Why I’d Give Billions of Dollars to Archaeologists: The undocumented ancient civilizations under San Francisco and the Cloud People

One of the reasons I feel the way I do about civilizations and the politics of them is that I have a long time interest in history.  When I was in the 7th grade and had to take an aptitude test designed to point students in a career direction, my three results were archaeologist, test pilot, and stunt man.  It was an unusual result and my teacher back then was quite animated about the findings—after all this was a year before there was ever an Indiana Jones movie and nobody in their right mind would want to be an archaeologist.  My teacher thought I should have more sustainable career options and that my interests were………not aligned to reality.  For one, there wasn’t much money in the archaeology occupation, and it’s not very good for families.  It requires one to travel all over the world often in hostile territories rife with political limitations.  Even when you do get a dig permit the limits on them don’t allow you to find much beyond a few pots and pans leaving speculation into the greater civilization behind the artifacts to be highly speculative.   From the time I could first read my mother bought me great books about the world’s great mysteries—likely the same ones that inspired George Lucas to make the Indiana Jones films, and that is how I learned to read.  I fell in love with history early and it was always something that I found as my foundation passion.  If I had it my way, we would spend billions of dollars per year in America learning about our past so that we could prevent the same mistakes in the future.  We know next to nothing about where we came from and what the people were like who founded our lineage.  My study of the ancient cultures we know about has shaped much of my view about politics and philosophy—and it is my belief that the primary reason that more isn’t studied, is because that knowledge is intended to remain suppressed—for the preservation of the static society we have inherited.  Knowledge otherwise might provoke too radical of a change and many just aren’t prepared for those changes—yet.

With all that said, I don’t think we are even close to understanding our “native” past in North America—or even South America.  There were apparently very complex societies in the high Andes region before there was ever an Incan Empire, and the Bay Area of San Francisco has ancient walled boundary lines which predate any known society and is a lot more sophisticated than the nomad Indian tribes that were found there during westward expansion.  In fact, it looks like most of Northern California was host to this ancient civilization for which we know nothing about.  The relics of their vast enterprise are covered by modern development—which is usually the case—those are the two enemies of archaeological understanding—war and development.  Whether it is the covered up ruins around San Francisco featured below or the “Cloud People” of Northern Peru—there is a lot we need to learn.  The history books have not been closed on our ancient past—rather, we haven’t even made it through chapter one yet—much to the dismay of the many museums depending on federal grants to stay open and who want to end the story now to preserve the integrity of their exhibits.  There are two reports that I found uniquely connected even though they are very far apart geographically presented as follows:

All over northern California specifically in the region of San Francisco are mysterious 6’ walls.  The walls of the East Bay traverse some 50 miles in a straight line from the Carquinez Strait to San Jose, and in some places another 20 miles inland to Mt. Diablo.  They are generally six feet high and so far have defied explanation, hence the title “mysterious.”  For nigh on 100 years they have been explored, thought about but today have been largely abandoned.  Theories on their origins range from Zheng Hue’s exploration fleet, giants, Native Americans, even farmers but so far little or no archaeological research has been done on them outside of the trying to document their history which apparently pre-dates western/Spanish activity in the area.

Rough estimates by a geologist put their age older than 400 years or circa late 1500’s which puts this anomaly in new territory and forces the dismissal of many common theories about European / Spanish farms.  Especially since in greater San Francisco region the Spaniards did not settle  until 1769 when an expedition lead by Don Gaspar de Portola and Fr. Juan Crespi began to settle what is now San Francisco.  There was the odd seafarer such as Sir Francis Drake, who was believed to have sailed through the area in 1579, but seeing as he was a privateer the notion that he and his men attempted to settle the region is highly suspect.


Then many thousands of miles to the south high in the Andes region is a fortress apparently belonging to the “Cloud People” who had predated the Inca civilization and had joined the Spanish in conflict against their South American rivals.  When you hear reports from environmental activists that nothing good comes from deforestation tell them this story.  If not for deforestation, the ruins of these long forgotten “Cloud People” would have never been found. Trees grow back and the species of animals that live in rain forests can migrate and return, but the treasures lost under the overgrowth from past civilizations are lost until they are uncovered and this most recent discovery is evidence that points to the possibility of a lot more.

Remains have been found before but scientists have high hopes of the latest find, made by an expedition to the Jamalca district in Peru’s Utcubamba province, about 500 miles north-east of the capital, Lima.

Until recently, much of what was known about the lost civilization was from Inca legends.

Even the name they called themselves is unknown. The term Chachapoyas, or ‘Cloud People’, was given to them by the Incas.

Their culture is best known for the Kuellap fortress on the top of a mountain in Utcubamba, which can only be compared in scale to the Incas’ Machu Picchu retreat, built hundreds of years later

Radiocarbon dating samples show that construction of the structures started in the 6th century AD and the complex was occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570). Through the pre-Columbian, conquest and colonial periods, there are only four brief written references to Kuelap. It was rediscovered in 1843.

That year Juan Crisóstomo Nieto, a judge in Chachapoyas, made a survey of the area and took note of Kuelap’s great size; he was guided by villagers who had known of the site for generations. Subsequently, Kuelap gained the attention of explorers, historians and archaeologists. Notable observers who helped publicize the site included Frenchman Louis Langlois (who wrote a description of Kuelap in the 1930s), Adolph Francis Alphonse Bandelier, Ernst Middendorf, Charles Wiener and Antonio Raimondi.

The fortress of Kuelap or Cuélap (Chachapoyas, Amazonas, Perú), associated with the Chachapoyas culture, consists of a walled city, with massive exterior stone walls surrounding more than four hundred buildings. The complex, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length and 110 meters in width. It could have been built to defend against the Huari or other hostile peoples. However, evidence of these hostile groups at the site is minimal.



I would propose that these two stories of recent discoveries and contemplations of an ancient past are only the tip of the iceberg.  As I said, if it were up to me, archaeologists would be well-funded in America—by private donations of course–to expose this lost past so we could better understand the circumstances of our present.  If I had the extra money of several billion dollars—I’d give them a check today.  I am inclined to think that these two aforementioned cultures, whoever they are, were not the first of their kind—that before them was likely another lost race of people.  Related to the Cloud People of South America it should be of great concern that they were known to be as “white” and fair-haired as typical Scandinavians or even Germans.  How did they get there so long ago?  That is a question that demands an answer.  But before we can have that answer we have to see the value in seeking it.  We have a long way to go before understanding our own history—and it should be a much greater priority.  Because within that answer is the key to understanding much of our modern world and the psychosis which seems attached to it. Before you can fix the future you have to understand the past and we are a long way from that.  Obviously we need to strive to do better.  The evidence is all around us.  All we need to do is be willing to look at it.

Rich Hoffman


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