Around 1980 there appeared an article in the Oakland Tribune about the mystery walls in the East Bay Hills. Michael Harkins and I went an saw them. Here is a very good article on this enigma, this confounding riddle that defies logic. I believe I have come up with the only theory that makes sense.
The American Bison were found in almost every state. I suspect a vast herd made its way to California from Colorado and then migrated up to the Bay Area. Not owning horses, the natives were not able to chase down the Bison, so they built WEIRS, rock walls, and when the bison wandered into them, a line of hunters would close in for the slaughter.
“After meandering throughout the Oakland hills, they head inland towards Mt. Diablo where they lead to mysterious stone circles, up to 30 feet in diameter. In one place the walls form a spiral 200 feet wide that circles a large boulder.”
The wall extended from San Jose and Freemont along the ridges of the hills. The bay on the left formed a natural barrier. The rock weir closed the Bison Trap off at the Carquines Straights. The American River impeded their migration north into Oregon. Without the wall, the Bison would only remain for a short while. The walls created corals where the Bison grazed, and when the grass was gone, they were killed, or, driven onto another weir. These walls were built by large family groups and tribes. With each migration the natives became more skilled at building these walls. They were driven by success. The better and higher the wall, the more meat on the table. There were holes drilled in some of the rocks suggesting a gate was used. Did the natives build spiral fish weirs in the shallow bay out of rocks? If so, then they were one brilliant step away from owning the bright idea of applying their technology to herds of Bison. Today there are articles on how to harvest meat from Bison put back in the wild.
“The Ohlones ate different kinds of food. The Ohlone ate buffalo.”
Plains bison are the best-known of three species of bison. Other species are the wood bison of central and northern Canada and Alaska, and the European bison. We do not know how many plains bison inhabited North America at the time of European contact. Estimates are there were at least 30 million. Most Americans are familiar with the history of bison abundance and annihilation on the Great Plains. But bison once occurred in all but a few of the United States. Beginning in the 1670s, Spanish journals record bison in the panhandle of Florida. The species occurred from southern New York and the tidewater lands of Virginia, across Texas and a little of Old Mexico, in southern Canada and the Rocky Mountains, and in Oregon and California. However, they appear to have been rare in the arid Great Basin and Columbia Basin habitats of Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho. In 1769, Daniel Boone saw thousands of bison in western Kentucky, and George Washington killed a bison in West Virginia. Perhaps the latter was one of the King’s bison, since it was before the Revolution.
Stretching for over 50 miles, the East Bay “Mystery Walls” are found up and down the hills of the East Bay from Berkeley to San Jose. The stone walls are up to five feet tall in places, and are constructed from boulders of varying sizes, some weighing up to a ton. The walls run in broken sections, anywhere from a few meters to half a mile in length, and are placed in unlikely and inaccessible places. They seem to serve no known purpose. They are not continuous or high enough to act as an enclosure, or measure of defense. They are clearly, visibly, very old. The heavy stones have sunk deep into the ground, and they are overgrown with lichen. After meandering throughout the Oakland hills, they head inland towards Mt. Diablo where they lead to mysterious stone circles, up to 30 feet in diameter. In one place the walls form a spiral 200 feet wide that circles a large boulder.
The Spanish settlers in the area reported that the walls were already there when they arrived, and when they asked the local Ohlone American Indians, they said the same thing. In 1904, the founder of the Contra Costa Club said the walls were clearly of prehistoric origin and could be evidence that an advanced civilization had once settled in the East Bay. Also in 1904, the professor of Oriental languages at UC Berkeley declared that the walls were surely the work of settlers from Mongolia, as the Chinese tended to wall in their cities, and the mystery walls were reminiscent of the Great Wall of China. Others have theorized that they were built by the early Missionaries, and still others wonder if Sir Frances Drake did not leave colonists behind at the site where he completed the circumnavigation of the globe. While speculations abound, the “Mystery Walls of the East Bay,” or the “Great Wall of California” remains a mystery to this day.
