Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


J. Charles Kelley

LOMA ALTA SITE. The Loma Alta Site is an archeological site about five miles northwest of Presidio, Texas, on the United States side of the Rio Grande. It covers much of the southwestern, horseshoe-shaped end of a high mesa just north of Farm Road 170. It is situated directly across the valley from the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Río Conchos, known as La Junta de los Ríos. J. Charles Kelley has identified this site as that named San Juan Evangelista by the expedition of Antonio de Espejo in 1582. Diego Pérez de Luxán noted in that year that this pueblo was "situated on the opposite bank of the river...called Del Norte. The pueblo was on a high ridge with many flat-roofed houses; below were many other houses forming a sort of suburb." Here "in a neatly kept plaza" the expedition found a cross that had been placed there in 1581 by members of the Rodríguez-Sánchez expedition. After 1582 San Juan Evangelista was not reported in Spanish records of the La Junta area.

The surface of the mesa, constructed terraces on the south, and adjacent talus slopes are covered with fire-cracked stones and other cultural debris. Rows of depressions indicate the presence of the large pithouses used during the protohistoric occupation. There is a circular burned-rock midden at the north end of the site, and along the western edge of the eastern mesa is a row of saucer-shaped depressions.

Minor archeological excavations were carried out at the site by Kelley in 1939 for Sul Ross State Teachers College (now Sul Ross State University), using workmen furnished by the WPA (see WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION). Supplementary funds were supplied by the School of American Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Two rows of pithouses were excavated wholly or in part. The burned-rock midden was trenched, as were two of the saucer-shaped depressions on the east mesa. Stratographic trenches were dug in the talus deposits on the south. Subsequently, in 1973 or 1974, test pits were dug at the site by representatives of the Texas Archeological Survey of the University of Texas at Austin for the National Park Service.

Archeologically the site belongs to the Bravo Valley culture, the sedentary agricultural occupation of the Río Conchos and Rio Grande valleys, the La Junta region. The earliest La Junta phase of this culture has roots in the Jornada branch of the Mogollón culture of New Mexico and Trans-Pecos Texas, whereas the late prehistoric-protohistoric Concepción phase was a largely local development. The site apparently was not occupied during the fully historic Conchos phase. The La Junta phase is believed to date to about A.D. 1200 to 1450 and the Concepcíon phase to about A.D. 1450 to 1700. During the 1939 fieldwork one pithouse belonging to the La Junta phase was excavated. The remaining pithouses exposed belonged to the Concepción phase. Very few archeological specimens were recovered. A rusty piece of iron and a few green-glazed potsherds represent the only traces of the visit of Spaniards to the site. Discovery of two potsherds of Patton Engraved pottery from East Texas indicates far-reaching trade contacts. Historically the site was occupied by one or more groups of Patarabueye Indians and probably seasonally by Jumanos as well. Collections from the site are located primarily at the University of Texas at Austin, and data are on file there, at Sul Ross State University, and with the Texas Historical Commission.

Diego Pérez de Luxán, Expedition into New Mexico Made by Antonio de Espejo, 1582–1583, trans. George Peter Hammond and Agapito Rey (Los Angeles: Quivira Society, 1929). Vance T. Holliday and James E. Ivey, Presidio-Ojinaga International Flood Control and Channel Relocations Project: An Evaluative Survey of the Archeological and Historical Resources (Research Report 48, Texas Archeological Survey, University of Texas at Austin, 1974). J. Charles Kelley et al., "The Association of Archaeological Materials with Geological Deposits in the Big Bend Region of Texas," West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication No. 10 (1940). J. Charles Kelley, "The Historic Indian Pueblos of La Junta de Los Rios," New Mexico Historical Review 27, 28 (October 1952, January 1953). J. Charles Kelley, Jumano and Patarabueye: Relations at La Junta de los Rios (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1947).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, J. Charles Kelley, "LOMA ALTA SITE," accessed October 13, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...