Project Location: The project area is located in the former
Ballona Lagoon area, a former wetland complex in west Los
Angeles that is known collectively as the Ballona. This area
is today bound roughly by Playa del Rey to the west, Marina
del Rey to the north, the Ballona Escarpment (a high bluff )
and Del Rey Hills/Westchester Bluffs to the south, and Interstate
405 to the east. It is located approximately 0.5 km east
of the Pacific Ocean, 1.3 km west of the Baldwin Hills, and
1.6 to 2.6 km north of Los Angeles International Airport.
Ballona Creek, a drainage that is now channelized, crosses
the project area; Centinela Creek, a spring-fed drainage, once
ran along the southern part of the of the project area along
the base of the Ballona Escarpment.
Project Description: Statistical Research, Inc. (SRI), conducted
data recovery at five sites in the Ballona (CA-LAN-
54/H, CA-LAN-62/H, CA-LAN-193/H, CA-LAN-211/H,
and CA-LAN-2768/H [hereinafter, the prefix CA- and the
suffix /H will be omitted]) which involved bioarchaeological
analyses of human remains discovered during the investigations
or subsequent archaeological monitoring. These five sites
were recommended eligible for listing in the National Register
of Historic Places (NRHP) (Altschul 1991; Altschul et al.
1991, 1998, 1999, 2003; Denniston and Douglass 2007; Van
Galder et al. 2006; Vargas and Altschul 2001; Vargas et al.
2005). A total of 386 burial features were recovered from these
five sites, the majority from LAN-62 (n = 374). The burials at
LAN-62 were concentrated in a small portion of the southern
part of the site and were associated with distinctive mourning
features characterized by high densities of material culture,
including unique artifacts. The study focused on delineating
the chronological sequence of the burial ground at LAN-62,
mortuary treatments, paleodemography, variation, dentition,
and paleopathology. Fundamental research questions posed
include, who were the people living in the Ballona Wetlands?
and, how did they change over time?
Project Summary: The bioarchaeological study of human
remains from the Playa Vista Archaeological and Historical
Project (PVAHP) has revealed significant insights into the
health, diet, and cultural affinity of the prehistoric and early
historical-period populations of the Ballona. The burial area at
LAN-62 has complex stratigraphy, spatial relationships, and association
of material culture. To aid in defining the chronological
relationship between outlying burials and the main burial
ground at the site—and also to distinguish historical-period
and prehistoric burial areas in the absence of clear chronological
indicators—SRI developed a sophisticated system that delineates
specific spatial and sequential relationships based on the
Harris matrix but significantly more robust. The spatial and
temporal analysis through this system identified unique spatiotemporal
patterns. For example, the Mission period features
were located in the southwestern portion of the burial area in
a relatively discrete area measuring 6 by 8 m. The prehistoric
burial features were located either in the northernmost part of
the burial area or in the northern and eastern portions of the
main burial area. Comparatively fewer features were identified
as protohistoric. Other subgroups within the burial area
at LAN-62 were identified to help researchers answer specific
questions regarding the formation of the site using small groups
of closely related burial and nonburial features.
During prehistoric times, individuals were clearly interred
close to where inhabitants were living. Therefore, it is likely
that either LAN-62 was not a centralized burial ground for
the region prior to the Mission period or cultural norms at
the time did not necessitate one. Prior to the protohistoric
period, the function of LAN-62 changed from a domestic
to a ceremonial one.
Overall, burial features at LAN-62 consisted primarily of
flexed primary inhumations with uncommon or rare occurrences
of partial or complete cremations. The burials were
concentrated in an area over a meter in depth, and most of
the burials were intrusive to, or impacted by, other burials
as well as nonburial features which likely predated the use of
the area for burials. Various calculations, based on different
elements, were used, and the exact number of individuals
buried at LAN-62 will never be known; however, SRI has
estimated roughly 349 to 377 individuals as the most likely
range. Female individuals greatly outnumbered the males,
and very few children and young adolescents are represented.
The base burial population consisted mostly of young adults.
An important research question for the PVAHP is related
to the ethnic and cultural identity of the populations residing
in the Ballona wetlands. Through comparisons of the PVAHP
craniometric data to other sites in coastal southern California
and to five Native American samples, we conclude that the individuals
represented at LAN-62 were related to southern California
Native Americans, most likely the Gabrielino/Tongva.