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SHUMLA eNewsletter
Shumla School

August, 2010

August 11, 2010
Volume 2, No. 8


On June 28, 2010, Texas lost a beloved son - Governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr. In addition to his numerous political accomplishments, Briscoe exhibited a true love of Texas history through his state-wide contributions to cultural preservation.

Last month, SHUMLA received a generous contribution from Westex Bancorp, Inc. in remembrance of Governor  Briscoe. 
In recognition of his passion for the preservation of the heritage of Texas, SHUMLA is honored to establish The Dolph Briscoe Texas Legacy Fund in partnership with Westex Bancorp, Inc. 

"Governor Briscoe’s true love of Texas and the history of the state were evidenced through his routine practice of giving back, of leaving Texas a better place than when he found it," said Sid Cauthorn, president of Westex Bancorp, Inc.  "In recognition of his exemplary work in the preservation of the legacy of our great state, we offer a donation of $50,000 to SHUMLA in memorial of the late Governor Dolph Briscoe.  In some small way, we want to add to his influence in the world and his love of Texas history."

Mr Cauthorn has asked that this gift be applied toward SHUMLA’s Lower Pecos Rock Art Recording and Preservation Project.  This project was established in 2009 to begin intensively documenting the 4,000 year-old rock art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas, some of the most complex and compositionally intricate prehistoric art in the world.  It is imperative to create a permanent visual and textual archive for present and future generations and to promote preservation of this precious cultural resource through education.

The creation of this Legacy Fund adds SHUMLA to an impressive list of  preservation efforts that have benefited from Dolph Briscoe's generosity.  In 2008, the University of Texas named its Center for American History for Briscoe, who donated $15 million to the Center. He had earlier donated his papers to the Center, along with an 1849 daguerreotype that is the earliest-known photograph of the Alamo.

Governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr. 1923 - 2010

In July of 2008, he became the first to contribute to a fund to restore the Governor's Mansion, which was heavily damaged by arson earlier that year. Thanks in part to Governor Briscoe’s support, plans were approved for a new addition to the mansion in May, and renovation of the facility is scheduled to begin.

Dolph Briscoe Jr. graduated from the University of Texas in 1943, then served two years in the Army. He married the former Janey Slaughter in 1943. Briscoe was preceded in death by his wife in October 2000.

He is survived by his son, Dolph "Chip" Briscoe III; two daughters, Janey Briscoe Marmion and Cele Briscoe Carpenter; and five grandchildren.

If you would like to make a contribution to SHUMLA’s Dolph Briscoe Legacy Fund, please contact the SHUMLA office at 432-292-4848 or
  All funding received will be applied to the preservation of this invaluable cultural legacy of Texas, and to the education of youth and adults about the importance of these irreplaceable wonders.


Dr. Carolyn Boyd , left, introduces Matzuwa, a Huichol mara'kame (shaman) to the White Shaman site in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands.
Photo by Robin Matthews

Introducing the Huichol to the rock art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, in particular the White Shaman rock art panel, has been the desire of Dr. Carolyn Boyd's heart for 17 years.  This dream was realized in July when Matzuwa, a Huichol mara’akame (shaman) journeyed to the Lower Pecos to visit the site with her.
Carolyn first interpreted this panel in 1993 as a narrative detailing the hunt for sacred peyote, much like the pilgrimage still conducted today by the Huichol Indians in Mexico.  Her most recent research demonstrates that not only does the panel communicate the prescription for that ritual hunt; it is a ritual reenactment of the first pilgrimage that led to the birth of gods, establishment of the seasons, and creation of the cosmos. 

Matzuwa confirmed her interpretation and hopes to return to the site in the fall.  For Carolyn, it was a deeply moving experience.  “Standing before the panel with Matzuwa and seeing his face light up in recognition of the Ancient Ones was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life.  A dream realized . . . finally the introduction has been made and what an introduction it was!”

SHUMLA has launched its newest, most innovative educational program to date – the Student – Teacher – Scientist Partnership Discovery Project.  We simply call it the “Discovery Project”.  The Discovery Project teaches students not what to think, but, instead, how to think empirically through the application of scientific inquiry to social and environmental issues with the support and mentorship of scientists conducting research in the field. This project provides a unique opportunity for both students and their teachers to explore their natural environment, learn scientific methods and principles, and contribute to scientific investigations pertinent to environmental and cultural resource preservation within the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas.

There are three primary components of this project: Multi-day Discovery Camps for secondary students, Teacher Workshops, and Discovery Days for all ages. 

The theme for the first annual Discovery Camp, held in July, was “The Outdoor Lab: Science in the Field”.  Students from Comstock High School joined their science teacher, Dr. Phil Dering and SHUMLA Executive Director and archeologist Dr. Carolyn Boyd for three days of discovery learning.  Field research always presents special challenges that require quick thinking and problem solving.  Students tackled a series of problems in a set of five science investigations.   These investigations highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of field work, especially field archeology.  They learned the chemistry and physics that constitute the basis for earth oven cooking as well as how to build an earth oven and cook agave.

