Beginning in 2002, CCRPA, in collaboration with local Native American representatives, including both Juaneño (Acjachemen) and Gabrielino (Tongva) elders, engaged with Irvine Community Development Company (ICDC) in an extended program of correspondence, meetings, and field trips regarding their proposed Portola Springs residential development in Irvine.
Portola Springs, consisting of hundreds of acres of formerly agricultural land, is the location of the Tomato Springs Site, one of the most significant prehistoric Native American and historic Spanish sites in Orange County. In addition to this site, it also includes numerous satellite sites, reflecting long-term and diverse use of the area through prehistory and history.
Consultations began early, during land entitlement and preliminary design stages, and resulted in a cultural resources treatment plan which included both preservation and mitigation. Preservation of the majority of the Tomato Springs site in a 100-acre archaeology park was included as were extensive archaeological excavations prior to grading in other areas. CCRPA and others entered into Memoranda of Understanding with ICDC to mutually support and implement the treatment plan.
Tomato Springs Archaeology and History Summary
The Portolá Expedition of 1769, a follow-up expedition the next year, and the Anza Expedition in 1776, visited Tomato Springs (known at the time as Los Ojitos de San Pantaleón and El Aguage del Padre Gómez). Native Americans were encountered at Tomato Springs by the 1770 Spanish expedition. The springs are shown on an 1842 map of José Antonio Sepúlveda’s land grant as Aguaje de los Tomates. According to anthropologist John Peabody Harrington’s early 20th century field notes, Native American informants identified the site as “a camping place” possibly named Usrónvana. Tomato Springs is located on the border between the traditional tribal territories of the Juaneño (Acjachemen) and Gabrielino (Tongva). The Acjachemen became known as Juaneño and the Tongva became known as Gabrielino to late 18th century Spanish missionaries at San Juan Capistrano and San Gabriel. In 1876 the Lomas de Santiago area, including Tomato Springs, was acquired as part of the Irvine Ranch.
Archaeological excavations at Tomato Springs were conducted for the Santiago Aqueduct in 1979, Portolá Parkway in 1992 and 1993, and Marshburn Basin in 1997 and 1998. The Santiago Aqueduct excavations were conducted adjacent to Tomato Springs and yielded four dates ranging from 480 Before Present (BP) to 1300 BP, a period spanning the Late Prehistoric 1 period. The Portolá Parkway excavations were conducted along an alignment at the base of the Lomas de Santiago and crossing a series of alluvial fans, and yielded seven dates from 60 BP to 3630 BP, including dates within the Late Prehistoric 1, Late Prehistoric 2, and Intermediate periods. The Marshburn Basin excavations, located 2.5 kilometers east of Tomato Springs, were conducted at sites deeply buried in alluvial fan deposits on the Tustin Plain and yielded ten dates from 6715 BP to 9870 BP, including incipient Milling Stone and pre-Milling Stone, Paleoindian period dates.
Excavations for Phase 1 of the Portolá Springs project were conducted in 2004 and 2005 at isolated hilltop sites and at sites buried in Bee Canyon and Round Canyon alluvial fans. The excavations yielded twelve dates from 290 BP to 7490 BP. They include single dates from the Late Prehistoric 1, Late Prehistoric 2, and incipient Milling Stone periods, and nine sites spanning a time from the early Intermediate Period to the middle Milling Stone period.
Excavations for Phase 2 of the Portolá Springs project were conducted at near-surface sites on the terminal ridge fingers above Tomato Springs and on the dissected terraces draining into Agua Chinon. The excavations yielded 20 dates ranging from modern to 3830 BP. A single date falls within the early Milling Stone period. The other dates are from the Late Prehistoric 1 and Late Prehistoric 2 periods.