Today marks the start of the 2014 Eagle Nest Canyon Expedition of the Ancient Southwest Texas (ASWT) Project at Texas State University. Launched in 2009, ASWT is a long-term research program aimed at furthering the archaeological understanding of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas. The current phase of investigations is centered on Eagle Nest Canyon (ENC). ENC is a tributary of the Rio Grande entering on the north side of the river just downstream from Langtry, Texas. This canyon and its surrounding upland edge contains numerous sites ranging from dry rockshelters to burned rock middens to upland “hearth” fields, but excavations here and elsewhere in the Lower Pecos have focused on the rockshelters. The Expedition has three overarching research goals: 1) understand the human and natural history of the canyon; 2) share what we learn; and 3), conserve the archaeological record for future generations. This blog will further our second goal.
The Lower Pecos Canyonlands region of southwest Texas and northern Mexico is known for its dry rockshelters and caves, which prehistoric peoples used for millennia as witnessed by vivid pictographs and thick deposits of well-preserved habitation debris ranging from basketry and sandals, to food remains and coprolites. Because of the superb preservation within dry rockshelters, much of the archaeological focus has been on these uncommon features. While the dry shelters within the Lower Pecos hold great research promise, comparatively little of this potential has been delivered despite 75 years of intermittent work. No dry shelter has been both well excavated and fully reported. Few state-of-the-art research methods have been applied to shelter archaeology in the Lower Pecos, yet the complexly and deeply stratified deposits and fantastic preservation of perishable materials demand such methods. We aim to improve on this score.
The 2014 Eagle Nest Canyon Expedition is led by Dr. Steve Black and Charles Koenig of Texas State University. The core research team includes Tina Nielsen, Jacob Sullivan, Brooke Bonorden, and Bryan Heisinger. We will be joined by our colleagues Jeremy Freeman and Vicky Munoz from SHUMLA Archaeological Research and Education Center as well as volunteers over the coming months. This field session will run for 6 months – from now until June 30th, and will build on the work completed during the 2013 Lower Pecos Canyonlands Archaeological Field School as well as the Master’s projects of Texas State graduate students Dan Rodriguez (Kelley Cave) and Matt Basham (canyon edge earth oven features). For the next week the ENC team is joined by Rodriguez, Basham and several other Texas State graduate students. Work is focused on helping Dan and Matt complete their field work as well as get the ENC crew introduced to Lower Pecos archaeology.
We invite you to follow our unfolding investigations!