History of California Paleo-Indian Tribal Art (part 2)


Next, I wanted to know if any Native Americans had the capability of melting glass. On the internet I found a paper by Heather Walder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Anthropology Dept. This paper indicated that the early inhabitants of the Northern Great Lakes region took glass left by early explorers and remelted it to form new objects. When I sent pictures of my glass pieces Ms. Walder, her response was that my pieces were fulgurites caused by lightning striking sand. I located a Google chart of lightning strikes by county and Ms. Walder's explanation seemed highly unlikely. Recalling the image of the caldera from years before, I thought that the explosion which obliterated the rock promontory may have produced the glass and the pyroclasts. I located a research report that discussed the variety of materials formed by different types of phlegmatic explosions. By comparing images from the report to an updated Google Earth image of the San Quentin caldera, I realized that the specific geological formations associated with geothermal steam explosions are present along the San Quentin peninsula. It seems quite likely that the explosion of the promontory is the source of the glass and pyroclasts.

I was collecting at “the beach” again when I found a very large piece of brown piece of glass that weighed more than 1lb. When I compared it to the Google Earth image of the caldera, I realized that this piece had been worked by man to form a map of the inside of the caldera and the land around it. The glass piece had a circular element that represented the center of the caldera.

Diane and I were sitting in my apartment when I noticed that the PCN-style wood-carving had the same distinctive circular shape on it as the glass piece! Immediately, we began looking at the other items in our collections and realized that many of them also had the same marking as the wood carving and the glass piece. A complete review of our stones, glass pieces and wood-carvings showed that the same glyphs and features evident on Ring Mountain have been flinted, and carved onto these other mediums.

I theorize that the steam and firing rising from the circular shape within the cladera was revered and respected as a God by the earliest inhabitants of this area.. They reproduced its image in many forms (stone, wood, glass) just as others cultures produced idols in recognition of their own deities. This was a powerful diety that could give and take life in their world. This belief was passed from generation to generation for thousands of years by tribe elders and each generation reproduced the same image of their God.

Normally, volcanic explosions, geothermal steam and hydrothermal explosions are not one time events. They recur time and time again over periods that vary from a few years to millions of years. Given the appearance of the rock promontory in the Montanus sketch, the late 1500s was not the first time an explosion occurred. If the PCN work on Ring Mountain is thought to be at least 8,000 years old, several explosions could have occurred between then and now and would account for the large quantity of stones, wood-carvings, glass pieces and pyroclasts that can be found in this area. The ever-present heat and steam escaping from natural vents in and around the cladera was used by the ancients to remelt shards of glass they collected from previous explosions. They created new glass pieces that they used as tools and as a permanent record of the creatures and the land that comprised their world. The traditions of the ancients were passed down to the Miwok who continued the practice of remelting volcanic shards and eventually remelting glass left by early explorers. This practice appears to have continued until the turn of the 20th Century.

Regardless of their age, the wood carvings, glass pieces, pyroclasts and stones bear the same distinctive markings. My theory about the caldera as a God is not limited to the San Quentin Peninsula. I have evidence that other early inhabitants of California who settled along the same geological formation also had the same belief system.