What you see now on Texas Beyond History pales by comparison to our vision of its future. It will require years of concerted effort to do justice to the buried cultural legacies of the 540+ generations who have lived and died in the place we know today as Texas. A glance at the map on the main page will show you how much remains to be done. The Texas Historical Commission recently estimated that Texas has over 2 million archeological sites! While most of these are ordinary places with mundane stories, there are hundreds of extraordinary sites across the state with interesting and important stories that should be told. And many important localities in the not-so-ancient history of Texas aren't even considered archeological sites at all.
Our goal at Texas Beyond History is to create online exhibits covering every major culture, time period, and outstanding locality from every area of the state. We will continue to target five overlapping audiences: the general public, school children, teachers, students of archeology (college and avocational), and researchers. This means that we will continue to develop a variety of exhibits, interactive activities, galleries, how-to guides, hard-to-find documents, games, curriculum guides, and lesson plans that make the results of archeology accessible, understandable, and fun. We also plan to add video and audio clips to take full advantage of the medium. All this is mighty ambitious, but Texans are known for the ability to think big and follow our dreams. With your help, that is what we will do (see Donate).
In 2004 we began a multi-year project called Prehistoric Texas that will chronicle the state's prehistoric cultural heritage in a comprehensive, region-by region approach, drawing on the expertise of scholars in each region. It is our most ambitious undertaking yet, and there is much to tell. In prehistoric times, life for hundreds of now-nameless aboriginal groups was radically different than today. Over the millennia, prehistoric peoples developed highly successful "adaptations" to varied and changing natural environments. Much of this vast sweep of human history is unknown to the public and schoolchildren in particular. Our goal is to bring this fascinating information online. To learn more about this landmark project, read on and then visit the Prehistoric Texas main page and the first three regions, the Plateaus and Canyonlands of central and southwestern Texas, the South Texas Plains, and the Trans-Pecos Mountains and Basins.
Prehistoric Texas: Ancient Peoples in a Changing World
What is Prehistoric Texas?
The tale of Texas and its early native peoples is a story as vast and varied as the state itself. Prehistoric Texas is an ambitious five-year project to chronicle the state's remarkable 13,000-year aboriginal cultural legacy in a series of illustrated online educational "exhibits." The unparalleled but little-known record of ancient Texans and their diverse ways of life will be presented region by region, from the grassy High Plains to the sandy Gulf shores.
Using archeology as an investigative lens and drawing on fascinating evidence from a host of related disciplines, this set of interactive presentations will provide compelling learning opportunities for general audiences as well as schoolchildren and university students. Viewers will be able to explore prehistoric Texas by clicking on one of eight major biogeographical regions to chart their own interactive path into the human past. While learning about the ingenious ways in which native peoples adapted to challenges in different contexts, viewers will also gain understandings of the varied natural resources and terrain in each region and changing environments through time.
Illustrated with vivid photographs, reconstructed scenes from the past, and interactive maps, the Prehistoric Texas exhibits will encompass dozens of linked web pages with stories, timelines, and authoritative information on geography, geology, plants and animals, culture history, lifeways, technology, art, and early historic accounts of native peoples. For each region there also will be special learning activities for kids, lesson plans for teachers, and at least three new site exhibits with detailed accounts of some of the most important archeological localities in Texas.
There is nothing like this anywhere, in any media or on the Web. Prehistoric Texas will be a first for the state and the country, and a premiere model for cultural heritage education.
Why is Prehistoric Texas needed?
Most of what archeologists have learned about Texas prehistory remains unknown to the public. As a direct consequence, the textbooks used by most public schools in Texas contain only superficial and brief mention of most of Texas' long cultural heritage. Ask most 4th or 7th grade teachers (or most Texans) to summarize (in broad stroke) what happened in the prehistoric past right here in Texas and you'll have all the proof you need that our educational efforts to date haven't been very effective. Yet our public schoolteachers are required to teach this subject every year, and the students are yearning to learn more. So are landowners and any Texan interested in the history of the land and its peoples.
Twenty-first-century Texans cannot appreciate the lives and contributions of the ancient peoples who have walked the same ground we do today without understanding the basic facts about their world and the many related subjects and contexts that give human life meaninggeography, natural resources, climate, culture history and so on. Words, images, maps, and more, woven together to distill what we know about our state's prehistoric past.
Today there is no single, comprehensive source of knowledge about Texas' cultural heritage on the web or anywhere. The subject is too vast and too complicated for any book or video. That is why this website, Texas Beyond History, was createdto take the first big step toward making this information readily accessible to citizens, students and teachers. Texas teachers need accurate and enriched resources to teach about geography, ecology, and Native American cultures, all interrelated topics, and they need authoritative yet captivating websites to which they can send their students to learn on their own "without even realizing it," as one teacher put it.
The Prehistoric Texas project will give diverse viewers the basic facts and background to be able to understand the broad outlines of Texas' human history, to have a deeper understanding of their own local region, and to compare it with others across the state.
How will the project be accomplished?
Prehistoric Texas is a five-year project that is being developed region-by-region, as funding and collaborations allow. The first regional exhibit set, the Plateaus and Canyonlands of central and southwestern Texas, went online August 1, 2005, followed by the second, the South Texas Plains, on September 19, 2006, and the third, the Trans-Pecos Mountains and Basins, on January 23, 2008.
In 2008, we are focusing on the Coastal Prairies and Marshlands region . Using TBH's established methods of content development and web production, the small Texas Beyond History staff is working with teams of scholars to distill the content for each region. Most of the collaborators are regional experts and topical specialists who are generously donating their time and expertise to the effort. Many of these individuals will also contribute photographs and illustrations of their work, which will be supplemented by new artwork and graphics. Each regional exhibit takes about 15 months from start to finished product.
What will it cost and how will it be funded?
The direct costs are estimated to be approximately $200,000 per year for full funding for Prehistoric Texas. Each region will require roughly $175,000. The money is being raised through donations from private foundations, individuals, and government agencies. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded TARL a multi-year, $170,000 grant for Prehistoric Texas. The Texas Preservation Trust Fund (Texas Historical Commission) has awarded grants totalling $105,000 toward the first four regions. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation has contributed $30,000. The Summerfield G. Roberts Foundation and the Clements Foundation have each provided a $10,000 grant toward the project. The Summerlee Foundation has contributed $12,500 toward the third and fourth regional exhibit sets. The Additional support has come from XTO Energy, TBH partners, and individual contributors. Efforts are underway to raise additional funds for each region.