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The Indian Rock Art of Paint Rock, TX  - 2006

The sights include :  The Indian Rock Art of Paint Rock, TX.  Well, My Art History Term Paper on the Cliff Images and their Interpretation.

 Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)

            I guess I should have saved that last story for Halloween time.   Again, due to a very busy Summer school schedule, I still have not been able to do a lot of traveling. But I still had bat fever.  So I did make a few little trips during the break between the Summer and Fall semester to check out more bat emergences in Texas.  Hopefully, I'll have that written up next month.  So until then, I am presenting another term paper I did for an Art History class this past summer.    As hinted before, it's on the Indian Rock Art of Paint Rock, TX.  If you remember from last year, this site was visited in the past Texas adventure of :

The Gem Trails of West Texas - 2005

          One last thing, Evelyn and Jennifer shared some of their photos for the term paper.  Therefore, its time I scratch their backs.  For Evelyn, she has her new on-line beaded jewelry and tie-dye shop up and running.  Please see the link below for her shop and shop till you drop :

(11/28/2016-Sorry folks, she's went out of business.)

           And not to leave Jennifer and Jack out, here is their link from the new Texas Tumbler Gift Shop :

Hudson's Outdoor Furniture

           Well as hinted just now, I also need to put in a plug for myself.  I too, now have an on-line business.  Please see the banner link below :

         Ok, now that some of the formalities are out of the way, sit back and enjoy the show!

Star Date : 07/24/2006 - Monday, (Term Paper is Due)

Click on the photo for a larger image............

Introduction :

          During the last Ice Age, a land bridge was exposed between the Bearing Strait which linked together the two continents of Northern Asia and North America together.  During this brief time in geologic history, modern man was able to migrate to the western hemispheres thus, becoming the first Native Americans.

           While man migrated from North Asia through North America to South America, he brought with him not only his knowledge of producing stone and bone tools for hunting but, also his art.  As time past, the Native Americans gradually developed higher forms of art and architecture in support of their varied cultures and religions.

Evidence of these ancient sites is found throughout the Americas including Texas. Indian rock art, consisting of pictographs (drawings or paintings) and Petroglyphs (carvings) made by Indians, both prehistoric and historic, exists in more than 250 known sites in Texas. The most import sites found in Texas are the Hueco Tanks near El Paso, TX, the Lake Landmark site just west of Lubbock, TX;   the Indian mounds of the Caddo Indians found northeast of Crockett, TX; the rock art images found in the lower Pecos region west of Del Rio, TX, images and carvings found in the Big Bend area and the rock art of Paint Rock, TX.  There may even be many more sites yet to be discovered. [Newcomb]

There are far too many sites to cover thoroughly, therefore, only the Indian rock art of Paint Rock will be discussed.  With over a 1,500 images painted on the cliffs north of the city, only a few will be discussed with archeological interpretations.

A History of Paint Rock :

          Paint Rock, the county seat of Concho County, is in the north central part of the county at the junction of Ranch Road 380 and U.S. Highway 83, about twenty-one miles northeast of Eden. The town was named for the extensive Indian pictographs found about a mile north of the city on the bluffs of the Concho River.

Before Paint Rock was a center for ranching and agriculture, various Indian tribes migrated through the area from prehistoric times to the last quarter of the nineteenth century when Comanche Indians still hunted in area. The site is on private ranch land owned by Kay Campbell and the site has been within in her family since the 1870’s.  It is the Campbell family who has now made it their personal duty to maintain the site and to keep it preserved for both current and future generations to enjoy, experience and to study. [Campbell]

Analysis of the Rock Art :

             Indian rock art, consisting of pictographs (drawings or paintings) and Petroglyphs (carvings) made by Indians, both prehistoric and historic, is usually found on cave walls, in natural rock shelters along rivers or streams, or on ledges and cliff faces. Rock-art sites have been found near known Indian campgrounds; others have been found in isolated, remote areas, seemingly far from ancient or modern settlements. When examined, many containing numerous paintings or engravings, represent a wide variety of styles in different locations, reflecting many divergent Indian cultures.

The earliest organized studies of rock art in Texas began in the 1930s. Archeologist, A. T. Jackson, studied Indian rock art throughout the state for eight years and published an extensive record titled Picture-Writing of Texas Indians” (1938).  From 1934 to 1942, artist Olea Forrest Kirkland and his wife Lula, visited about eighty sites and copied in watercolors various examples of rock art.  Before the site came under the Campbell family control, many of the rock art images were destroyed by graffiti from the locals and the soldiers from the nearby Fort Concho in San Angelo. When the Kirkland’s visited the site in 1935, they reported that sixty-one single designs and forty-one complete groups had been destroyed beyond recognition, which is an estimated 25 percent of all the pictographs at the site.

