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RUBBLE ROUSING SURVEY TO HELP PRESERVE VASQUEZ ROCKS.

Byline: Carol Rock Staff Writer

AGUA DULCE - A team of archaeologists is surveying the craggy formations of Vasquez Rocks to protect treasures there that date back centuries.

The goal is to make sure artifacts found in the popular hiking and filming location are preserved, part of the county of Los Angeles' ongoing resource protection plan.

The park - named for outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez, who used its distinctive rock formations as a hide-out - is one of the crown jewels of the county's natural area inventory. The last comprehensive survey of its resources was done in 1969 by Charles Rozaire.

It is Rozaire's study that archaeologists are using as a basis for their current work, noting any movement of artifacts or remains that were included in the original documents, as well as anything new that has come to the surface - or fallen from above.

Laurie Solis, an archaeologist with Sapphos Environmental, Inc., is working with a team to access 60 sites, two of them part of recent park expansion acquisitions.

Solis has found projectiles and dart points that predate the bow and arrow, indicative of the Tatavium Indian settlers of the area.

``There has been some erosion of the natural areas, from weathering and water and some new artifacts have presented themselves,'' she said.

``In the mid-90s, the park was being loved to death,'' said Sapphos President Marie Campbell. ``Events were held that were having a negative impact on the environment. This park simply can't be all things to all people. There has to be a balance.''

Solis showed off one of the new artifacts that appeared during her recent survey; a flat stone with a baked effigy in the red ocher.

``This was used for knife sharpening,'' she said, pointing out the creases in the rock.

During the survey of the 905-acre park, Campbell and her staff will decide which artifacts should remain in place and which should be removed for safekeeping and possibly educational purposes.

Vasquez Rocks superintendent David Jallo said that one of the county's goals is to establish an educational center and museum in which the more significant items could be shown, along with exhibits about the native plants and animals.

Finding human remains are another part of the archaeologist's job, and this survey has been no exception. A jawbone, possibly American Indian, was found July 30 during the survey, which was turned over to the county coroner's Special Operations Recovery Team that deals in skeletal remains.

A cloak of secrecy surrounds the exact survey locations because of several past incidents where artifacts have been stolen or sensitive areas destroyed. A 1992 story about a study of pictographs being done by the Natural History Museum resulted in a surge of such events at the park, forcing park staff to make sites off-limits in an all-out effort to protect them. But four years later, scholars familiar with the rock art said as much as 40 percent of the drawings had been stolen or defaced since a 1973 inventory was taken and accused the county of neglecting the artifacts. At the time, the Board of Supervisors called for better protections.

``We watch out for them on our regular patrol,'' Jallo said. ``They are some of the most significant resources we have, along with other rock features, such as cupule sites used for grinding.''

Somis said the survey was only one-third completed, but she hoped that she and her two assistants could finish their work by late September or early October. She added that resources at Vasquez Rocks also include old homesteads and burial sites of European settlers as well as art, natural cisterns and reservoirs, all of which the county is working to protect.

``Vasquez Rocks is really a snapshot of California's original occupation,'' Jallo said. ``We're concerned about the natural areas being encroached upon, that they might lose their rural character and history. We're trying to establish buffer zones by acquiring property around the edges of the park.''

``This is one of the purest, most undisturbed biological areas in California,'' said Mickey Long, a county park superintendent who specializes in natural areas. ``It has relatively low visibility and is definitely one of the gems in the system.''

Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252

carol.rock(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) David Jallo, regional park supervisor, holds a mortar and mano, which were found at Vasquez Rocks.

(2) Linda Therrien, ranger at Vasquez Rocks, displays some of the implements found in surveys of the park.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 22, 2004
Words:751
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