From May through December 1978 the Texas Highway Department excavated the Ernest L. Rainey Site, a natural sinkhole formation in limestone bedrock on the southeast side of a rocky hill in western Bandera County. The site is about 300 meters north of Mill Creek, a westward-flowing perennial tributary of the Sabinal River. The opening of the sinkhole measured 3.6 meters by 2.8 meters. Below the opening, the space expanded into a small underground chamber about eight meters in diameter; the sinkhole opening was located above the southwest side of the chamber. When the site was first recorded, fill material came within a meter of its ceiling. This material, which had washed in through the years, formed the culture-bearing deposits in the sinkhole. The deposits were excavated in their entirety. In addition, three hearths on the ground surface outside the sinkhole were excavated.
The deposits underneath the limestone ceiling were in nine distinct major strata. Zone 1 averaged thirty centimeters in thickness and contained both historic and prehistoric materials. Zone 2 averaged sixteen centimeters in thickness and consisted of coarse limestone spall material from the roof of the shelter. This layer was culturally sterile except for a minor occupation that took place at the bottom of the zone. Zone 3 averaged eight centimeters in thickness and appeared as a midden deposit. Artifacts included Perdiz arrowpoints; a bipointed, two-edged, beveled knife; and a mussel-shell pendant. Features consisted of an ash deposit containing charcoal, flint, and burned bone, and two fire pits. Faunal remains from Zone 3 comprise a wide variety of animals used as food, including bison. Zone 4, thirty centimeters thick, was subdivided into five major and several minor layers. It contained Perdiz arrowpoints, tools, and a mussel-shell pendant. The thirty-two features of the zone included two rock-lined hearths, a rock-lined pit, a burned-rock accumulation judged not to be a hearth, and other types of fire remnants. Faunal food remains from Zone 4 included bison. Separating Zone 4 from Zone 5 in the northern portion of the shelter was a sterile spall layer.
Zone 5 averaged twenty-five centimeters in thickness and was subdivided into three layers. It contained a dense midden deposit at the southern end. Edwards and Scallorn arrowpoints predominated. Other tools and a freshwater mussel-shell pendant were found. The zone had twenty features, including fire pits, rock-lined hearths, scattered hearths, and ash deposits. Zone 6, twenty centimeters thick, was subdivided into two major layers. It contained a predominance of Edwards and Sabinal arrowpoints. Its twelve features included basin-shaped burned areas filled with ash, accumulations of ash without underlying burned areas, a burned-rock accumulation, and rock-lined hearths. Zone 7 averaged thirty centimeters in thickness and was subdivided into seven minor layers in the northern portion of the shelter. In the central and southern portions of the shelter the zone was homogeneous. An Edwards arrowpoint and an untyped projectile point were among the artifacts recovered. The untyped specimen suggests a transitional phase of development between the manufacture of dart points and the manufacture of arrowpoints. The zone had ash deposits overlying burned, basin-shaped depressions and ash deposits from materials burned elsewhere.
Zone 8 was a homogeneous zone thirty centimeters thick. It produced only one diagnostic tool, a dart or arrow point similar to the untyped specimen in Zone 7. The two features in Zone 8 were a rock-lined, basin-shaped hearth and an ash deposit in a burned depression. Zone 9 was a homogeneous silty spall overlying bedrock. No diagnostics were recovered here, and only one feature, an ash deposit, was present.
The occupations at the Rainey Site represent the entire span of the Late Prehistoric Period in Central Texas. The number of artifacts and features in zones 3 and 4 suggests more intense utilization of the shelter during the Toyah Phase or Perdiz occupations than at other times. Exploitation of bison as a food source apparently arose during that time as well.