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.
Silva/Kellogg Lower1 bowl mortar, 1 broken mortar, 3 starters/cupules.Elevation 531 ft.This site may be inundated when the enlarged Los Vaqueros reservoir reaches its highest water level.Bob measures the bowl mortar.We believe the trinomial for this site is CA-CCO-452.
Jan Enderle Village.35 bedrock mortars near a spring.This site is named for the poet whose work graces the original edition of Native American Indian Sites in the East Bay Hills.The Village site is a charming place, quiet and serene.A wide and deep bullet-shaped mortar.
Lower Volvon Village200 bedrock mortars and a 32 cupule rock. A second cupule rock also at the site. Numerous housepits.Elevation 1445 ft.This is one of the largest collections of bedrock mortars in California, and it is only about a mile and a half away from the main Volvon Village.The Lower Village sits on the side […]
Murphy Meadow8 bedrock mortars in center of Round Valley.These mortars sit on a sloping hillside above Round Valley Creek in a grassland valley. This was probably a minor food processing center.Bob, Heather, and Jim look out from the Murphy Meadow site toward the Round Valley village.
Whelk Pond5 bedrock mortars and leaching station.The creek here flows down into Round Valley past the village site there and eventually empties into Marsh Creek.The Whelk Pond itself. Keep your eyes peeled for freshwater whelk here and in the stream.Look for mortars in the creek.