The prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the Lower Pecos canyon lands of Texas and Coahuila, Mexico, created some of the most spectacularly complex, colorful, extensive and enduring rock art of the ancient world. Perhaps the greatest of these masterpieces is the White Shaman mural.
The White Shaman is an intricate painting that spans some 26-feet in length and 13-feet in height on the wall of a shallow cave overlooking the Pecos River.
There is no way to be absolutely certain what story the forgotten painter wanted to communicate but in the new book The White Shaman Mural, Carolyn E. Boyd builds a convincing case that the mural tells a story of the birth of the sun and the beginning of time—making it possibly the oldest pictorial creation narrative in North America.
Unlike previous scholars who have viewed Pecos rock art as random and indecipherable, Boyd demonstrates that the White Shaman mural was intentionally composed as a visual narrative, using a graphic vocabulary of images to communicate multiple levels of meaning and function.
Drawing on 25 years of archaeological research and analysis, as well as insights from ethnohistory and art history, Boyd identifies patterns in the imagery that equate, in stunning detail, to the mythologies of Uto-Aztecan-speaking peoples, including the ancient Aztec and the present-day Huichol.
This paradigm-shifting identification of core Mesoamerican beliefs in the Pecos rock art reveals that a shared ideological universe was already firmly established among foragers living in the Lower Pecos region as long as four thousand years ago.