CIOA Affiliates Hunt for Long-Lost Burials
By Elizabeth Klarich and Shauna K. Mecartea
Pascual Marquez and Micaela Marquez's tombstone, one of the two lasting burial markers at the historic Marquez Family Cemetery.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in mid-January, archaeologists had a rare opportunity to become modern detectives as they began to solve a mystery at a Los Angeles historical landmark, the Pascual Marquez Family Cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon.
The cemetery is located on the 1839 Mexican Land Grant Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, a 6,656-acre tract of land that included Santa Monica Canyon, the Pacific Palisades and parts of Topanga Canyon granted to Ysidro Reyes and Francisco Marquez. The Marquez and Reyes families were prominent citizens in early Los Angeles history — Francisco Reyes actually served as mayor from 1793 to 1795. A rich archive of documents and photos as well as family stories have long indicated that 30 or more individuals are buried at the cemetery. But the actual number of burials as well as their location have remained a mystery.
Today, the cemetery is in the middle of a residential neighborhood within the Los Angeles city limits, and only two tombstones are visible.
Last month, archaeologists and geophysicists joined forces with local historians and members of the Marquez and Reyes families to explore beneath the surface of the cemetery during a two-day workshop co-sponsored by UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and the La Señora Research Institute. Instead of using archaeological excavations to locate the burials, internationally recognized geophysicists Dean Goodman and Brian Damiata surveyed the cemetery with a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) without breaking the surface. Research Associate Hans Barnard also worked with Goodman and Damiata on the project.
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