Laguna Woman, found in Laguna Beach in 1933 by Howard Wilson, are the oldest human remains in the western hemisphere. At 17,000 years old, Laguna Woman is the first American.
Laguna Woman - The First American

A glancing blow from a pick nearly destroys the greatest archeological find in American history!



Pick head Pick handle

Howard knew that anything buried in Laguna's soft, sandy soil would be quite easy to dig up. So easy in fact, that he only brought along a screwdriver to use as a digging tool. It was what he had always done before, and he couldn't imagine why he would need anything else.

The boys left the house and headed down off the sloping hillside to the Pacific Coast Hwy., then walked south until they arrived at St. Anns Drive, a short street that ran back up the hillside, perpendicular to the recently paved Highway. The first block of the street had been graded down a long time ago, about five feet lower then the surrounding ground level to meet the PCH at a more favorable angle. This exposed a 100 foot long bank of sand colored soil on top of a layer of solid rock. They began to inspect this exposed earth as a good place to start.

Howard walked along to the west, carefully inspecting every tiny rock and bump along the face of the bank, when he suddenly saw something unusual down near the very base of the cut. Bending down for a closer look, he realized that he was looking at the end of a long bone sticking out of the hard rock. Howard yelled to Ed to come see, pulled out his screwdriver, and began to chip away at the rock. Immediately Howard realized that there was something very odd about this whole thing, and made a mental note to himself about it, because the bone was encased in solid rock - not the soft soil one would expect for a burial. He chipped away for many minutes until at last the bone fell free.

Location of discovery in Laguna BeachThe boys looked closely at the bone and knew that they had found something that might be human, but they weren't really sure. Howard knelt back down and began to chip again at the hard rock to see if there might be more bone now exposed. Sure enough, he spotted what looked like another smoother and more rounded piece of bone further into the rock, and began again to chip and dig away at the hard rock surrounding it. He chipped at it for many minutes, working up a good sweat, but he had made very little progress. Tiring rapidly from the effort, Howard handed the screwdriver to Ed who began to try his luck at the task. Ten minutes later, Ed had made very little headway, and a lot of sweat too. It was in very solid rock. This was going to take forever, they both agreed.

Realizing that the screwdriver was completely inadequate for the job, Howard decided that he would run back to his house to get a pick axe. Ed stayed and continued to work with screwdriver, and within an hour, Howard came excitedly running back with this new more powerful tool. Resting just a minute or two, Howard then began to whack much more forcefully at the rock with the pick. This time, he began making better progress. The rock was shattering away from around the bone quickly now.

In his enthusiasm, and with a tired arm, Howard struck hard at the rock, but the pick glanced off the rock and struck the bone with a loud "thwack"!


They both held their breath and peered closely at the damage. There was a small nick in the smooth surface, but the bone appeared to be solid and unbroken. With a much more careful and gentle swing from then on, the boys finally succeeded in removing the large bone from it's rock tomb.

Holding it up to the light at last, Howard now knew for certain that what he had found was a human skull.

Laguna Woman - The first American

But what he wouldn't know for almost another 40 years was that he held something far more important.

He was holding the first American in history!




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Three Arch Bay | Three Arch Bay Postcards | South Laguna History
Historic Photos of Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente
A Short History of Laguna Beach | Laguna Woman Skull
The Great Laguna Beach Fire | Waterspouts
Colored Pencils | 3D Computer Art

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last updated May 22, 2024