The Ohlones ate different kinds of food. The Ohlone ate buffalo. They also ate wild strawberries, wild carrots, and wild mushrooms. They would also catch fish, shellfish, and clams. While the women were picking, the men were hunting. The Ohlone spears were for smaller animals. Acorns were the most important food in their diet. The bows were made of yew for hunting. They hunted geese, dove, quail, rabbits, deer, and antelope for food. Some families boiled acorns for thick porridge or bread. The Ohlones ate a lot of food.
East Bay Walls are also known as the Berkeley Mystery Walls. These crude, stone walls are located in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. In places, they are up to a meter high and a meter wide; the walls run in sections anywhere from a few meters to over a half mile long. The rocks used to construct the East Bay Walls are a variety of sizes. Some are basketball-sized rocks, while others are large sandstone boulders weighing a ton or more. Parts of the wall seem to be just piles of rocks, but in other places it appears the walls were carefully constructed. The exact age of the walls is unknown, but they have an old appearance. Many of the formations have sunk far into the earth, and are often completely overgrown with different plants.
The purpose of these walls is still unknown. Since the wall is not continuous and is composed of multiple sections, they could not have been used as a fence. They are not tall enough to have been used as defense mechanisms. The walls function is unknown as well as the constructors.
The Ohlone Indians have been considered most likely to be the builders, although they were hunter-gatherers and are not known to have built permanent structures. The Mongolians also have been suggested as the source for the walls; in 1904, UC-Berkeley Professor John Fryer suggested that the walls were made by migrant Chinese who traveled to California before the Europeans. Some specialists have noted that the walls look similar to other ancient structures found in rural Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine. No evidence has been found to provide an answer to who built these mystery walls.
Minnesota-based forensic geologist Scott Wolter has theorized in Season 3, Episode 7 of his History 2 channel TV show “America Unearthed” that the wall is two to three hundred years old, as suggested by the thick weathering rind on the limestone rock he was authorized to sample.
Supporting John Fryer’s theory, Scott Wolter traveled to China and spoke with an expert where, after showing him photos of the California wall, the expert said that older parts of the Great Wall of China north in Mongolia made in 200 BC look exactly like the California wall. Additionally, Scott Wolter discovered ancient Chinese maps showing California.
The East Bay Walls are accessible in several area parks, including Ed R. Levin County Park  in Santa Clara County and Mission Peak Regional Preserve  in Alameda County. The walls are found in the east bay of San Francisco.
A recent controversial theory put forward by Gavin Menzies in the book 1421, the Year China Discovered America, suggests that the fleets of Zheng He circumnavigated the globe and discovered America in the 15th century, before Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus did the same. According to Menzies’ theory, a portion of Zheng He’s fleet, under the command of Admiral Zhou Man detached from the great fleet and followed the Japanese Current current north past Japan, along the Aleutians, south of Alaska, down the west coast of America to California. After a two month voyage, he arrived in the vicinity of San Francisco.
While his book has met with skeptical reviews among scientists and archaeologists, some evidence presented seems to bear out Menzies’ idea that Chinese arrived in the California area long before the arrival of the Europeans. For example, a Chinese junk, sunk in Bodega Bay, still disgorges ceramics. In addition, a considerable amount of Chinese porcelain has been found at Drake’s Bay, north of San Francisco.
Another piece of evidence is the possible discovery of a medieval Chinese-style junk buried under a sandbank in the Sacramento River near Chico. Rumors of a Chinese ship have circulated in Glenn, California for 70 years, ever since two farmers hand-boring a well said they found some bronze artifacts that someone, somehow, authenticated as Chinese armor. Two local men used a magnetometer, which detects disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field, to show the presence of something shaped like an 85-foot-long ship with its bow pointed upstream. Subsequent drilling turned up fragments of wood which have been carbon-dated to 1410 and identified as cut from Keteleeria, a Chinese evergreen tree unknown in America.
