Ancient Secrets of the White Shaman Mural.

Ancient Secrets of the White Shaman Mural. Courtesy of Photographer Gary Perez

 

This column in the Herald-Zeitung has recently featured the grand mural gifts of the Historic Outdoor Art Museum addressing the history of this exceptional community and further enhancing the beauty of the Historic Downtown District.

Pictographs/murals also depict ancient history of man’s beliefs and experiences on Earth.  In the Lure of the Springs mural on the wall of the Parks and Recreation building in Landa Park on Landa Park Drive one notices on the far left side a depiction of early man visiting and inhabiting the Comal Springs.

This article addresses recent interpretations of ancient pictograph rock art found at the confluence of the Lower Pecos and Rio Grande Rivers in the Seminole Canyon State Park located north of the Texas-Mexico border. The time frame is middle archaic (5,900-2,000 years) before present.

Until recently, these murals were declared uninterpretable.  Current pictograph archaeological researchers have again focused on the canyon rock art of this area using various talents and modern tools in order to offer meaningful interpretations as has Dr. Carolyn Boyd — Texas State University Department of Anthropology Shumla Endowed Research Professor. Boyd is an artist and an archaeologist specializing in iconographic analysis (rock art).  She has discovered a symbolic code that reveals narratives in the paintings which she believes can be read like an ancient language.  These paintings help unlock the secrets of a majestic religious system that blanketed Mesoamerica nearly four millennia before the arrival of Columbus. The story told is an account of the formation of the cosmos with multiple levels of meaning.  It is a creation story, a prescription for rituals, in a sense, a cosmological map.

The speaker at the Jan. 13 meeting of Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park will be Gary Perez. The title of his presentation is “The GIS Revolution: Archaeology’s New Tool Reveals Oldest Map of Texas”

The White Shaman Mural studied is found in the same location as Boyd’s research. At the time of these murals, prehistoric indigenous hunter-gatherers inhabited this semi-arid environment and traveled seasonally to obtain resources. Research indicates that murals represent cumulative knowledge and not solely artistic expression.  Some icons may be spiritually significant or narrative.  Others appear to represent survival resources. One particular icon seems to represent four fountain springs of the South Texas Balcones Escarpment.  These springs issue from the Edwards Aquifer and indicate their importance prehistorically, historically and currently. The Comal Springs appears to be one of these four fountain springs.

Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and research of historical records of indigenous/European contact, Perez tested the hypothesis that these icons represent a resource map of South Texas.  The creators seem to have established relative distance between the four springs measuring elapsed travel time.  They accurately painted fountain spring icons on the mural spaced according to transit time.  These icons may represent the oldest map of Texas.  GIS research results may have implications for current and future rock art interpretations.

The public is encouraged to attend this very relevant and informative presentation in Landa Park, Landa Haus, 360 Aquatic Circle, 2:30 p.m. refreshments, 3 p.m. talk. 

Sources:

“Decoding the Ancient Secrets of White Shaman” Discover Magazine – The Sciences, Newsletter, July 23, 2012  by Will Hunt;

“Pictograph Iconography and Geologic Realities at 41VV124 The White Shaman Mural” by Gary Ray Perez, Joe R Telles MS, Alfred Alaniz MS, Janet Ann Stock MS, Med, 2019-Research Paper.

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