About Us

Meet Shumla and Learn Our Story

Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization working to preserve the oldest “books” in North America — the narrative murals of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands.

The story of Shumla began over 5,000 years ago when the ancient inhabitants of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands began to paint their sophisticated myths and beliefs on the limestone canyon walls.

In 1998, artist-turned-archaeologist Dr. Carolyn Boyd, who recognized the incredible value of the ancient art, founded an organization to preserve, study and share this important cultural record. Since then, Shumla has been a center of archaeological research, heritage preservation, community outreach and education for students of all ages.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land beneath
our feet is the ancestral home of many Indigenous peoples.

We revere and respect those who were stewards of this land long before it
became our home.

We strive to honor both past and
living indigenous peoples and
their cultural heritage.

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. They are our touchstones, our points of reference, our identity.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

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Our Mission

Preserving the oldest “books” in North America

Like a book, each mural in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands was authored and composed to communicate thoughts and ideas. These ancient paintings are visual narratives that will rewrite the prehistory of North America. At Shumla, we work to preserve and share the “library” of painted texts and the information they hold through documentation, research, stewardship and education.

Mural Documentation

Documentation: Recording the Fragile Artwork

We use the latest technological advances to document each painted narrative as a whole and each figure and line within it individually, creating an exhaustive searchable database that can be used by researchers for years to come, long after the paintings have disappeared.

Tour of Panther Cave mural

Stewardship: Encouraging Interest and Awareness

Many murals are located on private property. Landowners are best able to protect the art on their land. We collaborate with them to access and document the murals in a respectful and un-intrusive way. We also increase overall awareness of the art to engage others in its protection.
Creating digital illustration

Research: Unraveling the Mural’s Mysteries

We painstakingly study the data we collect to learn how the paintings were produced and to decipher the meaning of the images and the act of creating them. Our cutting-edge research will illuminate long-lost myths and beliefs, adding new chapters to North American pre-history.

Education: Connecting to Our Shared Past

We open this remote region and its cultural treasure trove to visitors, volunteers, students, teachers, and researchers from around the world. We collaborate on exhibits, publish and present our findings and make our data, results and methods available to all.

Our Vision

The Board of Directors and Staff of Shumla hope to facilitate a future where:

  • Shumla is a global leader in rock art research and education, collaborating with partners, across disciplines and internationally.
  • The ancient paintings of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands continue to inspire awe, enjoyment, and scholarship far into the future.
  • The library of information housed in the oldest ‘books’ in North America is available to all.