JULY 2019
Remember the library we're preserving?
It's time for an update!
This eNewsletter is chalk full of information about our progress on the Alexandria Project. The last few months, I've been reporting on Field School, Rancher Steward BBQ and Society for American Archaeology Meetings, but through it all, we've also been busy on our first priority - The Alexandria Project.

This newsletter is a report on exactly what we have accomplished thus far and where we are headed. Let's go!
First, for newcomers, let's remember our original purpose and the reason we call this project, "Alexandria."

Imagine for a moment... You’re diving off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. You find a door in an air-filled cavity and open it to reveal a room sealed for 2000 years.
Inside are 300 scrolls, part of the lost Library of Alexandria. You take one fragile scroll and begin to unroll it, taking in every symbol, every word. Studying it closely.
Then you notice... water is seeping in. You don’t have time to study each scroll. They're going to be mush and quick! You've got to save them.

You quickly begin to take pictures of each scroll. You can study them later, when they’ve been safely photographed. You can hardly wait to learn all they have to teach you, but you have to be patient.
This is a rescue mission!
Save the symbols. Save the thoughts and ideas the ancient people wrote down. If you don’t, they'll be lost and no one will have the chance to read them…
Now, let’s leave Egypt and apply this analogy to our reality in Texas… The “scrolls” in our library are over 300 endangered, rock art panels painted on the canyon walls in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of south west Texas.

These paintings, like ancient books, hold chapters of history no one has read in thousands of years. They are an Archaic library of the philosophy, mythology, ritual, astronomy of early Texans. But there’s a catch… The art is disappearing under human, animal, insect and micro-environmental impact.

Egypt lost its ancient library in 48 BC.
We can save what’s left of our “Alexandria”. 

This is the Alexandria Project.

# of Sites Preserved To-Date: 145
Really take in that number. It's a big one.

We've visited and documented 145 sites since we began in 2017. That's 145 books in this library that are cataloged, digitized, written up in TexSite and Rock Art site forms, and saved to be studied and enjoyed long into the future.
# of Gigapans: 285
Gigapans are similar to regular panoramas except they are made up of hundreds or thousands of images. A gigapan contains at least one billion pixels! (A digital photo has around 20 million.)

285? That’s more gigapans than sites visited, you may ask… You’re right. Some panels are so big they require more than one gigapan.

There are 217 publicly-available gigapan images
Visit this link to view gigapans that have been approved for public sharing by the landowners.
Many of the gigapans are shown in “real color” as you would see them with the naked eye and also in enhanced color through a processing software called D-Correlation Stretch or “DStretch” for short. This enhancement alters the colors to reveal what our eyes can't see.
This real color gigapan image of a portion of the ceiling at Fate Bell Shelter appears to show very little painted art. 
But the DStretch enhancement of the Gigapan image tells a different story!
# of 3D Models: 206
To create a 3D surface from 2D images we capture hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of overlapping photographs of the rockshelter. We process these images in Agisoft Metashape to match and tie the photographs together to build a 3D model of the surface.

The most important step is referencing each 3D model to real-world coordinates using ground control points (GCPs). These are known points within your model that allow you to apply scale (e.g., meters or feet) and orientation (e.g., up-down; north-south).
For creating GCPs during the Alexandria Project, we are using a builder’s square. At each site we orient a standard builder’s square to North, level it using line levels, and then photograph the builder’s square in the model. This allows us to apply scale and proper orientation to the models.

Once the SfM 3D models are referenced, we can export fully-textured 3D models of the rockshelter as well as 2D orthographic photos and digital elevation models (DEMs) for the surfaces. Because the exported files have scale, we are able to collect measurements on individual figures using the digital data. 
There are 72 publicly available 3D models.

Do you want to play in 3D? Visit this link to view the 3D models that have been approved for public sharing by the landowners.
# of Site Summaries Written for Landowners: 117
The creation of site summaries for landowners and ranchers was not part of our original Alexandria Project plan. We were focused on keeping our time-per-site-documented to a minimum. But, as is so often the case, we found this unexpected addition is one of the most pivotal to our mission of preservation.

After Shumla completes documentation on a property, we develop an exhaustive report for the landowner. It includes links to all GigaPans and 3D models, images (real color and DStretch) and descriptions of the art, maps, orthophotographs and more. The report we created for Seminole Canyon State Park is over 150 pages long! 
Working in close collaboration with the ranchers is so rewarding. The opportunity to show them the incredible ancient art on their property is great fun. Often they are surprised to find art on walls they had looked at hundreds of times before. These relationships offer us the opportunity to share the value of the art and the excitement we feel when we discover repeated patterns. It reinforces the importance of protecting the art on their land and builds excitement as they share the wonder of the art with their family, friends, visitors, ranch managers, lessees and others. We are so proud to be here in the Lower Pecos, working with our neighbors to study the rock art on their land.
# of Terabytes of Data Saved: 20.5
We currently have 20.5 TB (that’s 20,500,000 MB!) of images and supporting site documents saved on our servers. With 50 TB of total space, we have room for much more!

