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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Visiting the Past in Seminole Canyon State Park

I've been to Seminole State Park a few times, on the way to a far Texas destination, but I've never been there at the right time to take the tour to see Pictographs at Fate Bell Shelter.

We decided to break our twelve hour trip into two segments and stay at Seminole State Park again on the way back. Natalie said she would pack up camp while I did the tour, since she had already done it.  What a friend!

So I quickly cooked breakfast and after eating, grabbed my camera and started walking to the headquarters, taking pictures as I went. I had time to charge up my spare camera battery and my Kindle Fire while enjoying the museum before the tour started.

By tour time at ten o'clock, there were about a dozen of us milling around. We were led by an archeologist who also works for the private Rock Art Foundation. After a short talk describing the tour, we started down the hill behind the headquarters. Most of the decent was on stairs and was very easy. We stopped along the way to talk about the uses of sotol and our guide made fire with a fire stick made of sotol. He also discussed the uses of lechuguilla.  Both plants were used for fibers and the bases were baked for a few days and then eaten.  

Fire making demonstration
The shelter begins almost under the headquarter building so we walked less than a mile total but went back about 8000 years in time.  The huge overhanging rocks still provide a wonderful, protected place to look down to the river and across to the other side of the canyon. We took the short walk down the river, then climbed steps up to the walkways, covered in heavy rubber mats which protect the surface and provide much more stable footing than would the bare floor.

Walking down the mostly dry stream

At the landing before the last climb into the shelter
The artifacts have been removed from the shelter but we could still see several sotol pits.  These are circular depressions used to cook the sotol and lechuguilla plants

We were here to see the pictographs, painted over thousands of years. The display started with pictographs that look quite similar to those in other western American sites. 

A panther?

We can't get the meaning from these paintings but can find central themes

I enjoyed the huge bloomingTexas Mountain Laurel shrub near the entrance to the shelter

More ancient paintings
Hand prints

A flat shiny rock - probably used as a work table
Closeup of the surface of the flat, shiny rock
But the main attractions are  the fantastic polychromatic pictographs done in what is called the Pecos River Style, considered some of the best in the world. They are believed to have been painted around 4000 years ago and are thought to be a manifestations of the shaman cult. There are many faceless figures that are elaborately dressed and are often holding a variety of accessories such as atatls, darts, and fending sticks.

Our guide talking about how most of the figures have out-stretched arms and are holding hunting implements

Very detailed paintings

Lots of red and yellow were used
Deer and antlers were often featured
This was a very interesting tour and had some paintings that were unique to a quite small area. The Pecos River Style only occurs within about fifty miles of the intersection of the Pecos and the Rio Grand Rivers.