Part of the extensive East Bay Wall network

Unravelling the Mystery Behind the East Bay Walls: Who Really Made Them and Why?

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In the hills around East Bay and elsewhere near San Francisco, there is a series of stone walls that extend discontinuously for miles. The walls are about 3-4 feet high in most places and are not enclosed. There is also no record of them being built or who might have built them. Some interested investigators have suggested exotic explanations for them such as that they were built by the Chinese, the Mongolians, or even refugees from Mu or Lemuria. Others have suggested that they were built by Native Americans or early European settlers with the help of Native American or foreign laborers. Recent analysis of the evidence, however, shows that these mystery walls might not be so mysterious after all.

Ancient Construction Speculations

The first scholar to mention the walls was University of California Berkeley professor John Fryer in 1904. Fryer suggested that the walls were built by Mongolians or the ancient Chinese based on his belief that “the Chinese would naturally wall themselves in.” The Chinese are a popular choice among some because of the popularity of the idea among fringe theorists that the Chinese admiral Zheng He made it to California and may have established a settlement.  Another more extraordinary suggestion is that it was built either by Lemurians or refugees from Mu.

Philip Lutley Sclater, portrait and signature

Philip Lutley Sclater, portrait and signature ( Public Domain )

The Lemurian and Mu Theories

The existence of Lemuria was first proposed in 1864 by the zoologist Philip Sclater to be a lost continent in the Indian Ocean which connected India to Madagascar before it sank beneath the waters. He originally postulated it simply to explain the similarity between certain fossils found in India and Madagascar even though they were not found in the intermediate landmasses between the two regions, Africa and the Middle East. The idea of Lemuria was popular among some scientists in the 19th century and early 20th century but was later abandoned as continental drift, which led to plate tectonics, became more widely accepted as an explanation for how animals from Madagascar reached India or the reverse without going through Africa or the Middle East.

Map of Lemuria according to William Scott-Elliott

Map of Lemuria according to William Scott-Elliott ( Public Domain )

The idea of the lost continent of Lemuria nonetheless remained popular among theosophists such as Helena Blavatsky who believed that Lemuria had been the home of a progenitor race to mankind known as the Lemurians whom they believed had coexisted with the dinosaurs. The Lemurians resembled humans except that they were taller and laid eggs. Many theosophists believed that the Aboriginal Australians and Sub-Saharan Africans descended from them.

One of many old stone walls found around the southern and eastern San Francisco Bay in California.

One of many old stone walls found around the southern and eastern San Francisco Bay in California. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Mu is a similar concept. It was, and still is believed by some people to be a continent that once existed in the Pacific Ocean which sank in a manner similar to Atlantis. According to proponents of the Lemurian/Mu theory of the walls’ origins, refugees from the destruction of these continents came to places like Northern California and established civilizations which included features such as these mysterious stone walls.

Supporters of this view point out that we do not have any historical documents which record European settlers building the walls. Furthermore, the Native American tribes in the area say that they have no oral traditions of their ancestors building them and some say that the walls were already there when they arrived.

Proponents also say that the fleets of the Chinese admiral Zheng He would not have been able to provide a large enough population to have a need to build the extensive network of walls which they claim extends beyond East Bay across the northern part of the state, though the purpose of the walls would need to be assessed first before really determining whether or not the Chinese fleets could have provided a large enough population to justify their existence.

Modern Construction Theory

Beverly Ortiz, cultural services coordinator of the East Bay Regional Park District and a local archaeologist named Jeffrey Fentress, who has taken an interest in the phenomenon, both suggest a much more prosaic explanation. Ortiz says that the walls were made by ranchers to clear grazing land of rocks and to guide and partially corral herds of cattle. They were most likely made by common laborers of Chinese or Native American descent serving the ranchers. Fentress, who archaeologically mapped the walls in order to enter them into the regional archives for conservation purposes, determined that they were probably built around 1850-1880 based on analysis of lichen on the rocks. This would date the rock walls to the Gold Rush era and fits with the idea that they were made by ranchers to clear fields since cattle ranches were common in the area at that time.


Why is "(Read the article on one page)" not the default?
Why would anyone want to read the article on multiple pages, when they could just read it on one?

Can anyone imagine why Natives of the Chinese (there is plenty of evidence of them)(i.e. "native" rose is Chinese) would build the wall, what function? As above the function was removal of rocks from pasture or tillable fields. American farmers everywhere did that.

Yep, they've been built here in NE for centuries. Nothing odd.

Anyone from New England could tell you made those. Here in New Hampshire, as in the six other New England states, there are miles of similar stone walls throughout the landscape and woods. Made by whom? Colonists, settlers and farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries clearing the land for agriculture and livestock. It's that simple; no need to invoke Chinese adventurers or refugees from the Lost Continent of Mu.

I used to wonder about those walls when I saw them as a kid. My father told me that ranchers had probably built them to separate property, Kind of like all the rock walls in Ireland. It's good to know that there are fanciful stories about the walls as well as logical ones. If ever I hear anyone telling Mu stories about them, I'll have an idea where the story came from.

--Still learning--

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