The La Jita Site, designated as 41UV21, is located on the east side of the Sabinal River in northeastern Uvalde County, in terrace deposits adjacent to an old river channel. The area is heavily covered with vegetation, especially live oak, persimmon, and hackberry. The site extends about 150 feet north-south and is more than 300 feet wide. Three burned-rock middens are present along with abundant prehistoric cultural materials in the surrounding deposits, which have a maximum depth of about four feet. Before 1967, when the first excavations were conducted at La Jita, the only major disturbance at the site had been the construction of a large irrigation ditch through the southern part of the site. Some local informants date the ditch to 1866, while others state that it was dug at the turn of the twentieth century.
The site was originally noted by Glen L. Evans in the early 1950s. In 1967, Thomas R. Hester, then an undergraduate student at the University of Texas in Austin, carried out extensive excavations at the site. Nine excavation areas were established, and a total of twenty-eight excavation units (a grid based on five-foot-squares, as well as some 5-foot square test pits) were dug. Subsequent fieldwork at the site took place in 1989 and 1990. In 1989, the summer archeological field school from UT-Austin excavated a twenty-square-meter block in the northwest part of the site. This area was expanded by a Texas Archeological Society field school excavation team in 1990.
These three excavations-1967, 1989, 1990-have revealed prehistoric occupations from the Early Archaic (ca. 5000–3000 B.C.) through Late Prehistoric (ending ca. A.D. 1650) times. Occupation was not continuous, but reflects recurrent, relatively brief habitation of the site area by generations of hunters and gatherers. All periods of the Central Texas Archaic are represented at La Jita, and the site contributed to a clearer view of the early part of the Archaic period than previously available. The artifact assemblage corresponded in large part with recognized Central Texas archeological traits. The Early Archaic point types included Early Corner Notched forms (Martindale and Uvalde types), Early Triangular, and Andice; in the Middle Archaic, Pedernales points are most common, but other types include Nolan, Travis, Marshall, Kinney, and Langtry; in the Late Archaic, Montell, Lange, Castroville, and Williams points occur; and, in the Transitional Archaic, common types are Frio, Ensor, and Edgewood. A new dart-point type, from early in the Middle Archaic (designated La Jita) defined a previously unrecognized type in the south central Texas area. Other Archaic artifact categories included butted knives ("fist axes"), drills or perforators, large numbers of unfinished points and preforms, cores, manos (and one metate), and a fragmentary stone gorget.
The later occupations at La Jita, during the Late Prehistoric, included an initial period radiocarbon dated at about A.D. 900 and represented by Edwards arrow points. Data from La Jita support the premise that these are the earliest arrow points on the Edwards Plateau. Another early arrow-point style was initially recognized in the La Jita excavations and is designated the Sabinal type. Part of the site has relatively mixed cultural materials of the Late Prehistoric Austin and Toyah horizons (or phases), though the latter was most abundant and was radiocarbon dated at the site at around A.D. 1200–1300. The Austin horizon is represented primarily by Scallorn arrow points; the Toyah phase artifacts included Perdiz arrow points, tools of deer bone and antler, and fragments of Leon Plain pottery.
The 1989 and 1990 excavations specifically targeted the Toyah cultural materials. These were found just beneath the surface, and a possible living area was documented. It consisted of a small ash-filled pit, surrounded by Perdiz points, end scrapers, beveled knives, bison bones and other Toyah diagnostics. A radiocarbon date of A.D. 1440–1660 was obtained from the pit.
The major features at the site were the three burned-rock middens. The 1967 excavation strategy involved testing of these features, as well as living areas thought to be around them. The middens at La Jita are dome-shaped accumulations of fire-cracked rock, containing ashy soil and very little chipped-stone debris. Indeed, the occupational residues from the Archaic occupations are concentrated around the middens. Hester suggested that the middens were "dumps," where limestone hearthstones were discarded after they broke up and were no longer useful. Three hearths were found in place in the occupation areas. The collections and records from all excavation at the La Jita site are curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at the J. J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas at Austin.