Despite decades of research into the common archaeological manifestation known as “burned rock middens,” these features remain poorly understood. Burned rock middens are enigmatic in that their form and function are rarely well defined—they could have been used as large earth-ovens or served as discard piles from smaller thermal features such as hearths and other associated activities. One TAP project is dedicated to furthering our knowledge of these features in the Trans-Pecos: the Glass Mountains Project in northern Brewster County. The Glass Mountains are a rugged upland of faulted limestone that contain several plant communities rich in useful edible and medicinal plants that would have been especially attractive to prehistoric foragers who once roamed the area.
In 1998, the CBBS held a summer field school, during which students and researchers excavated a midden in Jail Canyon. During this time, a cursory survey by field school participants found several more burned rock middens nearby. In 2000, another survey located 23 prehistoric sites, including numerous middens, in Gilliland, Jail, and Burnt House Canyons. Presently, the data from the 1998 and 2000 seasons are being analyzed and compiled as part of TAP activities. Additionally, a botanical survey sponsored by the CBBS has been conducted in Gilliland Canyon. These data will be used to further characterize settlement patterns and midden use in relation to floral communities.