Latest News from Sul Ross July 12, 2013

by Steve Lang, News and Publications

               The deeper Sul Ross State University’s Center for Big Bend Studies (CBBS) archaeological teams dig, the older the evidence of human activity in the Trans-Pecos is found.
               At present, CBBS research on a south Brewster County ranch site indicates human use dating back 11,000 years, and likely growing older. Six hearths (or thermal features), dating from 11,000 years ago to 8,700 years ago have been unearthed at the Genevieve Lykes Duncan (GLD) site on the 02 Ranch. Even earlier stone tools have been found several feet lower.
               Charcoal – carbon-dated back to 12,600 years ago – has also been discovered, but as yet, supporting human evidence has not been found.
               “This is the earliest radiocarbon-dated site (of human habitation) in the region by 1,200-1,300 years,” said Andy Cloud, archaeologist and CBBS director. He added that the GLD site, which has been under excavation for about 2 years, may well contain an earlier cultural presence, as the deeper stone tools would indicate.
               “We’re going to keep looking lower,” Cloud said.


11,000-year-old hearth

Andy Cloud right), director of the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross, and field school student Kiko Morlock discuss feature of 11,000-year-old hearth. (Photo by Steve Lang)


(Left): 9,000-year-old spear point found at Genevieve Lykes Duncan site on the 02 Ranch. Center for Big Bend Studies excavations reveal  evidence of sporadic human use of the site for 10,000 years. (Photo Courtesy Andy Cloud)


              The GLD site location – near Terlingua Creek and at the foothills of the Davis Mountains – appears to have supported sporadic human use for more than 10,000 years.
               Cloud explained that the confluence of mountains, foothills and desert provided necessary resources of food, fuel, water and raw materials for tools to support hunter-gatherer occupations through the years.
               “Our research shows that this was a stable land surface for at least 2,000 years (11,000-9,000 years ago) during what is known as the Late Paleoindian period” Cloud said. “Through investigation of this 2,000-year  window we may be able to get indicators of cultural change: how and why there were technological advances.”
“After this period, overbank flooding began to slowly bury the stable land surface, yet due to the favorable setting, humans continued to camp here. These occupations, all with high scientific potentials, are exposed in different areas of the site and also warrant investigation,” he said.
               Analyses of the excavated thermal features have yet to definitively identify what was being cooked; however, the morphologies of several of these strongly suggest they were earth ovens—cooking features that used heated rocks to retain and regulate heat. Such technology was necessary to cook for longer durations and at lower temperatures in order to make certain plants – such as sotol and agave – edible. Findings also reveal that seeds of several plants were ground into powder, likely mixed with water to form dough and then baked into bread-like substances/cakes.
    Cloud indicated the use of rock as heating elements, the earth ovens, and the grinding stones are among the earliest yet discovered in North America.
               “The investigation is shedding light on these early peoples’ behavior and their lifeways,” said Cloud. He noted that in addition to learning about early human activity in the region, the investigation has uncovered evidence that many of the plants in today’s Chihuahuan Desert were present thousands of years ago. These include mesquite, creosotebush, saltbush, cholla, sagebrush, thistle and sunflower plants.
               CBBS research on the 02 Ranch has been multi-faceted and extensive, with more than 480 sites documented and 23 of these tested or excavated since 1999. The research has also provided field school opportunities for undergraduate students. This year, Kiko Morlock, who graduated from Big Bend High School in Terlingua in 2009 and now attends Texas State University, San Marcos, participated in the excavation.
               “I had been an aquatic biology major, then I took an anthropology course to fill a requirement,” Morlock said. “I was hooked. The next semester I took four anthropology courses.”
               “There were plenty of other options for field school, but I chose Sul Ross because I had the chance to see some land that many people never get to look at;.that I had passed by all my life. This was an opportunity to learn about a place that I considered home.”
               Morlock’s father, John, is superintendent of the Fort Davis National Historic Site and his mother, Adamina, teaches at Marfa ISD. Kiko, who will be a senior at Texas State, has a distinct interest in geology, and said “you could see me back here (at Sul Ross) in graduate school.”
               Cloud praised the cooperation of the owners and the ranch manager Homer Mills, who has discovered a number of the archaeological sites documented by the CBBS. Mills and the ranch have also provided shelter and water at the site to expedite the excavation.
               “We are extremely grateful to Homer, the Lykes Brothers, Inc. (ranch owners), Cam Duncan, and Genny Duncan (children of Genevieve Lykes Duncan) for their unflagging support and interest in this ongoing project,” Cloud said.
Additional funding for the investigation has come from generous grants by the Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, the Coypu Foundation, the Wayne and Jo Ann Moore Charitable Foundation, the Joan and Herb Kelleher Foundation, the Summerlee Foundation, the Semmes Foundation, and the Alfred S. Gage Foundation.
    Cloud added, “This site looks particularly good for further work well into the future.”
               For more information, contact Cloud, (432) 837-8179 or

