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Wall Discovery Unearths Past

Whoever said stones can’t speak? A 200-year-old stone wall at the corner of Santa Clara Street and Ventura Avenue tells stories to archeologist James Schmidt.

As shovelful after shovelful of dirt is removed, the wall becomes more visible and sheds more light on the Chumash Indians and Spanish padres and soldiers who built, prayed or protected the San Buenaventura Mission 200 years ago.

The wall was uncovered last year when a Smart & Final retail store was demolished.

“Can you imagine the manpower it took to build walls like this?” Schmidt said.

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Chumash Indians are likely to have carried the rocks from nearby riverbeds in ox carts and piled them in place, Schmidt said. A perimeter of the mission’s 10-acre orchards, the stone wall, Schmidt speculates, would have shielded its pear, lemon, olive and orange trees from animals and theft.

Yet, despite whatever other stories the wall might tell, Schmidt said neither he nor the city finds the site significant enough to stop the planned construction later this summer of a low-income housing project.

“It would be easier to argue that the wall be preserved, if it had interior walls, evidence of habitation or used some significant technology,” Schmidt said.


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