The Trans-Pecos of far west Texas is one of the archeologically richest—but scientifically most poorly known—regions of Texas. While some of the earliest scientific excavations in Texas were conducted here during the 1920s and 1930s, a virtual hiatus in research from 1940 to 1980, and only erratic research since, has resulted in a fragmented and inadequate archaeological database that pales in comparison with most other regions of Texas.
During this same period of scientific neglect, many of the region's impressive and unique archaeological resources have been and continue to be subjected to rampant destruction from uncontrolled digging by untold numbers of relic hunters and site looters. Clearly, it is this perplexing history of research—in a region with an exceptionally rich and significant array of archaeological sites—that provides impetus and urgency for this proposal.
The Trans-Pecos Archeological Program (TAP) was designed to bring the region into the 21st century in terms of theoretical underpinnings, scientific methodologies, and interpretations of data. Early research in the region operated without benefit of major advancements in analysis and dating that are considered standard analytical procedures today.
Based within the region of interest, and uniquely positioned to achieve multiple research objectives, the TAP program utilizes a thematic approach to investigate six pressing regional research issues. All data recovered through field work will be analyzed and reported through well-illustrated, book-length publications. In addition, several spin-off articles for submittal to scientific journals can be expected. Still other benefits of the program will emerge in the form of scholarly lectures for the public and interested organizations, and in the development of state-of-the-art educational museum exhibits.
With funding earmarked for investigating a range of carefully selected sites, major contributions to our knowledge of the human past—not only in the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend, but also in critical adjoining regions of the Southwest—can be achieved. This long overdue effort will at last bring the region back into the mainstream of archeological concerns and interpretation in Texas and the Southwest, and will multiply by more than a hundred-fold our knowledge of prehistory and history of the region.
The center has developed the framework for a long-term, large-scale research program designed to address three major categories of archeological and historical investigation in the Trans-Pecos:
- evaluation of existing documentation;
- identification of data gaps and research needs; and
- design and implementation of a program that focuses and better integrates research efforts to address identified research needs.
This work has resulted in development of a research design and proposal, termed The Trans-Pecos Archeological Program, which will serve as a guide for future research efforts of the center and will provide a fund-raising mechanism for the needed expansion and refinement of research methodologies.
An important aspect of program development has been the creation of an assisting 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Friends of the Center for Big Bend Studies, that will help the center expand and maximize use of its funding base.