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Glenna Williams Dean

LOBO VALLEY PETROGLYPH SITE. The Lobo Valley Petroglyph Site, designated 41CU9, is situated at the base of a mesa near the mouth of a small canyon in the southwestern part of Culberson County. It was first described in published form by A. T. Jackson (1938). His original report to the University of Texas noted 249 design elements, some clear and others "very badly weathered." The site is composed of numerous large, scattered boulders, many of which bear representations of human and animal forms, curvilinear abstract designs, meanders, circles, and diamonds that have been pecked into the rock. The site is important for the number of petroglyphs present on the many boulders, for the antiquity of the carvings, and for the high contrast between the petroglyphs and the rocks upon which they are carved. Associated occupational remains provide a rare opportunity to date prehistoric human activities at a rock-art site and an opportunity to tie those cultural activities to a broader understanding of paleoenvironmental aspects of prehistory in West Texas. Each unique aspect of the site enhances the significance of the others, and the State Review Board in 1983 nominated the site to the National Register of Historic Places with a national level of significance.

The art styles of the petroglyphs are unlike those of the lower Pecos region to the east, or those of the Jornada Mogollón region to the west and south along the Rio Grande. Only one or two of the numerous human figures depicted carry what could be a bow, implying that at least some, if not most, of the other petroglyphs are of greater age and are the artistic expression of an earlier population.

Temporal affiliations are difficult to establish for the petroglyphs. Regrettably, local residents have been collecting artifacts from the surface of the site for generations, and most of these collections have been dispersed. The three diagnostic artifacts reportedly taken from the site and seen by professional archeologists are of the Late Archaic and Late Prehistoric ages (ca. 500 B.C.-A.D. 1500). Other artifacts include triangular blades, thinning flakes, and small cores. This artifact assemblage is interesting in light of the fact that Jornada Mogollón groups from upstream established settlements along the Rio Grande almost as far as Big Bend National Park, well to the east and south of Lobo Valley. Yet no substantial evidence of cultural interchange is evident at Lobo Valley, despite its relative nearness to the Rio Grande settlements. The apparent continuation of hunting and gathering into Late Prehistoric times in this region of West Texas is one of the more puzzling aspects of the archeological record. As of 1994 no excavations by professional archeologists had yet been conducted at the site.

The archeological record of Texas west of the Pecos River in general is poorly known. The most recent synthesis of current knowledge of Trans-Pecos Texas is by Robert J. Mallouf. The number, diversity, and location of the carvings at Lobo Valley suggest that they had an aesthetic or spiritual meaning, a suggestion of considerable importance that may be borne out by future excavation.

A. T. Jackson, Picture Writing of Texas Indians (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938). Charles A. Johnson II, Preliminary Appraisal of Cultural and Historical Resources Found Along the Rio Grande between Fort Quitman and Haciendita, Texas (University of Texas at El Paso, 1977). Robert J. Mallouf and Curtis Tunnell, An Archeological Reconnaissance in the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande (Austin: Texas Historical Commission, 1977).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Glenna Williams Dean, "LOBO VALLEY PETROGLYPH SITE," accessed October 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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