We have a Dell VRTX chassis at our Comstock HQ that houses two physical servers for fail-over clustering. We also have multiple levels of redundancy, which means we could lose an entire server, multiple power supplies and fans and continue to run without downtime. 
Our main data back-up (of 3) is an offsite backup across town in a secure temperature-controlled room. The backup server also has redundant power supplies and hard drives, and stores retention data, which can be used to recover files if a file were damaged, encrypted by ransomware, or accidentally deleted.
# of TexSite Forms Completed: 145
“Core Data” is collected for every site we document during the Alexandria Project. Core Data include the state standardized archaeological site form (TexSite), site maps, daily recording notes, GPS points, site feature photos, and site context photos.

The TexSite Form is particularly important because it is the way archaeologists transfer information to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL). There are over 70,000 TexSite forms in the database, available to qualified, vetted researchers via the Texas Archeological Sites Atlas.
# of Rock Art Site Forms Completed: 145

More detailed information about the rock art is collected on the Shumla Rock Art Site Form (RASF). The RASF allows us to collect information on rock art styles, application methods, agents of deterioration (natural and cultural), preservation status, and iconography. This data is entered into the Shumla Database, where researchers can search for specific styles and agents of rock art deterioration, as well as specific iconographic symbols and motifs. The iconographic data collected during the Alexandria Project affords a unique opportunity to create a detailed catalog of symbols and their context across the entire cultural region. 
# of Public and Professional Presentations: 40+
We share news of the Alexandria Project―our methods, findings, discoveries, lessons learned, and future plans―with people all over the world. We present in front of our peers at professional meetings including, the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, the Texas Archaeological Society Annual Meeting, American Chemical Society National Meeting and American Rock Art Research Association Conference. 
We also present to public audiences at venues including the Perot Museum in Dallas, the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, the Agave Festival in Marfa, the Center for Big Bend Studies in Alpine, the University of California Los Angeles for the Getty Conservation Institute, the Worrell Gallery in Santa Fe and many more.
# of Publications and Articles: 8+
Multiple media and main-stream articles have been published about the work we are doing. And we are already using the Alexandria Project data to conduct new research and have published three peer-reviewed scientific articles since the beginning of the project.

What a team!
What a project!
This project is achieving what we set out to achieve .

With you, we are:
  • Developing a digital catalog of this library of painted texts,
  • Preserving the art of this vast archaeological region in Texas,
  • Establishing a baseline of all of the art in its current condition,
  • Generating a data set scholars and students of all nations and disciplines will use to conduct research for years to come, and,
  • Compiling data to make informed decisions about prioritization for further documentation/preservation based on threat level and complexity. 

Add to this the benefits we couldn’t have anticipated:
  • Raising awareness about this unique resource across the state, nation and world,
  • Building strong relationships within our community and excitement among the landowners who protect and steward these sites,
  • Developing methods for the preservation and study of rock art that will be used by our colleagues across the globe, and,
  • Elevating the rock art of the Lower Pecos to its rightful place among the most important archaeological resources in the world.
Stay strong with us!

By December 2020, we will have a list of all sites we’ve visited, prioritized by: 1) Art Clarity, 2) Research Potential and 3) Threatened Status. 

Then what? January 2021, in priority order, we will return and employ the preservation and research tools that are too cumbersome for a fast-moving rescue mission. The Alexandria Project will be complete but our work will have just begun.
We’ll never stop working to preserve and study the rock art of the Lower Pecos, but we may take a nap… 
THE 2019

You'll remember that every year we seek out an individual or foundation to support our $100,000 challenge match. This doubles the gifts of our individual supporters like YOU!

Good news!
We're halfway there! A generous Shumla supporter has made a challenge of $50,000 toward our 2019 match!

If you love what we do and you want to support our work with a gift, it will be doubled by our match!

Shumla's Locations

Dallas Business Mailing Address
5706 E. Mockingbird Lane
Dallas, TX 75206
(Use this address when sending business correspondence, pledge gifts or donations by check.)

Research Mailing Address
P.O. Box 627
Comstock, TX 78837
(Use this address when sending research correspondence and items shipped by US Postal Service.)

Shumla Research Headquarters
28 Langtry Street
Comstock, TX 78837
(We're right next to the Comstock Post Office on Hwy 90. Use this address when visiting us or sending items shipped by Fedex or UPS.)

Email: info@shumla.org
Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center 
P.O. Box 627, Comstock, TX 78837 USA
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