Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987 Page: 31
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laces and sinew lashings, as well as ancient
seeds and pollen were saved from
decay by the dry climate. Even more
dramatic, though, are the extensive
panels of rock art that have survived centuries
of weathering and decades of
The rock art of the Pecos River is
some of the finest and best preserved in
the world. Surreal panthers mount the
walls of rockshelters above vivid trapezoidal
shamans, in white and black and
red, with antlers and knobby crowns.
Winged spirits and divine deer figures
dance across the panels, layered over
earlier paintings from several thousand
years occupation of the shelters. Later
styles, possibly from different peoples,
extended into historic times, with
mission churches and guns and cowboys
portrayed along with the bows and
arrows and zoomorphs of prehistoric
The publication of Ancient Texans:
Rock Art and Lifeways Along the
Lower Pecos, is an attempt to bridge
professional archaeology and public
interest in the interpretation of the prehistory
of the Lower Pecos. Fabulous
color photographs, mostly by Jim Zintgraff,
are interspersed with text by
several of the archaeologists who have
worked in the region. It's a combination
coffee table/archaeological reference
book that deserves a place in everyone's
library, if for no other reason than that
swift sales of this book will encourage
Texas Monthly Press and other presses
to do more like it.
Ancient Texans, unfortunately is
sometimes as parochial as its title. It's a
bit chauvinistic, calling these border
people "Texans." They were more worried
about where to get their next sotol
bulb than about the border patrol. The
problems with projects like this are as
numerous as the collaborators, and
editor Shafer pulled in the major contributors
to the archaeology of the area,
but he left out a few. For example, the
fine watercolors of Pecos rock art by
Forrest Kirkland are only briefly
mentioned here. An earlier book by
Kirkland and Newcomb is out of print,
and the watercolors would benefit from
improved printing techniques. Zintgraffs
color photographs are good, but
what the artist sees and what the camera
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can capture are often at odds. Lighting
inside the shelters is poor, and flash
photos can swamp out details and textures.
Besides, several years of vandalism
and weathering have altered some
of the paintings since Kirkland painted
One of the biggest disappointments
of the book, however, is its introductory
fictional account of life in the Archaic.
Stone Age novels have become a genre,
what with potboilers like Clan of the
Cave Bear now the rage. But it's not likely
that Shafer's account will provide a
movie vehicle for the likes of Daryl
Hannah. Shafer gets in all the right
stuff, but it doesn't soar. In fact, it often
borders on being trivial and ethnocentric.
When Shafer names two of the
women "Kitten" and "Quail", he cross31
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987, periodical, Autumn 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45439/m1/31/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.