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What Rhyme Or Reason?

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Ancient Stone Wall Of California

By James Donahue

Since settling the North American continent, the "invaders" of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America have done a relatively thorough job of tearing up the landscape to build highways, cities, extensive farmlands and industrial sites. In doing all of this, they have carelessly destroyed much of the archaeological evidence of past civilizations that once occupied this land.

A few remnants of the ancient past have survived, however. One interesting puzzle that only recently began to fall before the power of the bulldozers has been a great stone wall that once stood from the hills along San Francisco’s East Bay south to San Jose, some 50 miles to the south.

The wall, mostly made of basalt boulders resting on massive rocks weighing up to a ton and embedded deep in the soil, sometimes goes in straight lines over hills, but also surrounds mountains and in one place, at Mt. Diablo, turns in a 30-foot diameter circle. The wall sometimes measures about six feet in height and up to three feet in width.

While surrounded by several outstanding schools of learning, the wall has surprisingly been avoided or overlooked by all but a few archaeological researchers and very little information has been discovered. Most of what has been written about the wall is based mostly on conjecture without solid evidence to support these ideas.

The theories include a suggestion by U.C. Berkeley Professor John Fryer, who said in 1904 that the walls were made by migrant Mongolians who he believed arrived in California long before the Europeans.

The earliest recorded inhabitants of the area, long before the Spanish arrived, were the Ohlone Indians. But most researchers rule the Ohlone out since they were not known for building structures. They were mostly hunter/gatherers and left no distinguishable marks in the earth to mark where they had been.

Some have theorized that the Spanish hired local Indians, or perhaps Chinese laborers to build the wall. But why would they want the wall? It was not designed as a fortress and served no useful purpose.

This leaves some lost civilization. Were they Atlanteans, or Toltecs from South America? That there exist cracks in the walls where trees once grew through them mark them as ancient and perhaps far older than human recorded history of the area will ever determine.

The late ethnologist Dr. Henry C. Meyers once said he believed the walls were erected centuries ago. "Neither man or men of the present day could possibly put large stones of these walls in place without appliances of some kind," he said.

Dr. Robert F. Fisher, the former president of the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation called the walls "enigmas. They predate the Indians. The predate the Spaniards. It doesn’t fit in with any of the later history."

Unfortunately, like the amazing garden beds and mounds of Michigan and the Midwest, the wall of central California is falling to destruction as new roads are built, cities expand and farmers clear more land. It is only going to be a matter of time before this structure of the ancient past will also be lost forever.

Why was the wall built? And who built it? We may never know the answers.