The Volvon were one of the Bay Miwok tribelets living in Contra Costa County at the time of European contact. They were a hill people based in the rugged Black Hills southeast of Mt. Diablo. The mountain itself was in Volvon hands. It had been the home of the supernatural First People, who created Indians and their world, and was a spiritual focus for nearly every tribe that could see it. Shamen and religious leaders went to the mountain to pray. Everyday people would visit its slopes for intertribal festivals. This meant the Volvon must have been a prosperous people. One did not just sashay into Volvon territory without bearing tribute for the privilege. Imagine the trade goods the Volvons acquired this way. They were regular participants in regional trade festivals hosted by their Ohlone neighbors, the Ssaoams, at the Brushy Peak trading grounds not far from the Altamont Pass. The Volvons’ preeminent position at the crossroads of Central California no doubt made them a sophisticated and cosmopolitan people.
That Volvons were active traders does not mean their territory was short on natural resources. The name ‘Volvon’ itself roughly translates as “natural springs,” which befits a triblet based in the Black Hills where the headwaters of a number of perennial creeks rise. The highland heart of Volvon territory today is rich in oak, pine, and manzanita. Mount Diablo is home to a number of endemic plant species–rare resources controlled by Volvons. Open rangelands, now mostly overrun with nonnative grasses, must once have been covered with food-bearing plants. Deer, elk, and antelope were no doubt abundant in the lighly settled ridges and valleys on the eastern side of the territory.
Volvon territory gives every appearance of once having supported a substantial population. We have discovered 81 bedrock mortar sites, and over 2,100 bedrock mortars. Each site carries its own sense of place and is an individual window into the past. As you walk the paths that connect these sites and build up a richer mental map and sense of the landscape, you may acquire a feeling for the possibilities of life in Volvon territory in the not so distant past.
There are magical and metaphysical powers associated with Mt. Diablo and the Black Hills. Go there now and experience its effect on your perspective. Steep yourself in prehistory. The Spanish extirpated the Volvons from their homeland 200 years ago, but physically, their territory remains virtually intact today. The land still has a life of its own.
Prayer RidgePossible TsektselElevation 1651 ft.Looking toward the possible tsektsel.A closer look. Note the stacked rocks.Photograph by James Benney.Follow this path to gain entry to the possible tsektsel.This is an almost complete circular enclosure. It contains a smaller stone ring as well.This site is on private property. One should secure permission before visiting it.Photographs by Bob […]
Curry Creek Milling Station.18 bedrock mortar milling station on a side creek; leaching slick in the creek.The huge bowls found here are like no others we’ve discovered in the East Bay hills. They are deep and wide and have bullet-shaped mortars in their bottoms. Deep cone-shaped mortars with unusually large oval mouths also appear here. […]
Mallory Creek #2Second Mallory Creek confluence south of Volvon Village.7 bedrock mortars, two probable mortars, and rock circles.Elevation 980 ft.This sweet site sits at a bend in Mallory Creek near an ancient trail.Check out the rocks. Do they look like they’ve been moved into place?This view looks toward Mallory Creek.This one looks away.Two mortar rocks […]
Upper Whipsnake Trail2 bedrock mortars and a metateElevation 2002 ft.Alex discovered these mortars on his way back from a visit to the Volvon Village.The mortars here don’t fall into the “no doubt about it” category, but Doc Hale has given them his stamp of approval.