Friday, September 21, 2012


Miwok Home reproduction- u’macha’

It was fantastic to see the ancient Chaw’se, the Indian Grinding Rock village site that’s 2- 3,000+ years old. Chaw’se is the Miwok word for grinding rock – a slab of stone on which the Miwok people ground acorns and other seeds into meal, slowly forming the cup shaped depressions in the stone that can still be seen today. Along with the mortar holes, the main grinding rock within the park also features a number of decorative carvings: circles, spoked wheels, animal and human tracks, wavy lines, etc. Some of these carvings are thought to as much as two to three thousand years old and are now becoming difficult to see. This association of rock art and bedrock mortar pits is unique in California. Except for one other small site, Chaw’se has the only known occurrence of mortars intentionally decorated with petroglyphs.There are 1,185 mortar holes -- the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America.

Grinding Rock
The Miwok women would gather at the Chaw’se to grind acorns from the surrounding Valley Oaks, which were prized for their high nutritional value. However, the nuts are bitter tasting due to their tannin content. The Miwok overcame this problem by cracking the acorns and pounding the nuts in a mortar with a stone pestle. Once the meal was fine enough, water was poured through it, rinsing away the tannin. The acorn meal could then be cooked in watertight baskets over open fires.

hun’ge Roundhouse
The hun’ge is a Native American Roundhouse that has been reconstructed by the modern Miwok Indians themselves for ceremonial purposes.
Roundhouse Interior
The hun’ge, was the setting for a variety of social gatherings and ceremonial events in the old days. Ceremonies were held, for example, to pray, to mourn the dead or to observe special occasions through music and dance. In a typical village, this semi-subterranean community center was the largest building in the village and tended to be twenty to fifty feet in diameter. The Chaw’se hun’ge is sixty feet across and is one of the largest in California. Four large beams and center poles support the roof. A large hole in the center of the roof allows smoke from the fire pit to escape and also permits observation of the stars. It is used today for Native American Ceremonies.
Miwok homes ranged from eight to fifteen feet in diameter and were built of cedar poles interwoven with grapevines or willow and covered with cedar bark. A hole was left at the top for smoke from cooking or heating fires. Bark houses- u’macha’ can be seen near the grinding rock and also at the reconstructed village west of the roundhouse. This is a great historic place to see.
Highly recommended!

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  1. How interesting ! Where abouts is this please ? I love the grinding stone, I could just imagine loads of native ladies busilu grinding down acorns. I didn't even know you could eat them. The caves also looked beautiful and I would love to go and them one day - Thank you for posting this

  2. I was there made a mini pilgrimage to Indian land.