SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) --Construction work on a new Santa Clara County solar installation is getting new oversight when the site was discovered to be a likely Ohlone Indian burial site.
The nine-acre site is located along Highway 87, just south of the Capitol Expressway.
The work here is nearly complete, but a long trench is being dug that could disturb human remains and artifacts. Records indicate remains were discovered there in 1973, so that's why an archeologist and a monitor now will be watching the work closely.
Santa Clara County is in the process of doubling solar collector sites from six to 12, including one that commuters have been watching go up along Highway 87 in Blossom Valley. The site is capable of powering 215 homes for a year.
The site shows up on historic maps as land once home to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. Anthropologist Alan Leventhal at San Jose State University says it's likely a Native American burial site.
"There's evidence that some of the burials date as late as 400 years ago," Leventhal said. "There may be some other kinds of evidence that pushes it back to at least maybe 1,700 years ago."
While work started in June, county planner Kirk Girard was told only last Friday of its significance. The site was covered years ago by three feet of fill dirt when Highway 87 was built. Native soil is protected, except for electric trench work that is now underway.
"We had an archeologist come out and make sure that we haven't disturbed anything. They confirmed that so far we are working in fill, and we haven't disturbed anything," Girard said.
Anthropologist Leventhal is working in concert with the 600 registered members of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe to have an archeologist of their choice on-site, along with a tribal monitor. It's believed native soil may be exposed at the far ends of the site. And if remains or artifacts are found, work will stop.
"Omissions do happen, and errors do happen. Rather than make excuses, they immediately took action to make any corrections so there would not be impact," Leventhal.
Part of the history of the native people of Santa Clara Valley lies below this solar installation.