CBBS Conference Blends History, Archaeology of Big Bend Region

The Sul Ross Skyline, November 13, 2008

For 15 years, the annual Center for Big Bend Studies (CBBS) Conference has expanded the knowledge base of history, culture and archaeology of the Trans Pecos Region of Texas and Mexico.

Over 150 persons attended this year's conference, held Friday-Saturday (Nov. 7-8) at Sul Ross State University.

Presentations covered topics such as rock art, nature and historical writing, the mining industry, the Buffalo Soldiers, Rio Grande border history, modern cultural issues, and even the recent flooding of the Rio Grande.

Historian and author Lonn Taylor, Fort Davis, called the conference an excellent blend of history and archaeology.

"They (CBBS) have achieved a great balance between archaeology and history," said Taylor, who spent 20 years at the Smithsonian Institution before retiring to Fort Davis. "These are two very different subjects, but for some reason, the people coming to this conference are interested in both."

"I have never been to another conference where the audience is so absorbed by what the speakers are saying," he said. "This audience is really dedicated."

"Very few of the presenters are academics; many do this as an avocation," he said. "To me, that means the sessions are being presented in such a way that the ordinary person can understand what's being talked about."

"This area of the state was the focus of archaeological research in the early to mid-20th century, but had received only sporadic attention since then, primarily due to a low population base and a lack of large projects," said CBBS director, William A. "Andy" Cloud. "Thus, we were far behind the rest of the state comparatively in our understanding of past cultures of this region."

According to Cloud, the Trans-Pecos Archaeological Program was the "mechanism to address these problems," and focuses on six areas of research: Paleoindians in the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend (from about 9500- 6500 B.C.); human adaptations during the Archaic period (from 6500 B.C.- A.D. 1000); the Livermore phase and aspects of ritualism in Prehistory (about 700-1200 A.D.); nomads and farmers at La Junta de los Rios (around the confluence of the Rio Conchos and Rio Grande, about A.D. 1200-1800); Spanish exploration and missionization of Native Americans in the Trans-Pecos (starting in 1535 and continuing through the early 1700s); and rock art research.

Research has also occurred in Big Bend National Park. Cloud said that nearly 45,000 acres have been surveyed by the CBBS over the last 13 years "to try to understand how people used the landscape and made adaptations."

"We have made tremendous progress in studying pre-history, protohistory and historic times in the past 13 years," said Cloud.

"Archaeology today is about behavior, human life ways and what factors drove day-to-day activities," Cloud said. "At the same time, the history of this region is also an integral part of our overall mission."

For more information, contact Cloud, 837-8289 or wacloud@sulross.

Download this article as a PDF

get Adobe ReaderGet Adobe Reader