Also near Chico, California, the Gallinomero language spoken by Concow people is similar to Chinese. The Concow people may have been descendants of Chinese sailors. They are noted to have celebrated the same festivals of burning paper as the Chinese.
On the eastern side of San Francisco Bay mysterious stone walls may have been built by Chinese. These the strange Californian walls are all up and down the hills behind the East Bay going from San Jose all the way to the Carquinez Straits. They also continue north over by Sonoma mountain up through the wine country. The walls form neither animal pens nor do they appear to be fort-like, but, if must be said, resemble a miniature version of the Great Wall of China. The original land records of the Spanish land owners (Peralta, Vallejo, etc) lay no claim to having built them. In fact they asked the local Indians about them and the tribes there said the walls were there when they got there. The standard story is that the walls were built by the original white settlers in this area to clear fields for grazing and farming. However, these walls run in the most impractical of places as well as along some of the hill tops. Some run up ravines you can hardly walk up, let alone build a wall on. There is no explanation for these mysterious walls, save perhaps that they were built by ancient Chinese visitors.
Even further east, an early Ming bronze plate was discovered buried at Susanville, California.
Perhaps, when the Chinese junk ran aground in the Sacramento River in 1421, it was decided to establish a Chinese a trading colony there. The area is fertile, the climate mild and the location ideal for settling. From this colony explorers could have set out, following river courses throughout the central California area. Eventually these explorers could have traveled as far as the Susanville area, and even on from there past Honey Lake and south to the Truckee Meadows area, in present-day Nevada. Moving further south, they might have reached the Carson River, following it east for a while before turning back. Thus medieval Chinese explorers may have reached the present-day location of Molossia. The entire journey would have been about 230 miles one-way, or 460 miles round trip. At a pace of about 10 miles a day, their journey would have taken probably six to eight weeks, and might have included a stop-over of a few days at any given spot along the way. It may have been accomplished over a long period of time, part of a series of expeditions through this area. The lack of extensive evidence in this area precludes an extended stay, but a brief journey through Western Nevada in not beyond the realm of possibility.
Possible? Yes. What else would explain the mysterious coin found here?
As an epilogue, soon after the return of the great fleets from abroad, the Chinese government ceased its officially backed expeditions across the seas. This meant no follow-up visits to the hypothetical colony in California, which would have then either died out completely, or merged with the local Indian tribes, vanishing into the mists of time. Without longevity, the remains of this colony disappeared, and the history of early Chinese voyages to America went with it. Perhaps conclusive evidence remains to this day, buried somewhere in Northern California, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps it is even here in Molossia!
You’ve written about neighbors who view the prairie as a factory. Is that belief that we’re here just to take a big part of the barrier to a more sustainable food system?
With the industrial revolution came the idea that we would take something like agriculture and turn it into an industry–a very strange idea. It’s like turning churches into an industry; we’ve done that too. The idea of capitalism as it’s practiced today–where more is always better–won’t work when we have limited resources. Something’s got to give, and we’re seeing it in the health issues we talked about.
Can you say more about the way you’re working to make the “harvest” or slaughter of your animals humane, ethical, and transparent?
I’m playing with the idea that we should advertise that we will let anyone into any part of our operation and challenge any producer to do the same thing. If a producer doesn’t want me to see how they deal with their animals, I don’t want to eat it.
The agriculture lobbies exert tremendous influence over food policy in Washington, but they seem to have very little presence in the buffalo industry.
Maybe the buffalo industry should grow, but it should have limits. It just came out that USDA is going to do their first official bison study. But I have mixed feelings about Washington; I mean we’re busy raising buffalo here. Who has time to lobby? This is not a meat market deal, this is an Internet business and that’s how we run it. What we’re doing is a new paradigm. I don’t even want to know how the beef industry does it.