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12 February 2005
Texan petroglyph site documented by archeologists

Another piece of the puzzle concerning the prehistory of the Davis Mountains area is being studied by a team of volunteers who are recording a Native American rock art site on a ranch near Balmorhea (Texas, USA) . The previously unstudied site consists of a large number of petroglyphs carved on a limestone shelf.
     The petroglyphs occupy a roughly crescent-shaped area around a low hill. The pecked and abraded designs on a large, flat limestone outcropping consist of many obscure shapes concentric circles, wagon-wheel-like circles, long meandering lines, random, curving lines and other designs. Bedrock mortars holes ground into the bedrock, which were normally used for grinding and processing wild plant foods and shallower holes of unknown use were also found. Nearby was a ring 'midden,' a fire-cracked rock pile that is the remains of what basically was a pit oven for roasting sotol, yucca, mescal or other wild plants used as food.
Robert J. Mallouf, director of the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University, said the site is one of only a few known rock art sites in Texas that consists of petroglyphs carved across a large, open bedrock shelf. "This site contains a number of rock art motifs not found in the other sites, as well as some similarities, such as long, meandering lines of unknown meaning," he added.
Reeda Peel of Ennis, a research associate with the center and a knowledgeable rock art researcher, is conducting the recording project. The first phase of the documentation took place the last week of December involving about 20 volunteers from different areas of Texas. Several more documentation sessions will be necessary to complete the project, Peel said. "We use both drawings and photographs because sometimes the human eye can see details that are lost in the photographs and vice versa," she said.
     Petroglyphs are extremely difficult to date. Mallouf speculated that they date either to the Late Archaic Period (c.a. 1000 BCE - 700 CE) or Late Prehistoric Period (700 CE 1535 CE). It is possible they were made by different people over a period of time. He said there was no evidence they date from the historic period and were most like likely made by hunter and gatherers rather than agricultural groups.
Only a few artifacts were found at the site, but as these could have been left by other groups merely moving through the area, they cannot be directly associated with the petroglyphs.

Source: The Desert-Mountain Times (10 February 2005)

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