Landscapes of Change at Santa Clara University
The modern campus of Santa Clara University rests upon the material remnants of thousands of years of human and environmental history. This rich heritage includes evidence of Native American life dating back almost 2,000 years, as well as more recent archaeological remains related to the German and other immigrant communities that sprang up around Santa Clara in the second half of the nineteenth century. The most detailed and significant archaeological evidence from campus comes from the Spanish mission period (ca. 1777-1840s) in which our campus was home to thousands of Native Americans as well as a handful of Spanish missionaries and colonial soldiers and artisans. These periods represent far-reaching cultural and environmental change, including Native American landscape management practices, the introduction of Old World plant and animal species to the Santa Clara Valley, as well as ongoing processes of urbanization and University expansion.
Students and faculty in Anthropology are currently organizing data related to long-term environmental changes on campus. This includes spatial data regarding the location of mission-period and more recent structures, syntheses of previous archaeobotanical reports (information from pollen, phytoliths, seeds, and other plant remains), and the remains of various animals that were used for food and raw material by previous inhabitants of Santa Clara. Rich historical documentation also exists in the form of accounts by missionaries and other 18th and 19th century observers, as well as early photographs, maps, and other images.