Construction crews working on a sidewalk on Dennison Street near the Oakland estuary Friday morning unearthed what is believed to be a human skull, possibly a remnant from an American Indian burial site, Oakland police said.
"We're not sure yet, and the coroner needs to determine how long the skull has been there, but we think it may be from a burial site," said Oakland police Sgt. Rachael Van Sloten. "What we've done is cover the hole, and we're having an archeologist from the Ohlone tribe coming out to take a look at it. The coroner is not going to touch it until then."
The skull was found about 10:15 a.m. about 3 feet below ground when the construction crew started digging to remove two sections of sidewalk on a contract job for AT&T to replace an underground cable, police said.
The construction site is adjacent to the Hide-A-Way Cafe on the 1900 block of Dennison, near the Embarcadero, and local historians say that area was indeed the site of numerous American Indian burial grounds, also known as shellmounds.
"Maps from 1878 and 1910 indicate there was a shellmound tract right there," said Dennis Evanosky, an author, local historian and editor at the Alameda Sun newspaper. "In fact, it shows Dennison Street runs right smack through the middle of the shellmound tract. This skull find, it kind of verifies that the shellmound was there."
A similar case occurred in January, when human remains — which were later determined to be those of an American Indian child of about four years of age — were found underneath an Alameda street when public works crews dug up a section of the 3000 block of Washington Street.