Borax Lake Preserve: 12,000 Years of Prehistory

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Tour participants at the Borax Lake Preserve. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.
Tour participants at the Borax Lake Preserve. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

In May TAC’s Western Field Rep., Deanna Commons, gave a talk about the Borax Lake Preserve and a tour to the Sacramento Archaeological Society as part of their field trip exploring the archaeology of the Clearlake Basin and Lake County, California.

Acquired in 1989, the Borax Lake Preserve is The Conservancy’s first California preserve.   This Preserve holds one of the oldest sites in California, dating to 12,000 years ago.  The site was first discovered in 1938 by amateur archaeologist Chester Post.  Post found fluted points on the surface of the site, and brought these findings to archaeologist Mark R. Harrington of the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles (now a Part of the Autry Museum of the American West ).

Harrington recognized the fluted points as similar to ones found in association with extinct Pleistocene mammals in the southwest, and eagerly began research at the site that lasted from 1938 to 1946. Harrington uncovered fluted points, chipped stone crescents, widestem points, millingslabs, manos, pestles, mortars, and other associated artifacts.  Harrington estimated the site to date to the late Pleistocene but was not able to accurately estimate the ages of the deposits.

TAC Western Field Representative Deanna Commons giving an overview of the preserve with tour participants. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.
TAC Western Field Representative Deanna Commons giving an overview of the preserve with tour participants. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

In the 1960s, geoarchaeologist Dr. Vance Haynes and UCLA archaeologist Dr. Clement Meighan performed obsidian hydration on Harrington’s artifacts.  From the data, they were able to identify three distinct phases of occupation, the oldest dating to 12,000 years ago and the youngest from 3,000-5,000 years ago.

Since acquiring the Borax Lake Preserve, the site has been listed as a National Historic Landmark and put on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sacramento Archaeological Society’s field trip began earlier with evening talks by Dino Beltran (Koi Nation tribal official), archaeologists John Parker and Deborah McLeary-Gary, and TAC representative Deanna Commons.  After visiting the Borax Lake Preserve the group continued onto Anderson Marsh State Park and the following day to other sites in the area. It was a very special group and great trip!

Tour participants at the Borax Lake Preserve. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.
Commons explaining features of the site to tour participants. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

Unfortunately, not all that goes on at The Conservancy’s preserves are fun, educational, or glamorous.  Amid planning the tour at the Borax Lake Preserve, TAC’s western office received a call from a site steward informing the office that squatters had moved onto the preserve.  We cannot thank enough our stewards who are the eyes and ears of our preserves, helping to make sure these sites stay protected and safe.

The salvage company working to remove the abandoned van from the preserve.
The salvage company working to remove the abandoned van from the preserve.
Success! The van is loaded.
Success! The van is loaded.

-Deanna Commons, Western Field Representative

More about the Borax Lake Site and Preserve, California:

Learn about the newest Site to be Protected by the Conservancy, the 501st.  You can be a part of saving it- Please Join us!

Read more about a few of our wonderful California Sites:

Plan Your Own Visit to Anderson Marsh State Park, California

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