The Texas Historical Foundation may have “historical” in its title, but our work involves protecting all of Texas’ heritage – both historical and prehistorical. THF grants have been awarded to numerous museums for the curation and restoration of artifacts ranging from those excavated from an underwater Civil War wreck to the cannons used at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution.
THF has supported efforts by the Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center in Comstock, Texas to catalogue and record the incredible rock art in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. The group utilizes state-of-the-art digital technology to preserve a record of the art, and the photographs can reveal details that can’t be seen with the naked eye. The information they recover is passed on partly though their award-winning educational programs.
This Fall there were a number of news reports regarding the find of 23,000-year-old fossilized human footprints at White Sands, New Mexico. It was an incredible archaeological find but no great surprise to those of us who work in Texas. The Gault Archaeological Site, 40 miles north of Austin, has evidence of people living in Texas 20,000 years ago. 11 years of excavation at the Gault Site uncovered evidence of 22 different Central Texas cultures utilizing the area. Notable findings include incised art, a house floor more than 13,000 years old, and a possible mammoth kill site. The work at Gault, like many other sites of prehistorical importance in Texas, has benefited from grants awarded by the Texas Historical Foundation.
Excavation, analysis, and curation of our past is important. It tells us not only who we were, but also who we are today and where the future might take us. Archaeological work by itself, however, is incomplete without the component of education. Archaeologists must not only impart what they have found through excavation and analysis to their colleagues, but also to the public to increase awareness of the importance of history. THF has awarded multiple grants to organizations that developed projects with the specific goal of informing the public about important archaeological findings through publications, films, museum exhibits, and programs geared to schoolchildren.
Archaeologists like to say “it’s not what you find, it’s what you find out” and the Texas Historical Foundation has been instrumental in both preserving the long record of Texas prehistory and helping to bring that knowledge to future generations of Texans.
Dr. Clark Wernecke has served on Texas Historical Foundation’s Board of Directors since 2014 and was the Executive Director of the Gault School of Archaeological Research in Austin until his retirement earlier this year.