January 2024

And we're off!

This month has been a whirlwind of activity at Shumla. Analysis of Hearthstone Project data, researching new curatorial practices, scouting sites to be documented, building out our Treks and Lunch & Learn programs... We couldn't be accused of sloth. Though we certainly enjoyed our down time over the holidays, our passion for our mission keeps us on the move. In this month's eNews, you'll read about all of the above and more as we dive into 2024.

As you may have gathered from images and posts over the past few months, Shumla's Science Director, Karen Steelman is undergoing chemotherapy. She was diagnosed in September with Stage 1 ovarian cancer. After surgery in October, she has now completed four of her six rounds of chemotherapy and she is responding very well. Her prognosis is excellent! Chemo is no fun, to be sure, but Karen is astounding us all with her stamina and spirit. The lab is where she wants to be and even chemo can't keep her away.

Thank you all for your interest and support of Shumla and our staff. We are so fortunate.

Sending best wishes,


Interviews are just the beginning

"When Carolyn unfurled the rendering of Fate Bell, Tomasita was visibly moved and immediately said, 'these are our gods.' Estela and Tomasita spoke excitedly about the imagery as Estela translated their observations from Huichol to Spanish."

Almost a year has passed since Drs. Carolyn Boyd and Phil Dering visited the Huichol people in San Andreas Cohamiata and recorded elders and shaman as they interpreted the imagery of the ancient art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. It has taken thousands of hours since then to translate, transcribe, process, organize, review and begin to contextualize what the Huichol consultants shared.

Now, in two new Hearthstone Project blogs, Carolyn and Phil share this part of the ethnographic process, conducted with the help of Shumla's Dr. Diana Radillo Rolón and Texas State graduate student, Paul Schottmueller.

Click to read the blog posts!

Click to read both blogs

Scouting over mud flats

Sometimes its hard to access rock art panels for documentation. Some are in hard-to-reach canyons. Others on cliff sides by the river where siltation has created wide vegas of mud that are nearly impossible to traverse. Last year we were stymied by this issue, but things are looking up!

Last December, Park Archaeologist Jack Johnson and Park Biologist Adam Munoz from Amistad National Recreation Area invited Shumla Sr. Preservation Archaeologist, Diana Radillo Rolón, to join them in testing out a new mud boat on the Pecos River. With this opportunity we were able to scout access to sites, check trip times on the river, and make future plans.

We are ready to get back in the field digitally preserving more undocumented sites! Thank you, Jack!

Farewell Siobhan and welcome Kelsie!

Farewell to Siobhan Anderson!

Siobhan has been a key part of Shumla's efforts the past two years. In particular her work on Hearthstone Project microscopy determinations and developing Harris Matrices to show paint sequencing have been pivotal in building out our understanding of the murals. We will miss her on the Shumla team but are very excited for her in her new position in Cultural Resource Management. There is so much left to learn and so much good to be done in the management of our cultural resources, here in Texas and across the nation. We know she'll make an important mark. Thank you, Siobhan!

Join us in welcoming our newest employee, Kelsie Hart!

Kelsie is Shumla's new Curator and Data Manager. She comes to us as an experienced curation professional specializing in the care of archaeological, historic, and archival materials. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an M.A. in Anthropology from California State University, Chico. Kelsie has worked in museums and archaeological repositories in California, Utah, and Texas, including our neighbor and colleague organization on Texas State University campus, the Center for Archaeological Studies. Kelsie is excited to be joining the Shumla team to support the long-term preservation of Shumla's digital data and research collections.

"My first experience with prehistoric rock art was in the canyons of southeastern Utah, where I lived before moving to Texas. I am really proud to be joining the efforts at Shumla to preserve these important cultural resources." Welcome, Kelsie!

Trek with Shumla

Shumla offers day-long Treks to promote engagement and public education in support of our mission to preserve the ancient rock art of the Lower Pecos. On each Trek, Shumla archaeologists share our latest research and show you how modern science is helping us to understand the complex worldview and fantastically rich culture of the people who created these masterworks.

