October 2021
Hello Friends!

Five years ago, in my September eNewsletter, I announced the Alexandria Project. I asked you to imagine that you had discovered a room from the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. The room survived fiery destruction in 48 B.C. and held hundreds of scrolls of ancient philosophy, astronomy, mythology, and ritual. 
I asked, what would you do with this room of treasures? Take one scroll and study it closely for years, while the others decayed and disintegrated? Or digitize the whole lot, so you and others could study the scrolls for generations? The second choice, of course!

During the four-year Alexandria Project we digitized the Lower Pecos murals like a librarian would scan and catalog the books in a library. But, when librarians digitize their catalog, they don't get to take each book, sit in an armchair and read. They stay on task.

Likewise, over four years we digitally preserved hundreds of intricate and patterned compositions created by skilled ancient artists but we couldn't stop to read a single one. UNTIL NOW!

Today I announce the..
This new project will allow us to focus deeply on a few key murals to answer some of our most fundamental questions. When were the murals painted? How were they painted? What do they mean? We started field work in September and what we're finding has already expanded our knowledge of the art and the artists who painted it. Read on!

As always, wishing you all the best from all of us,

(P.S. Don't forget you can come see the art for yourself on a Shumla Trek! Register today!)
A project anchored in science, art and indigenous knowledge.

The Hearthstone Project is built on the results of the Alexandria Project and endorsed by the most prestigious national granting agencies in our field. This interdisciplinary and collaborative project with Texas State University is poised to reveal the mysteries of when and how the paintings were produced and what they were created to communicate.
Hearthstone Project FAQ

1. Where did it all begin?
Using Alexandria Project data, Dr. Carolyn Boyd (Texas State University), along with Drs. Phil Dering and Karen Steelman (Shumla) wrote and submitted grant proposals: one to National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) requesting funding to investigate how and when the Lower Pecos murals were painted and to decipher core concepts in the art that reveal the beliefs of the people who painted them. These types of grant awards are very competitive and difficult to win. They are scrutinized by experts for the strength of the research questions and the proposed methods used to answer them. You can imagine how honored and excited we were to win both! Especially because, put together, the results of these studies can teach us so much about our continent pre-contact, the hunter-gatherer people who preceded us and the origins and tenacity of myth.
2. What sites are the focus of the Hearthstone Project?

We will begin work at three premier rock art sites: Halo Shelter, Rattlesnake Canyon and Panther Cave. During the Alexandria Project, Shumla ranked these sites at the top of our "triage list" of endangered sites with high research potential.
3. What are the goals of the Hearthstone Project?
Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach involving archaeological science, art analysis and indigenous consultation, our Shumla and Texas State University researchers will unlock the murals' stories, discover the techniques used by the ancient artists, and detail the complexity of a belief system illustrated in the murals. We will study the temporal history of the art: when it began and ended. And we will tie productions of Pecos River style art to the environmental and cultural conditions in the time it was created. 
The team who launched the project with field work at Halo Shelter in September included (from left) Carolyn Boyd, Phil Dering, Karen Steelman, Audrey Lindsay, Diana Rolon, Tim Murphy and Ashley Busby.
4. How long will the Hearthstone Project take?
We will complete analysis at the three main mural sites and obtain radiocarbon dates from eight more. To achieve our goals will take at least three years. The good news is, we've already begun! We anticipate completion in 2024.
4. Do the NEH and NSF grants cover the full cost of the work?
No. They don't cover the full cost. They help a great deal and they are a huge vote of confidence, but we must raise the remaining funds. If you would like to contribute to the Hearthstone Project, please do! It's fast and easy at https://shumla.org/donate/.
5. Why is the project called "Hearthstone?"
The Hearthstone Project is named for the fire hearth, the center of domestic life and food preparation in Native American culture. The fire hearth was not only functional, but also powerful and symbolic.

Dr. Phil Dering will be publishing a Hearthstone Project blog to keep you up-to-date with the project. In his first installment, coming out soon, he will explain why we chose the name "Hearthstone", how it ties to the three pillars of our project (archaeological science, art analysis and Indigenous knowledge) and he'll tell you more about our goals and methods.

