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Trans Pecos Main
Prehistoric Texas Main

Site Discovery

photo of a newspaper announcing discovery of Granado Cave
Newspaper dated July 16, 1976, reporting the initial discovery of burials in Granado Cave.
Photo of Pecos land surveyor Frank Granado
Pecos land surveyor Frank Granado, right, discovered the Rustler Hills cave which later was named for him and shared his artifact collection with archeologists.

 

photo of E. B. Sayles
E.B. (Ted) Sayles worked briefly in area rockshelters in 1932 during a statewide archeological survey and helped call attention to the region's archeological potential. He is shown here at his camp during survey in north Texas. TARL archives.
photo of Brooks Cave
Shelby Brooks cave, one of the few sites that had been studied in the region prior to the 1978 excavation at nearby Granado Cave. TARL archives.

In 1976, Frank Granado, a surveyor from the nearby town of Pecos discovered prehistoric burials in a previously unknown cave in the Rustler Hills. An article soon appeared in the local paper. The site was brought to the attention of Curtis Tunnell, then the state archeologist of Texas. Tunnell recalled that archeologist Donny L. Hamilton was raised in Pecos and thought he might be interested in following up on the newspaper account. Hamilton, then a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, jumped at the chance.

Hamilton met with Granado and arranged to see the cave, which was located near Caldwell Shelter No. 1 and Brooks Cave, both fairly well known and significant archeological sites. Granado Cave was named after its discoverer and given the official archeological designation 41CU8. Ready to advance the project, Mr. Granado allowed Hamilton to study his private collection of artifacts from the site.

Several months later, Hamilton returned to Granado Cave with a small archeological crew to document the site and carry out test excavations. The rich archeological potential of the cave soon became evident. Recognizing this, Shelby Brooks, the owner of the land on which Granado Cave and Brooks Cave are located, allowed both sites to be nominated for designation as State Archeological Landmarks (SALs). As such, they became the first SALs located on private property in Texas.

Previous Archeological Research

Over the years, many of the various caves and sinkholes of the Rustler Hills have been explored and partially dug up by treasure hunters, artifact collectors, and early archeologists. In 1932, archeologist E. B. (Ted) Sayles of the Gila Pueblo research center in Arizona spent a few days digging at two rockshelters that became known as the Caldwell Shelters. His work was rudimentary and only sketchily reported, but he did call attention to the area's archeological significance. Two years later, A. T. Jackson of the University of Texas and a small crew of assistants spent five weeks excavating at five sites in the Rustler Hills. This work was also poorly reported and Jackson failed to note that two of the sites were the Caldwell Shelters where Sayles had previously dug. This led to considerable confusion in the archeological records that was not sorted out for many decades.

Among the important sites that archeologists have documented near Granado Cave are the Caldwell Shelters (41CU1 and 41CU2), the McAlpin Caves (41CU5 and 41CU6), Brooks Cave (41CU7), and ELCOR Cave (no assigned site number). Although none of these sites were systematically excavated and reported, the unusually well-preserved artifacts and burials found at the caves and shelters in the Rustler Hills have the potential to tell us much about prehistoric life in the area. Hamilton's work at Granado Cave in 1976 and 1978 was the first modern scientific dig in the area.

photo of Donny Hamilton
Archeologist Donny Hamilton in Granado Cave in 1978. He and other excavators wore the more comfortable surgical masks (unlike those shown below) to keep from inhaling the clouds of dust stirred up during excavation and screening of the cave fill.

Click images to enlarge

photo of Caldwell Shelter
Entrance to Caldwell Shelter Number 1 (41CU1). This site was excavated by archeologist E.B. Sayles in 1932 and again by A. T. Jackson of the University of Texas in 1934. Both archeologists recovered many of the same kinds of perishable artifacts found in Granado Cave. Unfortunately, their work was rudimentary and the brief published accounts left much to be desired.
photo of workers
Workers wearing respirators and carbide head lamps brush off dust following a hard day's work in Shelby Brooks cave, 1934. Excavated by A.T. Jackson, the Shelby Brooks site, like Granado, was a dry cave with burials and other well-preserved cultural materials. TARL archives. Click to see full image.