Figure 1. Kay Campbell’s Demonstration of Indian Paint Production.

          The artwork ranges in size from one inch to eighteen feet in height and is found any where from the ground level to many feet above ground. Some paintings were drawn in places that could only have been reached with the use of scaffolding of some sort.  Pigments were made from powdered minerals such as hematite and sometimes mixed with animal fats which created earth tones colors. Black and red were the most commonly used colors, but white, yellow, orange, and brown were also used, sometimes alone but most often in combination. [Newcomb]


Interpretation of Rock Art Images :

The Campbell’s have had their ranch visited by many archeologist from both Texas and from around the country.  Many Comanche’s from the Oklahoma reservations still visit the site to performs their rituals and also offer their explanations which the Campbell’s have recorded.  Dr. Bill Yates, an amateur Astronomer and Indian rock art interpreter has added much to the knowledge of the site.  Additionally, Dr. Bob Robbins, an Archeo-astronomer from the University of Texas, has discovered several astronomical images which relate to the solstices of the year.  Additionally, Carolyn Boyd, who has extensively studied the Indian rock art of the Pecos region has also made contributions to the effort.   Lastly, the many visitors to the sites have made their observations as well. [Campbell]

     The Hunt : 

          The images from left to right in Figure 2. possibly relate to a hunt.  A sun or moon followed by crooked lines are thought to be throwing sticks or the atlatls.  The two birds and several circles  could represent tipi rings.  Above these are a number of count marks.  The lines are the width of a finger.


Figure 2. The Hunt.

     Primitive Maps :

Illustrated in Figure 3a. and 3b.,  are dozens of detailed geometric designs which have no apparent meaning to modern observers.  Possibly, the drawings refer to trails or rivers, thereby presenting a map-like meaning.  These intricate drawings are made with both black and red pigments.



  Figure 3a. Primitive Map 1.

Figure 3b. Primitive Map 2.

The Boat or Cave Symbol :

      An impressive design which resembles a boat could represent the artist’s impression

Figure 4. The Boat or Cave Symbol.

of a canoe seen along the coast or one of the larger rivers.  The possible enumeration marks are seen to the right. 

     Another conception is that it represents a canoe burial as was practiced by some tribes with the ladder used to ascend to the heavens. 

     A third theory is that it represents a cave along the canyon wall of one of the southern rivers, perhaps the Pecos, Devil’s or the Rio Grande to which these Indians are said to have migrated to during the winter months.


Plumed Serpent :   

          Figure 5. illustrates an outstanding drawing appears to have a fish-like tail.  This  is thought to be the “Plumed Serpent” which was a very significant deity of the Southwestern Indian culture.  Note the snake-like body attached to the tail.  To the right of the tail is an interesting painting which appears to be an insect or an animal which has six legs.

Figure 5. Plumed Serpent.

An Eclipse of the Sun :

Figure 6. An Eclipse of the Sun.

          As illustrated in Figure 6., it is believed that the shaded circle to the right to is the eclipsed sun.  To the left, the circle with wings, is the emerging sun from the darkness of the eclipse. 

          The date of such an occurrence is unknown.

          Such an event would be note worthy for the Indians to record.

The Winter Solstice Symbol :

           Dr. Bob Robbins, an astronomer with the department of Astronomy at the University of Texas, is also an Archeo-Astronomer; who helped identify Figure 7. as a

pictograph used as the winter solstice marker at Paint Rock. On the winter solstice, a ray of light caused by a crack in the rock overhead pierces the pictograph at the very center at exactly noon, local time. Mrs. Campbell says this only occurs during the winter solstice time but not at other times of year.  

Figure 7. The Winter Solstice Symbol. [Yates]

The Asa Havey Signature :

           In this sequence of prominent stars, as illustrated in Figure 8., is said to represent the signature of the famous Indian named Asa Havey.  Asa was a companion of Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Quahadi Comanche Indians, son of Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker (The white woman who was kidnapped by the Comanche as a small child at Fort Parker in 1836 near Mexia, TX). 

Figure 8. The Asa Havey Signature.

            It has been documented that Asa left his mark among the paintings at this site.  His name means “Starry Pathway” or “Milky Way”.

       To the right of the stars is a vertical hand print and immediately below it is a horizontal hand print.  Note that these are both left hands indicating that the artist was right-handed.

The Hands :

            Figure 9a. and Figure 9b. are very good examples of hand images.  Figure 9a illustrates the classic example of using the human mouth as a spray can to create a negative image of the artist’s left hand; whereas Figure 9b illustrates a positive image which was painted.  There are quite a number of these images at the Paint Rock site. 

