California Wildfires and Borax Lake Archaeology

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Dr. Gregory White and his team of volunteers surveys the fire landscape at Borax Lake.
Dr. Gregory White and his team of volunteers begins the survey of the fire landscape at Borax Lake. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

Like many archaeological sites in California, the amazing Borax Lake site was recently devastated by a wildfire. The Sulphur Fire that burned the site took place this past November. Wildfires can damage archaeological sites by damaging the artifacts or features, and exposing sites to the elements and erosion. But once they occur they can also serve to expose unknown sites and the extent of sites that might not have been known. With so many recent wildfires across western United States, fire archaeology is becoming an area of study.

Above, Dr. Greg White of SubTerra Consulting (in the yellow shirt) leads a team of volunteers to surface survey the site and recover any artifacts exposed by the fire. The survey was conducted for two reasons, 1. to recover artifacts before looters could get into the site and take them, and 2. to use the recovered artifacts to help map the boundaries of the site.

This extraordinary site was acquired by the Conservancy in 1989, and 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. Learn more about the archaeology of this site and the Conservancy visiting and caring for the Preserve: Borax Lake Preserve: 12,000 Years of Prehistory.

Looking at the finds from the wildfire survey at the Lake. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.
Looking at the finds from the wildfire survey at the Lake. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

Dr. White and his team of volunteers collected many bifaces, points, crescents, and other stone artifacts (pictured on the tailgate) during the survey. Dr. White is currently writing a report of his findings that will appear in the Spring Issue of American Archaeology magazine.

-Cory Wilkins, West Regional Director

More about the Borax Lake Site and Preserve, California:

Tour participants at the Borax Lake Preserve. Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.
Borax Lake Preserve landscape in 2016, prior to the wildfire . Photo The Archaeological Conservancy.

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores. Subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars.

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