History & MissionMeet Shumla and Learn Our Story
The story of Shumla began over 4,000 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.