quadrangles, when the fourth (eastern) side of the perimeter was absent or hardly present.


Some of the things a plaza format  creates, as has been known from at least the earliest Classical cities of Greece (plaka) and Rome (forums), emulated in the cities of the Renaissance:


  • The old panopticon theme: from anywhere in the perimeter, you can keep and eye (and ear) on every other part.
  • Every part of the perimeter is accessible (at least its front parts) by movement along a straight path
  • All parts of the perimeter are brought together at a central point in the plaza.
  • The perimeter creates shelter for the plaza from the wind and sun
  • Protection for animals and people from themselves (wandering). As Voss points out, it is easy to keep an eye on everyone from anywhere.
  • It draws in the eye and movement into the center: good for gathering, speeches, activities, centering the attention, avoiding distractions.
  • And of course movement control of many by a few!


More later So how would we break this down into a few multimedia vignettes.

I need to add references, I know…

May 30, 2008

Historical landscape and architecture at the Presidio

Filed under: Uncategorized — cinzia @ 10:08 am

Good starting points for your research are the two official websites for the Presidio of San Francisco, the NPS and the Presidio Trust. On the official NPS website there is this page on “History and Culture” which gives you thematic links to people, places, stories and collections (with old family pictures, portraits, historical pictures of places at the Presidio). Here the Presidio Trust website. By the way on the same website read “Lovers’ Lane: One of San Francisco’s Oldest Travel Coridors“.

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