Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988 Page: 19
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and south, for that matter-from El Paso. The hard igneous mass
of rock pierced the limestone. The sea drained away. The wind
and sand began to play now, carving away the softer rock and
leaving the harder core behind. And the sand and wind began to
play with the harder rock itself, carving it into strange and
beautiful shapes, eroding and pitting it, leaving the potholes, the
huecos, that gave the place its present name.
We know from the Folsom points found here that early biggame
hunters followed herds of bison into the region at least
10,000 years ago. There was more rain then, with grass and trees,
and there was good hunting along the Huecos.
And then the weather changed. The rainy cycles went, to be
followed by a time of dryness that has lasted to this day. The big
animals disappeared, and what we know as the Desert Archaic
culture came to visit and live around Hueco Tanks.
This phase took place anywhere from around 6000BC to
about 450AD. The people were hunter-gatherers, which means
they hunted whatever was available-rabbits, lizards, all the life
that abounds in what people mistakenly think of as a barren
They hunted and they gathered, picking up anything that was
edible-plants, insects, the seeds of grasses and mesquite. They
ground the seeds on metates, pounded them in bedrock-mortar
holes. They made a mush or shaped the seed-paste into patties
which could be dried and carried on long journeys.
They wove baskets and sandals from the grass-and gave
thanks to the Earth Mother upon whose bosom they shared space
with all the other living things. They had visions-a thunderstorm
was a miracle, and the green of growing things, the way life
comes back to the earth after the dark days of winter. And they
began to peck and paint their visions on the rock. Some scholars
think the earliest of these petroglyphs and pictographs were
pecked or painted somewhere between 3000 and 6000 years ago.
The people settled down, at least temporarily. They built
circular pithouses that were partly underground and covered
with branches on which mud was slapped for protection from the
weather. They had trade routes, back and forth-and they
traveled to far places.
There was water here, and in autumn the pinon pines bore
heavy crops of nuts and there'd be seasonal treks to the mountains
to bring back this rich treasure.
Life was rough, but they survived... and not too badly. There
was time to reflect on all the wonders of the Earth Mother, and
they crystallized some of those reflections in the rock art found
at Hueco Tanks today.
The culture lasted for a good 6000 years. Somewhere between
450 and 1100AD, a new culture appeared on the scene. We've
gotten beyond the simple hunter-gatherer stage by now; these
people were farmers. They still hunted game and gathered seeds,
but they used the land and water to plant crops-and life
underwent a change.
As long as you are hunting and gathering, you can pick up and
go anytime you want. Plant one seed for crops, though, and
you're stuck. The fields need tending if you are going to have any
kind of harvest.
Man has been coming to Hueco Tanks
for years beyond counting, 10,000 of
them as far as we know, and probably
for long before. There is water here,
you see, and water is the magnet in
all our desert places.
This volcanic upthrust jutting from the bed of a one-time inland sea has
changed very little in several thousand years.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988, periodical, Spring 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45435/m1/19/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.