Home Sweet Home: Archaic Indian Style
The Archaic Indians of the Lower Pecos were nomads. Nomads are groups of people who move from place to place in search of food and the other resources they need to survive. When people live like this, they do not build permanent shelters.
The Archaic Indians of the Lower Pecos lived in two kinds of shelters. On this page you will get an idea of what life was like in a rock shelter.
The picture below is the Fate Bell Shelter at Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site near Comstock, Texas. The Fate Bell Shelter served as a home for early Americans, including the Archaic Indians of the Lower Pecos, for thousands of years. On its walls are spectacular paintings left by the Archaic Indians. Later, you'll learn more about these paintings and the interesting artifacts they left on the shelter floor as well as how you can tour this ancient dwelling.
(Click on the photographs to see a larger image.)
This is a view of the Fate Bell Shelter. Before the Archaic Indians lived here, it was home to the Paleo-Indians over 12,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. It is one of many rock shelters found in the region. Shelters like this one were formed by erosion.
This photograph was taken inside of the Fate Bell Shelter. The dirt and rock on the floor of the shelter is known as a midden. Archaic Indians built their earth ovens in the midden of this shelter. Scattered through the midden are fibers from weaving done thousands of years ago.
The Pros and Cons of Life in a Rock Shelter
Rock Shelter Home Advantages:
- Rock shelters provided protection from the fierce, desert sun.
- They also provided protection from rain, hail, lightning, and sometimes snow.
Rock Shelter Home Disadvantages:
- As you can tell by the photographs, one side of these ancient homes is wide open. You can imagine on a cold, windy winter day that getting warm was not easy to do.
- Heavy rains cause flash flooding that could kill someone on the canyon floor. Others might be trapped in the shelter. If the water rose high enough, they would also be swept away.
- Living conditions may not have been very sanitary. Why? You'll soon find out.
- Without walls to make rooms, there wasn't much privacy.
One Room, Many Purposes:
- Of course, you can imagine these early people cooking, eating, and sleeping in their rock shelters.
- You might even imagine them making some of their tools around the campfire while telling stories. If you imagined these things, you are correct, but there is much more. Prepare yourself. There were other things these folks did in their rock shelters.
- They painted on the walls. These works of ancient art were more than decorations like the ones we hang on our walls. Later on, you will learn more about these sacred paintings and where you can still see them.
WARNING: Skip this rest of this page if you can't stand yucky stuff.
One Room, Many Purposes
A Little too Close to Home
Sometimes they buried their dead in some of these shelters. Archeologists have found mummies preserved in dry shelter middens. As you can see, Archaic Indian shelters served many purposes.
Just like your home, rock shelters also had toilets. You're probably looking at the rock shelter photograph again, wondering where the bathroom door might have been. There wasn't one. Obviously, there wasn't much privacy in one of these things. Certain areas of these shelters were designated as the toilet. That's good news for us, because archeologists can now find these ancient toilets and study what they Archaic Indians of the Lower Pecos left behind. Archeologists call their ancient poop coprolites.
Check the Archeology link the the left column to discover what we're learning by studying the coprolites found in Archaic Indian rock shelters.