Images of hands are usually the signature of the artist and if painted red, the symbol for the Twin War Gods. [Patterson]

Figure 9a. The Hands Pictograph 1.

Figure 9b. The Hands Pictograph 2.

A Christian Mission :

          Many of the Texas Indians were exposed to Christianity through the efforts of being Christianized by he Spanish monasteries.  The rectangle with dots across the top is believed to be a mission wall.  Two domes of a church project above the wall – each dome has a Christian cross.  Early missions in the area were San Clemente, San Saba and several in San Antonio.

Figure 10. A Christian Mission.

Wilted Corn and Grasshopper :    

Figure 11. Wilted Corn and Grasshopper.


          A favorite painting among the local farmers and ranchers is the sun, wilted corn and grasshopper which indicates a hot summer and a plague of grasshoppers which are common to the area.  Above the wilted stalk of corn is a healthy plant with a fully grown ear of corn.  To the right of the healthy corn stalk is a distinct sun symbol with a long, snake-like element extending to the right.

The Buffalo :

          On a small yellow surface near the top of the bluff is seen a buffalo with his tail up.  It has been said that buffalo with their tails up were running while those with their tails down were grazing.

Figure 12. The Buffalo.

Mission San Clemente :

Figure 13. Mission San Clemente.

          This painting is believed to represent the Mission San Clemente, built in 1685 by the Franciscans to Christianize the Lipan Apache Indians.  In this group are seen a stick man representing an Indian, a robed figure depicting the Father and two animals: one cow and the other a horse.  A wheel or cart helps to interpret their meaning.

The Bubble Speak or Pipe Symbol :

          The large, four-horned figure is believed to be an important leader entitled to wear four buffalo horns for his headdress.  The balloon-shaped element could be a talk “bubble” symbol or a ceremonial pipe.


Figure 14. The Bubble Speak or Pipe Symbol.

Sky Walker to the Happy Hunting Grounds :

Bill Yates, an amateur astronomer and interpreter of Indian rock art, noticed an interesting resemblance of the little figure walking “up” on the bottom of the shadow in Figure 15.  to the constellation, Orion that you see in the winter sky.

Figure 15. Sky Walker to the Happy Hunting Grounds.[Yates]

          Later, while looking at the stars of the Orion constellation, He found some bright stars close enough to Orion and in the right places to trace out the lines of the little ascending triangular guy, whom he promptly named "Skywalker".      In looking around that same part of the sky, Yates immediately spotted the kite-like shape in Canis Major's tail and also the shape next to it in the picture.


           Yates could then see the form of the Big Bird-like shape behind Orion using Auriga, Gemini and the front part of Canis Major (Sirius is the heel).  See Figure 16.  Yates knew right then that the painting depicted the night sky in winter, all he had to do was trace out the lines in the stars just the way the artist did hundreds of years ago. Using His  computer astronomy program, he printed out star charts showing the skies visible from Paint Rock and found all the parts of the artwork in the winter sky just as the pictograph showed.

          The artist was unaware of the standard European model of the constellations and painted the shapes he saw instead.

Figure 16. Sky Walker to the Happy Hunting Grounds Constellations. [Yates]

 On the first day of Spring, a shadow is cast over the painting and at around 2:45 PM, the line separating light from shadow is right at the feet of the Skywalker, making it look as though he is walking up the ray of light to the sky. The angle of the light is perfectly perpendicular to the axis of the Skywalker. This sign is locally considered a reliable indicator of the vernal equinox.   This phenomenon was first observed by Kay Campbell on March 20, 2005. [Yates]

The Summer Solstice Marker :

Figure 17. The Summer Solstice Marker.

          Figure 17 illustrates a turtle within a circle.  This too, was an image recognized by Dr. Bob Robbins as a solstice symbol, but this time as a marker for the Summer Solstice. 

          It is suggested that certain tribes gathered here to celebrate the rituals marking the first day of Summer.


The 1572 Supernova :

There is another pictograph that sparked attention by Yates which consist of  a

Figure 18. The 1572 Supernova

rather complex set of images that contain a W-shape in several places. 

        Yates knew that the W shape was very familiar to him and he then noticed that every time the W was in a picture, so was a star-like image , always in the same place. This set him to think that it looked like Cassiopeia and he remembered there had been a supernova there. 


