Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989 Page: 14
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By Alex Apostolides
Sculptor James Drake sat unmoving in
front of the petroglyph panel for more than an
hour. Another artist had sat in front of that
iron-red sandstone rockface more than 800
years before, patiently pecking symbols telling
the history of his group or tribe. When he
finished, he had left behind a panel nine meters
long by two meters high. He left behind one of
the largest single panels of rock art we had ever
seen, a national treasure in any place or time.
This one is within 40 beeline miles of El Paso.
And here the sculptor sat now, transfixed,
staring at the work of that long-gone artist's
hand. "I've never seen anything like this in all
my life," he said.
"I know," I told him. "This is the largest
panel we've found so far in this part of the
country. For all I know, it's unique. Any other
country, it would immediately be honored and
protected as a national treasure-here,
they've been trying to put an atomic garbage
"Tell me about it. We've been fighting to
save these sites for more than two years now.
We'll keep fighting till we've won."
rT Ihe Alamo Canyon country lies 37
miles south and east of El Paso as the
crow flies, some 60-odd miles by road. It's
finger canyon and mesa-land out there, a
treasure house of ancient art galleries
totally unsuspected by traffic speeding by
on 1-10, a scant 12 miles away.
The mesas are built of layered limestone,
remnants of an ancient inland sea.
The limestone is cut by a horizontal band of
iron-red sandstone, the Cox formation.
Those artists of a long-gone time pecked
their petroglyphs into the sandstone, a
perfect medium for their talent.
The sandstone is a buff color beneath its
patina, the iron-red skin which formed on
14 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1989
This petroglyph when viewed in its entirety is nine meters long by two meters high, one of the largest single
panels ever found. Pecked nearly 800 years ago it tells the history of the artist's tribe.
the mother rock down the ages. Pecking
through this skin, the makers of the petroglyphs
brought the buff under-surface out
in sharp contrast.
There were other artists long before the
man who pecked the story of his group or
tribe on the sandstone face of Alamo
Canyon's Site Four. Archaic symbols at
other sites scattered through this landscape
may date back more than 5000 years, while
painted symbols tell of visitors as recent as
At Site One, painted in white pigment
on the smoke-blackened ceiling of what
we've dubbed "Quetzalcoatl Cave" is
Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent himself.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989, periodical, Summer 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45431/m1/14/: accessed May 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.