MARCH 2016
Dr. Carolyn Boyd presents her findings on paint stratigraphy
A Note from the Director

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." --   Carl Sagan

Shumla is finding something incredible. Something that has been waiting to be known for thousands of years. 

We feel so fortunate to be the ones experiencing this discovery. Sharing our discoveries with our peers and the public is very important to us. The information housed in these ancient "books" belongs to all people. 

It is especially important for scientists to share their work with their colleagues. Shumla has a long history of presenting our research methods and findings to the scientific community in publications and at conferences such as the Texas Archaeological Society (TAS) Meetings and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Conference. 

Right now the Shumla research staff is gearing up to present at the 2016 SAA in Orlando. In this issue, you'll learn about the awesome science they will be presenting there. Our presentations always receive rave reviews from our peers. But when you have something incredible to share, it makes it easier to shine.

All the best,
Jessica Lee, Director

P.S. Don't forget to turn your smart phone on its side to read the eNews more easily. 
Six Presentations
4,000 Years in the Making:
Shumla at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings 
Shumla staff and colleagues, Dr. Carolyn Boyd, Dr. Karen Steelman, Jerod Roberts, Vicky Roberts, and Lindsay Vermillion, will be attending the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meetings in Orlando next month.  Check out the incredible science they will be sharing with our archaeological peers!
Taking a Byte out of Rattlesnake:
An Overview of the Rattlesnake Canyon Project
-- presented by Jerod Roberts --
The Rattlesnake Canyon mural is one of the most intricate and complex rock art murals in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Sadly, it is also one of the most endangered. Gravels in the last major flood raised the canyon floor 10 feet. This means future floods will ultimately destroy the fragile panel.

The Rattlesnake Canyon Project is an emergency preservation project. Texas Tech University, the National Park Service and Shumla, are working collaboratively to document this priceless treasure trove of information before it is lost. 

Documentation includes: 
  • Advanced high resolution photography and color management
  • 3D modeling 
  • Digital microscopy to examine paint layer stratigraphy
  • Production of graphic databases for the 269 figures in the mural
  • Elemental analysis of the pigments using pXRF
  • The collection of detailed attribute data for each of the figures. 
The 100 ft. long mural on the back wall of this shelter is difficult to see from this vantage point. But look how close the floor of the canyon is to the art. Another large flood will cover the art, swirl in the rock shelter and wash this ancient book away forever. 

Up Close and Personal
with Pecos River Style Rock Art
-- presented by Vicky Roberts --
Pecos River Style rock art is arguably one of the most famous and complex pictograph styles in the world. Radiocarbon dates have shown that Pecos River Style paintings range in age from 4200 to 1465 BP (Before Present). 

3,000 years is a long time for a culture to paint one style of art! And yet, many characteristics of the style have remained almost unchanged throughout that time.

What makes a mural Pecos River Style? Shumla is answering this question by collecting Pecos River Style attribute data and entering it into our rock art database. Analysis of this data, together with chemical and microscopic research, allows our scientists to identify  diagnostic attributes and patterns in the iconic Pecos River Style paintings.  We'll tell you more in a later eNews... promise!
Graphic Databasing:
Rock Art Documentation in the Digital Age 
-- presented by Lindsay Vermillion, Texas State University --
Shumla is always working toward more accurate and more secure methods of rock art documentation. In our newest method we use  Adobe Photoshop and Wacom Cintiq Interactive Pen Displays to create "graphic databases". 

Digital Photoshop layers build on one another to create scale illustrations that are color calibrated and contain field notes, lab notes, chemical analysis notes, radiocarbon dates and all other information gathered about a figure. 

It's a one-stop-shop for the documentation of rock art figures. 
This approach increases data integrity and replicability. It also provides a dynamic, visual record for individual rock art figures and, collectively, entire rock art murals!

