In South Texas along the Pecos river, mighty canyons slice apart the desert floor. Since the time of dinosaurs, the erosive force of rains and floods have shaped the limestone canyons. Archaeological records date the earliest inhabitants to about 10,000-12,000 years ago and possibly further back in time. The most exciting historic evidence, dating 4200 - 2500 BCE, is the Pecos River style rock art upon the canyon walls, known as pictographs. The highly skilled paintings suggest a cultural belief system of the past inhabitants. The Seminole Canyon Rock Art of Fate Bell Shelter is some of the oldest native pictographs in North America.
The images are anthropomorphic, part human and part animal
The pigments from the rocks were mixed with animal fats and other natural binders
The canyon dwellers survived for over 2000 years from hunting deer, rabbit, small mammals, and occasionally bison during wet climates. The inhabitants also utilized the desert vegetation as sustenance, such as agave, sotol, peyote, prickly pear cactus, and other seasonal plants and fruits. The canyons were fed by springs and rain lending to an oasis-like environment.
The root was boiled and eaten. The root also makes a liquor like tequila.
Spring fed canyon with lush vegetation
The rock shelter provided protection from the sun and rain. The reddish and black colors along the bottom are deteriorated images that once adorned the canyon walls.
According to our State Park guide, the canyon dwellers of the Lower Pecos are one of the longest continuous civilizations in history. My father said Egypt, but the natives of the Lower Pecos lived in a small canyon region with a similar lifestyle and culture for over 2000 years. Most of the ancient sites are on private land. There are 250 canyon shelters in Texas and another 50 or so in Mexico. Seminole Canyon was donated to the state by a cattle farmer in the late 1970s. The archeological studies are recent and there is much more analysis needed. A guided tour is necessary to view the ancient rock art to avoid potential acts of graffiti. There is hiking in the state park along the canyon rim for spectacular views across the desert and into the canyons including a Rio Grande overlook. Camping sites are also available. Regretfully, Cody and I only visited the park for a day. There are many more guided tours to several other pictograph sites and some only accessible by boat (possible future canoe trip). For more information visit the Texas State Park website http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/seminole-canyon
Hiking the Canyon Rim
The Seminole Canyon Rock Art is rapidly deteriorating due to the increased humidity from Lake Amistad. The Rock Art Foundation is a nonprofit "that promotes the conservation and study of Native American Rock Art in the Lower Pecos Region." If you are interested in contributing to the preservation of native art visit http://www.rockart.org