Working with graduate students and personnel from Texas State University, the students learned how to produce a sketch map of an archaeological site and how to photograph it using aerial stereophotographic methods, the same method that is used to produce topographic maps and interactive maps such as Google Earth™.   Each student was issued a GPS unit and taught by SHUMLA’s database and systems adminstrator, Ben Dwyer, how to set waypoints marking archeological features.  Dr. Dering tasked the students with determining how to measure the density of rock used in the ancient hearths. 

Texas State University archeologist John Campbell instructs students gathering data at Painted Canyon hearth field.

Dr. Phil Dering and his students conduct water quality tests at Painted Shelter Spring

Water is of course a critical resource for the ages.  Under the guidance of Missy Harrington, SHUMLA Curriculum Coordinator, students conducted water quality tests in a spring-fed creek that was the focus of prehistoric occupations in the area.  The students visited two rock art sites in the region, where they learned about the critical role of art as a tool of communication and cultural continuity.  In the evenings they learned how to make fire with fire sticks, make oil paint from plant detergents and animal fat, and how to throw a spear using an atlatl.

Students  learn to make fire like the ancients with instruction from Charles Koenig, experimental archeologist

And, of course, since it was July on the Tex-Mex border, each afternoon they swam in the creek or in the spring-fed, crystal clear Devils River.  All in all, it was a very active three-day learning experience. 

Article by Dr. Phil Dering


From July 1 through 5, over 10 inches of rain fell near the confluence of the Pecos River with the Rio Grande.  Up river, from Langtry westward, even greater rainfall totals were recorded as the remnants of Hurricane Alex weakened and fell apart over the western edge of the Edwards Plateau. 

Even though rainfall totals were far less (roughly 30%) than those experienced during the one-in-ten thousand-year Hurricane Alice event in June 1954, the existence of Lake Amistad has changed flood dynamics and how they affect rock art sites around the perimeter of the lake.

With Lake Amistad at near conservation pool level, run-off from the 2010 flood up river generated a near-record bulge in water elevation as it encountered the lake.  At locations such as Rattlesnake Canyon and Eagle Nest Canyon, this bulge moved up canyon at higher elevations than the November 2008 flood event that deposited up to one meter of fine-grained silt in the lower portions of the canyons. 

Flooding at Eagle Nest Canyon at the Highway 90 Bridge west of the SHUMLA campus

While field verifications have not been completed, it is expected that rock art sites such as Rattlesnake Canyon (41VV180) suffered water encroachment on the lower portions of the panel.  In Eagle Nest Canyon, Skiles Shelter (41VV165) was inundated to near the bottom of the pictographs while water entered the adjacent normally dry Kelly Cave (41VV164) from the canyon rim.  While Eagle Cave (41VV167) was above flood level, unusual humidity was introduced by the lake waters that stood for days in the bottom of the canyon below.

Both Panther Cave (41VV83) and Parida Cave (41VV87) were barely above maximum water level (it was about 1.5 meters less than in the 1974 high-water event), but prolonged elevated water levels introduced considerable humidity into the shelters. 
In Seminole Canyon the flood reached the base of the canyon wall in front of Fate Bell Shelter (41VV74), then receded quickly as it is located just upstream of the lake.  Other rock art sites in the area also experienced near or partial inundation.

This rock art panel at Painted Shelter (41VV78) shows evidence of water damage from the July 2010 floods in the Lower Pecos and Rio Grande Canyonlands.

The most disturbing effects were seen at Painted Shelter (41VV78) where trees were uprooted just upstream of the site and then were swept through the shelter and downstream into the lake.  Observed high water marks indicate the Red Monochrome paintings were inundated to about the same level as they were during a very localized flood event in October 2005.  The lower portions of individual pictographs are noticeably deteriorated even beyond the damage suffered then.  For example, only the upper half of the turtle figure near the downstream end of the shelter remains visible; the lower half appears to be scoured away and no longer can be seen.

This flood illustrates why we at SHUMLA are committed to detailed recording of the rock art in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands.  Events such as this cannot be predicted, but we know they will continue to occur.  It is imperative that SHUMLA secures as much financial support as possible to continue the bold recording program we have embarked upon.  You can help by joining Friends of SHUMLA and donating time, energy and funds in support of our work.  Without you and SHUMLA, even more rock art will be lost to us all.

Photos and article by Elton Prewitt


Since its founding in 1998, SHUMLA has become known internationally as a premier institution for rock art research and education.  We need your help to continue these efforts to bring state, national and international recognition to the rock art of the Lower Pecos region of Texas and to educate our children in their rich cultural heritage.

To keep these world-class rock art research programs going we need your help and participation.  SHUMLA’s supporters come from all over the world, from local ranchers and business owners, to kids in Texas schools, to archeologists in Australia. If you are not a Friend of SHUMLA, we urge you to join. If you are a Friend we urge to renew or increase your level of support.

Friends levels include

$25    Student
$35    Individual
$60    Dual
$75    Family

Additional Donor fund levels include

$500        SHUMLA
$1,000     Blue Hills
$2,500     Devils River
$5,000     Pecos River
$10,000   Rio Grande
For more information about becoming a Friend of SHUMLA go to the SHUMLA website at
or contact our Membership Coordinator at


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