Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Squawteat Peak

I.H. 10 snakes across Pecos County, just south of Squawteat Peak. The peak is a dominant
feature of the landscape that rises high above the surrounding desert floor and is visible for
miles around. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers returned to camp in the shadow of the peak for
thousands of years. TARL Archives.
Back in the 1980s we lived in Alpine, Texas for a few years. My mother lived in Brownwood and I drove our son back to see his friends. One trip they rode back with us to visit the area. When we traveled the I 10 route Squawteat Peak always signified we were almost home; however, this trip the sign was gone. You know those green highway signs naming the mountain and elevation. Confused I studied every peak we passed. I'd planned to give the boys a history lesson and alas, had nothing to show them. There were several mountains that somewhat resembled the original, but none were in the right place. After some studying, I learned that TXDOT's highway construction had changed the landscape somewhat.

Burned rock middens are all that remain of large rock ovens.
This is what I remembered, but now there were roads around it. From my research I learned that Squawteat Peak is a cone shaped limestone hill hat juts 300 feet from the desert floor. "It is known for its wickiup and tipi rings—all that remain of shelters constructed by prehistoric hunter-gatherers at the site hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years ago." Though there is little vegetation, the bare bedrock supports an abundance of natural resources. They include lechuguilla, sotol, cacti, and mesquite. "Flint resources are also abundant in nearby natural outcroppings."

"Squawteat Peak was first examined by the Archeology Section of the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation (now TxDOT) during mitigation of I.H. 10 in the summer of 1974." A large burned rock midden (trash heap) was located in the right of way and excavated under the direction of Gary Moore. In the early 1980s Wayne Young and Wayne Belyeu of TxDOT returned to Squawteat Peak to make a topographic and feature map of the portions that had not been destroyed, but much information had been lost.

The most important features identified at Squawteat Peak are 14 clusters of stones believed to be wickiup and tipi rings and the rocks were used to hold up the branch supports of small brush shelters. The larger rings would have supported large wooden poles for hide tipis.

One of Squawteat Peak's wickiup rings. The rocks in this ring would have been
used to bolster the branch supports of a small brush structure. TARL Archive.
Pair of mortar holes carved into the bedrock of Squawteat Peak.
Also found were burned rock hearths and mortar holes that have been worn into the exposed bedrock. Some of the mortar holes have been ground to over 12 inches in depth which suggested they were used over long periods of time. They may have used wooden manos to grind cactus fruit (or tunas) or mesquite pods for meal.

"According to archeologist Michael Collins, who surveyed the area in the 1980s prior to the proposed construction of oil rig roads in the area, the use of this quarry goes back to at least the Late Archaic period, if not further, based  on several Shumia projectile points that he recovered during his investigation."

"The largest burned rock hidden was the focus of the 1974 excavation and is the only area of the site that has been radiocarbon dated. The midpoints of the dates taken from the around around the midden range from A.D. 900 to 1530, and midden itself (technically, the last use of the midden) dates to approximately A.D. 1300."

The research data on Squawteat Peak continues but this is all I had room for. I hope if you're interested you'll do more researching on your own. At this time there are no hiking trails to the top of the peak that reaches and elevation of 2,884 feet.

Carly Whelan; Michael Collins; Miller, Miles R and Nancy A. Kenmotsu; Young, Wayne.

Here is my favorite picture. I wish I could say I took it, but I actually found in in in Google images.

Thank you for stopping by Sweethearts of the West today and I hope you'll return often. Please let me know your thoughts on this post.

Linda LaRoque


  1. I hope I am understanding this article correctly: you're saying that landmark archeological features in this landscape have been destroyed to build a highway for oil rigs. Did I get that right? Please correct me if I did not understand it correctly.

    I have not heard of some of these western historical landscapes, but I am sorry to hear they have been altered. And I am sorry to hear that you did not get a chance to give your children the history lesson you had looked forward to giving them.

    All the best to you, Linda...

  2. It's not completely destroyed but altered, I think mostly by the I.H. 20 coming through and the roads for the oil rigs. You can visit the area and look around but it's hard to get to as no trails have been plotted. Maybe someday. Way to think it supported humans way back then. Actually, I didn't know all the history when I first saw it, I just figured there had to be a reason why it was recognized.

  3. Wow. Unbelievable and astounding. Texas has a similar, while not spectacular peak called Enchanted Rock.
    It's interesting how these places earn their name.
    Thanks for telling us about this unique and amazing rock formation!

  4. It is, Celia. You'd think it was named by Native Americans but squaw if a deragatory term in their language so it makes me wonder if the white man named it.

  5. Thank you for the post. Interesting information. These unusual formations make the earth a varied and interesting place.

  6. Linda, isn't that a striking photo at the end with the sunset behind the peak and at the sides the wind turbines? Such a contrast, isn't it? Enjoyed the post.

    1. Yes, I love it, Caroline, but I have to admit I didn't recognize the wind turbines for what they were. Need cataract surgery.


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