Join Shumla Treks to visit ancient and historic rock art in the rock shelters of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands.

Click for our 2024 Spring Shumla Treks Schedule

February Lunch & Learn

Whether you’re thinking about signing up for a Shumla Trek or you’ve already filled your Treks Passport, come find out more about Shumla Treks and Shumla’s Outreach Programs from archaeologist and outreach coordinator, Katie Wilson. She’ll include sneak peeks of sites on the Spring calendar and tips for the best trekking experience.

Let’s Go on a Trek!

Shumla’s Public Outreach and Treks Programs

Presenter: Katie Wilson, M.A.

Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Time: Noon to 1:00 PM Central Time

Platform: Zoom

Click to Register Today!

Ready for Results?

You've supported us and cheered us on since the beginning of the Hearthstone Project. Now that the rigorous work of gathering the data is done, the meticulous work of analysis and drawing conclusions is in full swing. We can't wait to share what we are learning.

Join us for the Hearthstone Project Results Lunch and Learn Series. In March, Dr. Phil Dering will lay the groundwork for the Hearthstone Project and the cultural and environmental context of the world the painters of the Pecos River Style murals inhabited. Then, in four parts the results of our various scientific studies will be discussed.

Check out the schedule below and mark your calendar. You can register anytime at https://shumla.org/education/lunchandlearn.


Phil Dering, PhD. Texas State University

The Cultural and Environmental Context of Pecos River Style Art

At Shumla we’re “all about the art,” but it’s important to remember that the art is a part of and was informed by a wider cultural and environmental context. Archaeobotanist, Dr. Phil Dering is joining us today to share about the timing of Pecos River style art, the conditions under which it was produced, and the nature of the society that produced it. This Lunch and Learn will lay the groundwork for the four-part Hearthstone Project Results series.


David Keim, M.A. Shumla

Hearthstone Project Results 1 of 4: The Rule of Paint Sequencing

Over the course of the three years of the Hearthstone Project, the Shumla/Texas State Hearthstone Project team conducted digital microscopy at ten Pecos River Style rock art sites. In April's Lunch and Learn, David will start our four-part series by sharing the results of the microscopy analyses and the unbelievable lengths the painters went to in order to follow the rules of paint sequencing.

MAY 15

Diana Radillo Rolón, PhD. Shumla

Hearthstone Project Results 2 of 4: Proof of Composition

In the second of our four-part series on the results of the Hearthstone Project, Diana will share the compositional structure of the murals the team studied. Through the use of Harris Matrix, Diana will show how the murals, and in particular the iconic panel at the south end of Fate Bell Shelter in Seminole Canyon State Park, were woven together in a complex composition that lays the groundwork for the interpretation that will be the topic of the third Hearthstone Project Results Lunch and Learn.


Carolyn Boyd, PhD. – Texas State University

Hearthstone Project Results 3 of 4: Motif Interpretation

In 2023, Drs. Carolyn Boyd and Phil Dering conducted interviews and collected audio recordings as Indigenous Huichol consultants related Pecos River Style imagery to their own myths and cosmology. In June's Lunch and Learn, Carolyn will share results of the analysis of these indigenous interviews and how they are opening new lines of inquiry and discovery in the interpretation of Pecos River Style murals. You will marvel at how they reveal deeply embedded symbols and concepts in the rock art that endure today in the ancestral knowledge of Indigenous Native America.



Karen Steelman, PhD. Shumla

Hearthstone Project Results 4 of 4: A Chronology Emerges

Through the Hearthstone Project, Shumla's Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory obtained 60 radiocarbon dates for Pecos River Style pictographs. In the fourth and final Lunch and Learn in our Hearthstone Results series, Karen will reveal and synthesize these dates with the iconographic data, particularly what has been revealed about key motifs like the winged-anthropomorph and single-pole ladder.

Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center 

P.O. Box 627, Comstock, TX 78837

[email protected] | shumla.org 


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