Archeologists find trove of relics at Ventura Mission site

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The artifacts — terra cotta floor tiles, an irrigation channel, bowls, beads and other evidence of 18th century mission life and the Chumash tribe that preceded it — may impede efforts to develop the parcel. 

When archeologist John Foster started peeling the asphalt from a parking lot in downtown Ventura, he knew he wouldn't have to dig deep to find a cache of long-buried relics.

He just didn't realize how many he'd find and from how many different eras.

Digging down 5 feet, Foster and his crew have found shell beads, a stone bowl used for mixing pigment and lots of cattle bones — leftovers from the tanning and tallow-rendering that brought cash into Mission San Buenaventura. They've also plucked out empty champagne and wine bottles, shards of porcelain dishes and gas lamps from the elegant hotel that occupied the site after Ventura became a bustling commercial center in the 1880s.

The corner lot, bounded by a thrift store and a French restaurant, is in a neighborhood rich with history. It's just a block from the mission church founded by Junipero Serra in 1782. Nearby excavations have uncovered a museum's worth of artifacts, from a centuries-old lavanderia — laundry — to remains of the Chumash tribe, which was nearly wiped out by European diseases.

But it's been years since the last big discovery — and even in a downtown that likes to call itself "historic," there's no consensus about what to do with the history that's underfoot.

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