Strat Is Where It's At: 
Analyzing Mural Stratigraphy at Rattlesnake Canyon
-- presented by Dr. Carolyn Boyd --
By studying paint stratigraphy, Dr. Boyd and the Shumla team have discovered that some of the murals in the Lower Pecos were painted as single compositions. (Read more about this at the White Shaman site in our January and February eNews). The Rattlesnake Canyon mural is huge. It's over 100 feet long and has over 250 figures.  Could this enormous mural have been painted at one time too? 

To answer this question, we applied the same technique used at other sites to determine the painting sequence used by the artists. We collected 1,618 microscopic photographs of 197 places in the mural where paint colors intersect. 

Guess what?! It looks like the Rattlesnake Canyon mural was painted at one time as a composition. Like the White Shaman mural, the artists applied all the black paint first, followed by red, then yellow, and finally white. Only three of the 197 locations don't appear to follow this pattern. We will collect more data this field season to be absolutely sure but we are blown away by this finding. Will this be true for all the major murals in the region? Stay tuned!

Can you find the figures illustrated to the right?
Can you see the stratigraphy of the paint colors? 
Two Methods for Dating Rock Art:
Age Determination of Paint and Oxalate at Eagle Cave

-- presented by Dr. Karen Steelman, University of Central Arkansas --
Rich cultural deposits in Eagle Cave.
Photo credit: ASWT
Many rock shelters in the Lower Pecos contain the remains of human occupation - stone tools, yucca fiber cord, mats and sandals, etc. The hunter-gatherers who used these items, also painted the ancient murals. 

Archaeologists can radiocarbon date organic materials discovered during archaeological digs. To align the ages of these items to the paintings on the wall, we must date the rock art too. 

Photo credit: ASWT
Texas State University and the Ancient Southwest Texas Project (ASWT) are excavating in Eagle Cave beneath a wall of rock art. To find out which layers of artifacts align with the paintings, Dr. Steelman used two methods to date the Eagle Cave rock art: 1) plasma oxidation to date organics in the paint, and 2) mineral accretion dating to provide a minimum and maximum age for the painting event.

Want to know how old the Eagle Cave paintings are? They were painted between  1740-1420 B.C. That's over 3,500 years old!! 

Capture a Picture Worth 1000 Words:
Photographic Documentation of Rock Art
-- presented by Jerod Roberts --
Digital photography is a very important part of Shumla's rock art documentation. But it's not as easy as it sounds. It's more than just taking a picture.  When you are using high resolution photography as a means of preservation, you have to be sure you're gathering, managing and securing photographs in the right way.

On site we may gather over 100,000 photographs. Each is taken with a specific purpose and in a specific format. When we get back to the lab we must review each one and rename it so that we could easily find it. "IMG_3827" doesn't cut it... We have to carefully and clearly organize the images in a location and in a format that will be available and accessible far into the future.

Spotlight on Lacy Finley

Meet our lovely Board Member, Lacy! Lacy has been a rock art enthusiast for many years and serves both on the Shumla Board of Directors and the Rock Art Foundation Board of Directors. She is also the President and CEO of Tech Cumulus, an Information Technology company providing technologies to small-and medium-sized businesses. 

Lacy has a techy mind and an outdoor heart. She is as comfortable trekking through the wilderness as she is holed up for hours behind a computer. And believe me, in either space, she's the one you'd want to be by your side. We are so lucky to have her on ours!  Thank you, Lacy! 

Best Camera EVER!

The Shumla Research Team is beside themselves with glee over our most recent technological addition - a new full frame Canon 5SDR camera. 

This camera doesn't just take pretty landscape shots. In the hands of our super savvy Shumla team it will revolutionize our ability to document rock art and increase our image resolution to 50 megapixels! 

Thank you to all our generous donors. Your gifts make it possible for us to preserve the rock art in the most advanced and longest lasting way possible. We can't wait to show you how we use this baby in the field. 

When you donate to Shumla, you are preserving ancient murals and the stories they tell for future generations.

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Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center 
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