Instead of addressing one of the questions submitted by a
member, this month I want to pass on to the membership the
preservation committee's response to several issues posed by and
to the board members about the proposed Lewis Canyon project.
The President's call for action in this newsletter may raise
some of the same issues so this response anticipates the
How does the Lewis Canyon project relate to our mission statement? The RAF is committed to working with private landowners in the interests of rock art preservation. Marilyn and Howard Hunt, Lewis Canyon Landowners, have consistently endeavored to promote research, recording, and conservation of archeological resources on their ranch, hosting the RAF's first major documentation project, a field school, and guided tours. The Lewis Canyon project will serve as a model of what can be attained by cooperation between private landowners and the RAF. What is the history of research at Lewis Canyon? Although the Lewis Canyon petroglyphs were documented by both Forrest Kirkland and A.T. Jackson in 1938, discrepancies between their recordings and what was observable in the field led to the first major project of the fledgling Rock Art Foundation in 1991. Clearly visible glyphs missing from both the 1938 inventories, glyphs documented by both pioneers and now no longer seen, and other glyphs partially covered by redeposited sediments led to the important discovery of an entire body of art never before seen by modern people. Volunteers from several organizations labored to remove tons of dirt from atop the buried glyphs while another crew laid out a grid and took measured, controlled vertical photographs of the entire site. The latter were later transferred into computer-generated maps and published as part of the RAF's second publication. A relative chronology of the site was proposed and some possible interpretations considered in this same report. Why is Lewis Canyon a significant site? Lewis Canyon is the only large petroglyph site in the Lower Pecos region although it bears some relationship to smaller sites to the north on the Eldorado Divide and larger sites in northern Mexico. The prehistoric people of the Lower Pecos obviously felt that the site was conducive to ritual performances that included the creating of petroglyphs, carved into the flat bedrock much like miniature Nazca lines. It is intriguing that the petroglyphs are best viewed from above, that they are open to the sun, the stars, and the heavens, leading to some suggestions of astronomical importance. That the native people opted for this unique form of expression twice, in disparate time periods, adds to the mystique of the site. What can be done to preserve the art? Rock art conservation is a science in its infancy and one fraught with peril in case the cure is worse than the disease. In the case of Lewis Canyon, the objective is to reduce stress and hopefully eliminate vandalism while not interfering with the natural setting, a process often called managed access. Although Lewis Canyon is on private property, the site is easily accessible from the Pecos River. Conversely, it is far from ranch headquarters and difficult to monitor. The RAF has retained a trained conservator who will prepare a detailed conservation plan that will address three main areas. The first goal is to divert traffic from the glyphs by a combination of barriers and elevated walkways that will enhance the perspective on the glyphs. Secondly, the plan must provide ways to divert runoff and prevent ponding, sediment build-up, and erosion. Finally, signs and unobtrusive exhibits will explain the significance of the site and enlist the visitor's cooperation in preventing vandalism. What is the role of the membership? The role of the membership is critical to the success of this project. The essential items are money, materials, and labor. Until the management plan is completed, cost estimates must remain vague but funds will be needed to pay for skilled design experience and materials. Members will be called to volunteer as a work force to clear the site of encroaching sand and contribute skilled construction, design, or engineering labor. Donation of materials will be encouraged. In turn, the membership will have the opportunity to participate in a major preservation program and experience the rock art at a personal level that I guarantee will be exhilarating.