Heritage, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 1994 Page: 9
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In Pursuit of Vanishing Rock Art
Story and photographs by Wyman Meinzer
Like the hunters of old, acclaimed photographer Wyman Meinzer
tracks down and shoots pieces of history -- with his camera.
As many rock art images are discovered and destroyed,
Meinzer makes a passionate plea to save these sites.
The clumps of little bluestem
grass bristled in the cold December wind as
I made my way up the hillside with another
arm load of mesquite stumps. The photographic
blind that I was building was almost
finished and another trek to the
bottom of the hill for wood would ensure
that my subjects, the rolling plains coyote,
would not spot my approach to the site I
had selected on this high, sandy loam hill
above the Wichita River. During the entire
evening of crisscrossing the hilltop I constantly
watched the ground for any evidence
of human habitation. A lifelong
interest in paleo and archaic camp sites had
been instrumental in the development of a
trained eye for detail and everywhere my
photographic travels led, I maintained a
vigil for flint chips or fire hearths unearthed
by natural erosion. I had nearly concluded
that no Native American had set foot on
this particular hill for any length of time
when my right foot brushed against a clump
of arrow grass growing from an angle out of
a dirt bank. Partially obscured by the grass,
a gray-colored stone lay half buried in the
red soil. Noting that the color was not
consistent with the gyp stones jutting from
the ground, I stooped to observe closely. A
closer look revealed a wonderfully knapped
flint flesher measuring five inches in length
and two inches wide. After another thorough
search of the site, I concluded that
this was not a camp location but instead a
possible observation point from which to
survey the surrounding region. Quite possibly,
the archaic hunter had simply dropped
the artifact by accident, much like I have
done in the past with a favorite pocket
Who knows what secrets still remain
hidden beneath the shifting sands on the
Texas plains? I am often astonished at the
wealth of archaeological sites that I observe
during my forays across the privately
owned rangelands in the rolling plains regions
of our state. Although the purpose of
my trips are primarily photo-oriented, I am
keenly aware of sites that might warrant
the scrutiny of professional archaeologists.
Most sites I have had the opportunity to
observe are known to local "arrowhead"
collectors. But from time to time, I am
fortunate enough to stumble onto those
sites and/or people who allow me to view
virtually undisturbed locales of archaeological
Twenty miles west of the discovery site
on which the flint scraper was found, a
large dry water course meanders through
the rolling grasslands to its sister river, the
Salt Fork of the Brazos. Although the big
creek no longer produces a consistent water
support for the dozens of range cows
that graze on its flood plain, it is evident
that in centuries past the Ogallala aquifer
fed the stream with many springs along its
courses. Historic Native American camps
dot many of the overviews and bends along
the creek's banks, and unusual rock piles
hint of forgotten graves from a long time.
During a photo shoot some time ago, a
Brushing back some leaves and sand, the explorer uncovers ancient images of creatures and humans.
HERITAGE * SPRING 1994 9
I 91 11PI~M
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 1994, periodical, Spring 1994; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45413/m1/9/?rotate=90: accessed June 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.