Volvon Village on Mallory Creek
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Volvon Village on Mallory Creek

Volvon Village on Mallory Creek
715 bedrock mortars and countless housepits spread over a half mile.
Cupule rock.

This village, located in the highlands of the Black Hills, must have been one of the largest settlements in the prehistoric Bay Area, yet it was, apparently, unknown to early archaeologists and historians. It does not appear on Sherburne Cook’s map of East Bay Indian villages, and early chroniclers of Contra Costa County history seem ignorant of its existence.

People have been living in and around the Black Hills and Mt. Diablo for at least 10,000 years. Excavations prior to the construction of Los Vaqueros dam (just 3 1/2 miles away) unearthed an 7,400 year old skeleton as well as a 9,900 year old mass of charcoal lying directly beneath an inverted millingstone. Think the people who buried their dead and cooked their food so long ago never got around to exploring the nearby hills?

For an in depth analysis of the above-mentioned site (CA-CCO-696) see Archaeological and Geoarchaeological Investigations at Eight Prehistoric Sites in the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Area, Contra Costa County, California. This link takes you to the Internet Archive. Choose your download/viewing option from the “Download Options” box.

We can’t say for sure how long people have lived in this village (that’s a job for professional archaeologists), but we think it was for a long time. The village straddles the divide between the Marsh and Mallory Creek drainages. The headwaters of these creeks rise nearby and ensure a steady water supply even in the driest season. The surrounding hills were once (and to a degree still are) full of food resources. Hundreds of generations of Volvons may have lived here. Imagine your own family with a similar relation to a place in California.

We would like to see the Volvon Village restored to something like its former glory. We would like see all the artifacts of modern civilization removed from the site, starting with the fences. We want cattle and sheep kept out. We would like to see revegetation of the site with appropriate native plants. We would like to see this site and the whole Volvon homeland preserved and protected. Let the whole territory be administerd as a giant outdoor museum. We’re not naive about the task ahead–that’s why we think of it as a 100 Year Plan.

As most modern cities are agglomerations of neighborhoods, so too is the Volvon Village. There are about 50 bedrock mortars in this neighborhood that lies just off the Volvon Trail in Morgan Territory Regional Park.

A new footpath on top of an ancient trail. In the distance lies another one of the Volvon Village’s neighborhoods.

Looking down on the heart of the Village, which sits above Mallory Creek. There are at least 450 bedrock mortars scattered between the small knoll on the right and the shelf on the left.

This cupule rock (with bedrock mortars too) sits in the heart of the Village. We figure that means something.

Most of the grinding rocks here adjoin housepits.

Mortars in basins are common in the Volvon Village.

We call this area the Citadel. A rock ring encloses a number of housepits, and there are bedrock mortars everywhere.

Some of the basins in Volvon Village are fairly shallow, like the example shown above. Others, like this one, are deeper. Just what was processed here?

Volvon Village is a wonderful place for a picnic.

This photo was taken at the southeast end of the Village from a small knoll we call the Watchtower. That’s Brushy Peak and the Diablo Range in the distance.

Joel discovered a pestle at the Village one day, but when we went out looking for it, we couldn’t find it. We did discover 29 bedrock mortars in and around Mallory Creek just below the Watchtower.Photograph by Bob Bardell

Joel’s pestle on a beautiful two-mortar rock. Great find Joel! The mortar right next to the pestle has no bottom.
Please do not remove this pestle. Leave it here for others to enjoy.

View a short video by Alexander Kerekes featuring Joel’s pestle:

View this longer video by Alexander Kerekes about the Volvon people and Mt. Diablo:

When we visited Volvon Village in late August 2013 we discovered, to our delight, that the old, disued barbed-wire fence that once cut across the heart of the site had been removed. Three cheers!