          After a little research, he discovered that there had been and it was in the exact spot shown in the paintings.  The pictograph also shows stylized representations of other star groups in the area and a calendar showing it occurred in November,  which it did.  This supernova was bright enough to be seen in daylight for several weeks.  This would have been a very alarming experience for Indians and worth recording such an event among the rocks. [Yates]

Figure 19. Star Chart of the 1572 Supernova. . [Yates]

The Alice Todd Story :

Figure 20. The Alice Todd Story.

          On the right-hand side of this long, yellow rock is the drawing of a horizontal woman. 

          Her position indicates capture.  Her hoped skirt identifies her as a white woman and would date the painting about the Civil War time period.  To the left of the shield with crossed lances, represents a war party.  Beneath the spear on the left are two scalps.


It is recorded that near Mason, TX in 1865 a woman, her daughter and their maid were traveling by wagon and were attacked by Comanche Indians.  The mother and the maid were killed and 15-year old Alice Todd was carried away by the Indians never to be heard from again.

There is a Texas Historic Marker just outside the city limit of Mason, TX which also records this event and supplies the following information :

          Named for family of George W. Todd, first Mason County clerk, which was attacked by Indians at this site while en route to Mason in late Dec. 1864. A 12-year-old black servant girl was killed, 13-year-old Alice Todd taken captive, and Todd’s wife, Dizenia Peters Todd (b.1826), wounded severely. Mrs. Todd died about 3 weeks later, in Jan. 1865. An older half-brother, James Smith, returned from the Civil War and searched for Alice for several months, but she was never found. Mrs. Todd and the servant girl were buried in unmarked graves, (150 yards southeast). (1974)

Observers and students of this site believe that these groups of images were the last to be placed here.  The remaining Indians of that time period who were left in the area around Paint Rock were then forced to immigrate to Indian reservations in Oklahoma.

West End Images :

           The last set of interpretable images are located on the far west end of the cliffs.  At the lowest level of these paintings is a group of human figures.

One of these is a robed figure and the others have an hourglass shape.  One of these figures is inverted, symbolizing death.

     Above and to the right is a bear track.  Within the track is shown other robed and hourglass figures.


Figure 21. West End Images.

Conclusions :

          Subjects ranged from the whole human figures or just hands or feet, to animals of all kinds including : deer, mountain lions, buffalo, snakes, and birds. Sun symbols, various kinds of weather, trees, weapons, and geometric shapes were also drawn. In later times Spanish and other non-Indian figures were pictured. The purposes or meanings in the drawings cannot be positively determined, but some are clearly religious or ceremonial in nature, depicting what appear to be images of shamans performing their rituals. Some obviously show events occurring in a tribe or in the life of an individual such as hunting or warfare. Maps, dancing scenes, and tallies of some sort are recorded, as are stories or myths.  

          Even astrological events were recorded and a few scenes appear to be intentionally humorous.

          In recent times, preservation of the Indian rock art took on another form in the water color painting of Forrest Kirkland and the stain art pieces produced by Joann Redden.  Their contributions allows others to enjoy their own pieces of rock art work.

          Not only is Indian rock art being preserved in modern day art, but in general, their images are being used in commercialized products as well such as

Figure 22. Stain Glass Images from Paint Rock, Rock Art.[Hudson]

light switch plates, lamps, wallpaper and clocks to just name a few.

Figure 23. Commercial Products Utilizing Indian Rock Art. [Tyssen]

Lastly, we should be thankful for people such as the Campbell’s and state and federal agencies (U.S. Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Parks and Wildlife for preserving these gifts from the ancestors of the Native Americans.

 Resources :

The following resources were used :

The Campbell Ranch , Tour and Interview by  Kay Campbell, August 20, 2005.

The Rock Art of the Texas Indians, By W. W. Newcomb Jr., pp. 143-157.

The Indians of Texas, By W. W. Newcomb, Jr., pp. 0-25, 103.

A Field Guide To Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, By Alex Patterson,  pp. 36-37.

The Remarkable Indian Pictographs at Paint Rock, Texas. By Bill Yates, Website :  Gourmet Garlic Gardens :

          What I like best about this site, is that so many of the images can be related to documented stories from other cultures such as the Alice Todd Story, the Christian missions and the recording of the supernova in 1572. 

        I hope you enjoyed the little tour of the Indian Rock Art of Paint Rock, TX. One last thing.  I completely forgot to publish a page I did on collecting rocks, fossils and petrified wood in the Brazos Republic/Central Colorado River Valley regions of Texas.  I can't believe how many hits that page has been receiving when I did not even have it on the "Past Adventure List".  I'll Probably make it the main or splash page for some month that I can't find anything to write about.  But, if you want to get a jump ahead, then knock your self out :

Gem Trails of the Brazos Republic & the Central Colorado Valley River  Region

       So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!


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