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Photo of a woman standing next to a blue Jeep that is parked in front of the entrance to the Arbegast-Tunawee Ranch.The Arbegast-Tunawee Ranch in east-central California has never been thoroughly recorded, but this past December, western field representative Linsie Lafayette surveyed the preserve and noted some significant features on the site. She observed three hunting blinds along a hill covered in granite boulders. Here, a hunter had stacked smaller rocks atop the boulders for an easy place to remain concealed from unsuspecting bighorn sheep who wandered out of the canyon after a drink of water. Nearby burned animal bone fragments spread over an area the size of a throw rug indicates the hunters were successful.

Implements used in plant processing such as groundstone, and half a dozen bedrock milling slicks and mortars were found, which indicate hunting wasn’t the only activity that took place within the canyon. An additional cupule rock was located amongst the hunting blinds, suggesting it had spiritual significance as well.

Photo of stacked stones among boulders.

Hunting blinds at Arbegast-Tunawee Ranch.
Photo Credit: Linsie Lafayette / TAC

Lafayette observed areas of dense obsidian flakes, evidence that obsidian cobbles were brought to the area and further reduced to make tools such as projectile points and knives to cut plant material and scrape hides. No X-ray fluorescence (obsidian sourcing) has yet been conducted at the site, but the obsidian likely came from Sugarloaf Mountain, a source visible across the valley to the east about 10 miles away. On a previous visit, an unfluted concave-based point that possibly dates as old as 10,000 years ago was found, but it was not relocated during this visit. 

The preserve contains a 100-year-old ranching complex called Tunawee Ranch. It is complete with its original stone house, windmill, corrugated metal garage, and scavenged railroad tie fencing. 

photo of a stone building in an area with dry vegetation and trees in fall colors in the background

The original stone house at Arbegast-Tunawee Ranch.
Photo Credit: Linsie Lafayette / TAC

The Arbegast Archaeological Preserve was first reported in the Winter 2021-22 issue and can be found in the American Archaeology digital archive.