Mark Hylkema
Mark Hylkema

Santa Cruz District Archeologist for California State Parks

Ancestral Ohlone Indian Culture in Our Own Backyard

In 1769, when members of the first Spanish expedition reached the San Francisco Bay area they encountered numerous tribal communities that lived in a bountiful landscape. Over a period of 10,000 years, a mosaic of tribal communities adapted in response to several major environmental transitions. Archaeological research has found that tribes spread along the San Mateo and Santa Cruz County coast developed an early focus on marine resources, while neighboring tribes of the Santa Clara Valley and San Francisco Bay shore eventually transformed into more complex levels of social organization. By the time the explorers arrived, distinctive tribal boundaries and customs had developed. This discussion will provide an outline of the local prehistory and native lifeway up to the time of European contact. We will also review aspects of the Spanish, Mexican and early American periods and reflect on what it was like not too many years ago when grizzly bears and the ancestral Ohlone people dwelled here.

Mark Hylkema is a State archaeologist with 28 years experience in California archaeology and Native American culture. He has interacted with many different tribal communities, particularly in central and northern California. He did his graduate research on the archaeology of the San Mateo and Santa Cruz County coast and has directed excavations throughout the greater San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. He works full time as the Santa Cruz District Archaeologist for California State Parks managing cultural resources in an area stretching from San Francisco to the Pajaro River; and has taught undergraduate and graduate classes at Santa Clara University, University of California at Santa Cruz, De Anza College, Ohlone College, Cabrillo College and Foothill College. A native of Mountain View and Los Altos, he currently resides in Sunnyvale.

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