A Reassessment of Red Linear Pictographs in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date

July 2013


Red Linear is one of four presently defined prehistoric pictograph styles in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas and Coahuila, Mexico. Based on interpretation of images and two experimental radiocarbon dates, the style was presumed to have been brought into the region by intrusive bison hunters around 1280 B.P. This would place production of Red Linear after the large, polychromatic Pecos River style paintings (4200–2750 B.P.). However, during a recent rock art recording project we identified Red Linear overlain by presumed older Pecos River style. This prompted our re-examination of Red Linear through analysis of 444 figures from 12 sites. We produced a list of diagnostic attributes for Red Linear and documented stratigraphie relationships through macro- and microscopic field analysis. We identified 38 examples of Red Linear under Pecos River figures, thus inverting the relative chronology for the two styles and forcing a reconsideration of previous assumptions regarding the culture that produced the art. This paper demonstrates the potential afforded by analysis of rock art assemblages to reveal inter- and intrasite patterning of attributes and provide insight into relative chronologies. Further, it cautions against the use of variation in artistic style as a marker for ethnicity.


Red Linear, Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas

Document Type



American Antiquity, Vol. 78, no. 3 (2013-07-01).