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Early Peoples of the California Sierra Nevada Mountains
Edward C. Lain and Robert E. Gentet
© 2010

The auriferous [gold-bearing] gravels were deposited in the Tertiary rivers flowing off the California Sierra Nevada Mountains. These gravels are commonly dated as being deposited in the ancient river beds millions of years ago. Gold miners and others in the last half of the 1800s found hundreds of human artifacts and some human bones embedded in and associated with the gravels (Gentet 1991, Lain & Gentet, 1997).

The Creation, Curse, Catastrophe (CCC) geologic model would date these Tertiary, gold-bearing river gravels as being deposited in the early, post-Flood world. Since this area of the world is far removed from where Noah's Ark landed, it is only natural to ask how man could have found his way to the New World so early. The authors believe that ocean travel may prove the best answer to this important question.

Travels across the wide expanse of the world's oceans by early peoples are no longer considered by many as mere possibilities. It is now well known that ocean-going journeys were both possible and a reality to ancient peoples. Thor Heyerdahl's famous 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean as well as numerous archeological findings around the world indicate man's early seagoing abilities.

The Native Americans who populated the area of present-day Calaveras County (location of the Calaveras Skull and artifacts) when the white man arrived are called the Miwok or Mewuk. Conrotto reports (1973, p. 14):

We have already seen how the white man has linked the Miwok with four of his cousin tribes (Wintun, Maidu, Costanoan and Yokuts) into the Penutian family. This group -- a 'compact and indissoluble unit' -- held sway over the center of California.

Conrotto notes that "the ancestors of the Penutians wandered into central California around 2000 B.C." (1973, p. 14). Thus, the Miwok may have been in California for up to nearly 4000 years BP.

Miwok means "People." C. Hart Merriam in his epic book on the myths and tales of the Miwok Indians (1910, p. 232) records this significant insight:

Many human skulls and skeletons have been found in caves along the west slope of the middle Sierra. The presence of human remains in these caves has been interpreted to mean that the Indians now living in the region practice cave burial, or did practice it until recent times. This is an error. The Indians of this region, the Mewuk, burned their dead, and look with horror on the suggestion that they or their ancestors might ever have put their dead in caves...The idea is so abhorrent to them that the theory of cave burial must be abandoned as preposterous....This argues a great antiquity for the cave remains, for they must be those of a people who inhabited the region before the Mewuk came -- and this takes us back a very long way into the past.

The word "Calaveras" in Spanish means skulls. The presence of human bones in caves and in the ancient auriferous gravels argues for man being in this area of the world soon after the Flood. And journey by boat seems to be the most practical and fastest way to get him there. With Noah and his three sons' experience in the Ark for over a year, it should come as no surprise that sea travelling became a major part of human history soon after the Flood ended.

Merriam (1910, p. 21) also reports that:

...the two coast tribes [in California] say that in the beginning the Divinity Coyote-man came to America from the west by crossing the Pacific Ocean on a raft....

Coyote-man, also called O-ye by some tribes, is also reported in one tale as having "gathered up the people and took them away with him across the ocean" after he and Wek-wek the Falcon-man quarreled and later he "brought the people back." (Merriam 1910, p. 157) Thus, in the very tales and stories of some of the Miwok Indians, ocean travel is recorded.

Edward Lain next to pestils and mortars
Figure 1: Picture of one of the authors (Lain) by simulated Miwok village in the San Andreas County Museum. Note the large, heavy mortars and pestles on ledge. These were not manufactured by the Miwok Indians but were sometimes used by them after they weathered out of the ancient Tertiary riverbeds.

Further evidence that the Miwok were not the people who manufactured the portable mortars found in the ancient, Tertiary auriferous gravels is supplied by Barrett and Gifford's classic work on the Miwok Indians (1933, p. 209):

The Miwok made no portable mortars whatever. All in their possession have been found by them and are said [by them] to have been made by Coyote, a supernatural being, who scratched them out or made them sexually.

The obvious answer is that peoples prior to the Miwok's arrival made the implements and that, on occasion, the Miwok used them after they had eroded out of the gravel beds (Figure 1). The Miwok's creation story taught that "before the People [that is, the Miwok] were created, there were six different races in the world" (Conrotto 1973, p. 13). The Miwok therefore acknowledged the presence of other peoples before them. The "creation" of the Miwok should probably be likened to the "creation" of the different tribes and families of the Earth from the family of Noah after the Flood (Gen. 10).

Tuolumne Table Mountain latite
Figure 2: Tuolumne Table Mountain latite (an extrusive volcanic rock) now forms a prominent cliff overlooking the Stanislaus River at the extreme southern portion of Calaveras County, California. The erosion-resistant latite has capped the auriferous gravel of the ancient Tertiary Stanislaus River bed and preserved it from massive erosion as the rest of the surrounding countryside was severely eroded. It was under the Table Mountain latite that some of the human remains and artifacts were discovered (Gentet, 1991).

The identity of these most early inhabitants of California is not known. It is the authors' belief that the famed Calaveras Skull is one trace of these early peoples (see Lain & Gentet, 1997). Whitney's report on the measurements of the fossil "Calaveras Skull" showed that it differed from 3 skulls of the then-living Miwok Indians in the area (labeled by Whitney as the "Digger Indians"). It also differed from 11 other skulls of Indians from different parts of California in all six categories of measurement except the breadth of cranium is similar to the 11 skulls. In all other five aspects, the Calaveras Skull "surpasses them in the other particulars in which comparisons have been made" (Whitney 1880, p. 273). This is one more piece of evidence that the fossil skull represents a people distinct from modern-day tribes and lived long before them.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains and surrounding foothills reveal an amazing potential for the study of early, post-Flood man in North America. Their paradise came to a violent end as volcanic and earth movements radically changed the landscape and vegetation (Figure 2). The peaks of the Sierra Nevada were further uplifted to their present heights. The onset of the Ice Age complicated man's life here. Nevertheless, the evidences of Man's early Post-Flood presence are with us yet today through the artifacts and fossils found in the auriferous gravels.


CRSQ: Creation Research Society Quarterly.
  • Barrett, S. A., E. W. Gifford. 1933. Miwok material culture. Bulletin of Milwaukee Public Museum. Vol. 2, Number 4, March 1933. Yosemite Association, Yosemite National Park, CA.
  • Conrotto, Eugene L. 1973. Miwok means people. Valley Publishers, Fresno, CA.
  • Gentet, Robert E. 1991. Geological evidence of early man. CRSQ 27:122-127.
  • —— 2000. The ccc model and its geologic implications. CRSQ 37:10-21.
  • Lain, Edward C., R. E. Gentet. 1997. The case for the calaveras skull. CRSQ 33:248-256.
  • Merriam, C. Hart. 1910. The dawn of the world: myths and weird tales told by the mewan indians of california. Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland.
  • Whitney, J. D. 1880. The auriferous gravels of the sierra nevada of california. University Press. John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.
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