               Due to construction of the new field house at Jackson Field, the adjacent parking lot, used for the monthly motorcycle safety course, will be closed for the next three to four months.
               Sul Ross State University has offered the use of several alternative sites to conduct the safety course during the construction period.
               “We recognize that the motorcycle safety course is the only one offered in the Big Bend Region and is a valuable community resource,” said Sul Ross President Dr. Ricardo Maestas. “We received a few complaints that the Jackson Field parking lot will be closed, thus discontinuing the course. This is not true. The lot will be closed temporarily and we have offered the use of any suitable parking lot for the course in the interim.”
               Maestas said that the funding for the field house was a gift (forgivable loan) from the Texas State University System Foundation.
               “This is a much-needed facility and we are grateful to the Texas State University Foundation for their generosity. Sul Ross has a commitment and mission to serve our students. This is our number one priority,” he said.
               “However, we regret the inconvenience the new construction brings to our guests. We have met with the principals of the motorcycle safety course and are optimistic a workable solution can be reached. Sul Ross provides the use of our facilities for the motorcycle course, storage of all equipment, and the administrative processing of paperwork, at no charge to the course and we are happy to provide this community service.”

    Legendary Western artist Frederic Remington’s works – including an original painting on tour for the first time – will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University.
    “Treasures from the Frederic Remington Art Museum,” including the original painting, “The Charge of the Rough Riders,” opens Sept. 19 as part of a gala weekend. Painted in 1899, “The Charge of the Rough Riders” commemorated the charge of Teddy Roosevelt’s troops up Cuba’s San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War. The epic original has been on display in the Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, N.Y., and will be on tour for the first time.
    Opening events will include scholarly presentations and lectures, dinners, receptions and live and silent auctions at various locations, including the museum, Sul Ross, Fort Davis National Historic Site, the Gage Hotel, Marathon, and Alpine’s Holland Hotel.
  (Left): Untitled, Oil on Canvas by Frederic Remington, circa 1908-1909. (The Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, N.Y.)

    This historic exhibit, which will be open to the public from Sept. 21-Dec. 8, will display a large number of Frederic Remington’s best known works, including the iconic sculpture, “Bronco Buster” and “The Charge of the Rough Riders.”  In celebration of this exhibit, four of the nation’s leading Remington scholars will be presenting new scholarship and research during the course of the weekend’s events.  Presenters include Peter Hasserick, Dr. Ron Tyler, Dr. B. Byron Price and Michael Duty.
    “Remington is the biggest name in Western Art and this is the biggest art event in our history,” said Liz Jackson, Museum director. “We are not only bringing the never-before toured painting, The Charge of the Rough Riders to our museum but we will be bringing together the best in Remington scholars.  This event is significant for the museum, Sul Ross State University, and the Big Bend region as a whole.”
    Sul Ross President Dr. Ricardo Maestas said, “Frederic Remington is considered perhaps the most influential and important artist to portray the American West. The Sul Ross community is pleased to host this monumental exhibition in our award-winning museum facilities.”    
    Ticketed events for opening weekend are as follows:
    Thursday, Sept. 19: Speakers and Sponsors dinner, 6 p.m.“Racism & Patronage,” presented by Peter Hasserick. Hosted by The Gage Hotel, Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan.
    Friday, Sept. 20:  3:30 - 5:30 p.m., Frederic Remington lectures,“Frederic Remington’s Vision of Man with the Bark On,” presented by Dr. Ron Tyler; “Remington as an Equine and Equestrian Artist,” presented by Dr. B. Byron Price; Vic and Mary Jane Morgan University Center, Sul Ross.
    6-8 p.m.: Exhibit opening and reception, “Treasures from The Frederic Remington Art Museum,” Museum of the Big Bend.
    Saturday, Sept. 21: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Private tour and BBQ lunch,  The Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis.                             
    6 p.m.: Frederic Remington Gala, cocktails, dinner, live and silent auctions, music, lecture, “Frederic Remington’s Legacy,” by Michael Duty; The Holland Hotel, Alpine.
    “Treasures from The Frederic Remington Art Museum” exhibit and event are being made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mallory, The Holland Hotel, and West Texas National Bank.  Additional sponsors include The Gage Hotel, Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan, and Carol and Pete Peterson and many others.  Sponsorship opportunities are still available.
    Museum hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission and parking are free. Enter through Entrance B off of Harrison Road.  Private tours may be scheduled in advance.  For more information, visit or call (432) 837-8143.