Heritage, Volume 11, Number 2, Spring 1993 Page: 17
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Investigations in the
Northeastern Trans Pecos
By Christine Ward
I n the 1930s, seven sites in the
northeastern Trans-Pecos region of Texas were
excavated by a crew led by A.T. Jackson of the
University of Texas in Austin. He apparently
had learned about the sites from a fellow archaeologist
from Arizona, E.B. Sayles, who had
done some excavation in at least one of these
cave and shelter sites. Jackson, desiring to
collect artifacts for display at the University's
Museum, contacted the landowner with whom
Sayles had communicated. While excavating
four sites on the Caldwell property, Jackson
also obtained permission to dig on two other
ranches. On one of these ranches, the McAlpin,
two sites were located. On the other ranch,
then owned by Shelby Brooks, a large cave was
recorded and also excavated. Unfortunately,
little information was kept with regard to the
location of the artifacts recovered from any of
these excavations. However, this lack of data
does not make the sites worthless to the archaeologist.
Two of the sites from Jackson's
investigations are described briefly. The artifacts
from one of these, Shelby Brooks Cave,
have been recently analyzed; those from the
other site were described in 1949. The sandals
recovered from each site will be used to evaluate
the importance of the analysis of these
The eastern region of the Texas TransPecos
is that area bounded by the Pecos River
on the east and the slopes of the Guadalupe,
Delaware, and Apache Mountains on the
west. The northern portion of this area, defined
by its present-day political boundaries,
is comprised primarily of the eastern half of
Culberson County, the northern portions of
Pecos and Jeff Davis Counties, and all of
Near the Reeves-Culberson County
boundary, a small chain of hills runs north
from the Apache Mountains and into
southern New Mexico. This dolomitic
limestone formation, known as the Rustler
Hills, is approximately five miles wide and
250 feet high. Along this limestone ridge,
a number of caves and shelters have formed,
with both hillside and sinkhole entrances.
Several of these caves and shelters were
The Shelby Brooks Cave has several
hillside entrances, but the main one faces
south-southeast. The total north-south
extent of the cave is 100 feet, and it runs
nearly 500 feet east-west. The far eastern
and western portions were apparently unoccupied.
Just inside the entrance, the
sloping floor held little or no cultural material.
Beyond this, a large flat area relatively
free of roof fall was interpreted by Jackson
as the main occupation area, though no
deposits were mentioned. From this area,
the cave slopes downward in all directions,
and it is on this slope and at the bottom of
it that most debris was found. The densest
of these deposits were located in two areas:
one about 20 feet west of the cave entrance,
the other approximately 100 feet northeast
against the wall of the cave. It was in these
two areas that Jackson concentrated his
One of the main areas was just west of
the cave entrance, against the southern
wall. The deposits were heavily disturbed
A.T. Jackson's crew brushing off after excavation; they are standing just outside the entrance to Shelby Brooks
Cave. Jackson, of the University of Texas at Austin, excavated seven sites in the northeastern part of the TransPecos
region of Texas in the 1930s. Photographer unknown.
HERITAGE * SPRING 1993 17
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 2, Spring 1993, periodical, Spring 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46808/m1/17/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.