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COWHEAD MESA

COWHEAD MESA. Cowhead Mesa is an isolated remnant of the Llano Estacado located east of the Caprock escarpment near Post in Garza County. The mesa rises more than 100 feet above the surrounding terrain near the head of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. This natural landmark was a focus of settlement and aesthetic expression for prehistoric and historic Indians and early white travelers. It is on private property.

Images carved into the steep sides of the sandstone mesa depict human beings, animals, and buildings and are attributed to the Comanche or Kiowa-Apache Indians of the late eighteenth or nineteenth century. The rock art panel depicts mounted figures with long lances and small round shields and figures with long coats and hats, thought to represent Indians and Spaniards. Other figures include a turtle and a four-legged, horned animal. Buildings topped with crosses may be missions; one building appears to be burning. The South Plains Archeological Society has photographed and documented the rock art panel.

A prehistoric Indian occupation site on top of the mesa was recorded in 1957 by Emmett Shedd of Post. He and others directed the South Plains Archeological Society's excavations of an area twenty-three by forty meters on the north end of the mesa between 1960 and 1965. Late Archaic (Ellis and Williams dart points) and Late Prehistoric (Harrell arrow points, ceramics) components have been identified, dating from around 2000 B.C. to A.D. 1700. Other artifacts recovered include scrapers, bifaces, lithic debitage, ceramics, mano and metate fragments, burned rocks, boiling stones, bison bone, charcoal, mussel shell, and snail shell. Six sandstone hearths were found, varying from thirty-five to eighty centimeters in diameter and constructed of layers of slabs or groups of large, rounded cobbles on flat surfaces or in shallow basins. Collections and records of the South Plains Archeological Society excavations are held by Frank Runkles of Post, Texas. Late nineteenth and early twentieth century inscriptions on the mesa are names, dates, and brands from the ranching era, and include the Square and Compass brand (see SQUARE AND COMPASS RANCH). The mesa may have been a landmark during the early ranching period. The name Cowhead Mesa probably was assigned during this period, but its origin is unknown.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Garza County Historical Survey Committee, Wagon Wheels: A History of Garza County, ed. Charles Didway (Seagraves, Texas: Pioneer, 1973). Aaron D. Riggs, Jr., "Petroglyphs of Garza County, Texas," Transactions of the Regional Archeological Symposium for Southeastern New Mexico and Western Texas 1 (1965). Frank A. Runkles, "The Garza Site," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 35 (1964).

Margaret Ann Howard

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Margaret Ann Howard, "COWHEAD MESA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bbc06), accessed October 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.