6. How can I learn more and help out?
Stay tuned! We will be sharing much more about this project, the day-to-day field and lab work, how you can get involved and, of course, the exciting results! Check out Dr. Karen Steelman's November Lunch and Learn about the Hearthstone Project. A deeper look at the project will be posted on the Shumla and Texas State websites and we will be posting updates and current happenings on Facebook and Instagram. For now, the best way to support us is to make a gift to Shumla at https://shumla.org/donate/.

Lots more to come!
This month we were pleased to once again bring together our community landowners and agency stewards for our annual Rancher Steward BBQ.

Each year we recognize one family or agency who has gone above and beyond to partner with us in the preservation of the rock art. This year's awardee was Seminole Canyon State Park! Superintendent Doug Adair was with us to accept the recognition and the beautiful sculpture depicting one of the main rock art figures in Fate Bell shelter made by artist Ken Law.
We were up to our usual shenanigans on a gorgeous west Texas fall day and had a blast! Thank you to Lacy Finley, Ken Law and Mike Webb for cooking up a BBQ feast. And our deepest thanks to Doug Adair, all the staff at Seminole Canyon State Park and our Texas Parks and Wildlife friends for being the best partners in the effort to preserve, study and share the rock art of the Lower Pecos.
Last month Shumla was featured on the cover of Texas Coop Power magazine. In this article, Pam LeBlanc writes about how the Comstock high school's coursework includes rock art research. The students experience what it's like to be in the field with Shumla archaeologists and in the lab with Science Director Dr. Karen Steelman.

Being an integral part of our local community and finding ways to inspire younger generations has always been meaningful to us. Shumla's high school STEM program in partnership with Comstock ISD gives students experience with very high-tech scientific instruments and methods, as well as, offering lessons in deductive reasoning, project management, and teamwork.
Learning Rocks!

On a breezy April morning, five Comstock high school seniors clamber around boulders and hop across a stream in Seminole Canyon on their way to inspect some of the finest examples of rock art in the world.

Read more
Cool breezes make for the perfect Trekking weather. Finish off the year with an unforgettable experience! Shumla Treks are day-long journeys that can fit into any West Texas travel plan.

Visit shumla.org/shumlatreks to view our Trek itineraries. You’ll also find information on costs, transportation and housing.
November Treks
  • November 6 - Eagle Cave, Skiles Shelter, Kelley Cave ♦♦♦♦
  • November 7 - Black Cave and Vaquero Shelter ♦♦♦♦

December Treks
  • December 4 - Halo Shelter and Shumla HQ Tour ♦♦♦♦
  • December 5 - Fate Bell Annex, Fate Bell, Running Horse ♦♦♦
♦ - Low or no exertion
♦♦ - Medium low exertion
♦♦♦ - Medium high exertion
♦♦♦♦ - High exertion
♦♦♦♦♦ - Very high exertion

Don't have a high clearance vehicle? Reach out; we'll make arrangements so you can participate.
Covid and/or border safety concerns? We monitor both the Covid-19 trends and the situation on the border very closely for our own staff, as well as our Treks participants. Our treks are outdoors and when indoors, we wear masks. The border is a very large place. It is safe where we lead Treks. We are in close communication with border patrol and always carry safety equipment including an AED. If you have any questions or if there is anything holding you back from planning to visit us, please reach out to talk with us about it. We love to hear from you! treks@shumla.org
In this month's Lunch and Learn Shumla Science Director, Dr. Karen Steelman, will be sharing the goals and methods of Shumla's newest effort, The Hearthstone Project. Like the Mesoamerican fire hearth, our project is supported by three lines of inquiry: archaeological science, formal art analysis, and Indigenous knowledge. You won't want to miss this FREE event!

The Hearthstone Project: Combining Science, Art and Indigenous Knowledge
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Central Time

Once you've registered, you'll receive an email confirmation with a Zoom link for the event. We will also send a reminder email on the day of the event. We look forward to seeing you on Zoom!
You make preservation possible.
We need your support!
Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center 
P.O. Box 627, Comstock, TX 78837
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