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Presidio Kicks Off Archaeology Month

Exploring our heritage and the methods used to investigate it this Archaeology Month.


Archaeology lab at the Presidio

Presidio of San Francisco (October 7, 2008) — For most, October means Halloween, but October is also Archaeology Month in California, a time for exploring our heritage and the methods used to investigate it. Throughout the month, the Presidio is hosting a series of contemporary movies featuring full-length films, documentaries, and short subjects contrasting distinct perspectives on the past. Screenings will be followed by panel discussions with archaeologists and filmmakers. The month will be capped with a discussion and book signing with Stanford archaeologist and author Dr. Barbara Voss, who has conducted extensive research at the Presidio. The programs run for three successive Thursdays, from October 9 to October 23. All events begin at 7 pm at the Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Avenue.

“The Presidio has been involved with Archaeology Month for the last couple of years. It gives us a chance to invite the public to learn more about our work and the undiscovered history of the Presidio,” says Katie Ahern, the coordinator of education programs for the Presidio’s archaeology lab.

A local treasure and national jewel, some are beginning to call the Presidio the “Jamestown of the West.” On Thursday, October 9 the Presidio offers The New World, juxtaposing New Line Cinema’s The New World with excerpts from the National Geographic Explorer episode “The New World: Nightmare in Jamestown.” A panel of archaeologists will examine the media’s representation of history and start a dialogue on how movies can help present the past to the public.

The following Thursday, October 16 will be dedicated to Archaeology Indies. The evening will introduce the public to local archaeologists and their work. Five archaeology students and professionals will be showing their short films and discussing the challenges of presenting an unfiltered view of the past.

A Conversation with Dr. Barbara Voss caps the month on October 23. The Stanford archaeologist and author will sign copies of her book Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco and discuss her book on the genesis of the Californios, a community of military settlers who forged a new identity on the northwest edge of Spanish North America.

In conjunction with Archaeology Month the Presidio is again opening its archaeology lab for field trips for Bay Area fourth graders.

“What kid doesn’t love to play in dirt? The field trips are a hands-on archaeological experience. They show kids that the things they dig up can actually help us about learn about our past,” says Ahern.

The field trips help kids imagine what the landscape of San Francisco looked like when the first Spanish colonists arrived. They navigate their way through a life-sized map of where the original Spanish fort once stood and locate the sites archaeologists have excavated; analyze, interpret and catalog various archaeological artifacts; dig into experimental archaeology and make an adobe brick; and learn how archaeology can help us uncover more about the Spanish colonists and native Ohlone who once lived there.

The field trips begin this Friday, October 10 and will be held each Friday during the school year. For more information, or to book a field trip, call (415) 561-4163 or

Visitors can also explore the Mesa Room at the Presidio Officers’ Club, whose walls are a timeline of Presidio history. As archaeologists peeled away the wallpaper, each layer revealed another layer of the Presidio’s past€¦ from the wallpaper of the 1960s and 30s to the wooden wall of the 1880s to the original adobe wall. And visitors can also see the foundation of the historic chapel, which offers an interpretive landscape on the site of the original Spanish fort.

The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to manage the Presidio of San Francisco, a former army base located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 1,500-acre site contains the infrastructure of a small city as well as expansive open space, a 300-acre historic forest, spectacular views, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. It comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to its status as a National Historic Landmark District, making it unlike any other national park. In establishing the Trust, Congress mandated that it make the park financially self-sufficient by 2013. The Trust is the only federal agency with this mandate.”

Media Contacts

Lisa Petrie
Presidio Trust
(415) 264-7787 (mobile)
(415) 561-5424 (office)