Carolyn Boyd

Dr. Carolyn BoydShumla Endowed Research Professor
Research Associate Professor and Founder of Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center

Email: or
Phone: 512.245.0727
Office: ELA 255

Ph.D. – Texas A&M University, 1998
B.A. – Texas A&M University, 1994

Research Interests:
Prehistoric art, iconographic analysis, hunter-gatherer archaeology, applied anthropology, Native American myth, ritual, cosmovision, and iconography

Carolyn E. Boyd is an artist and an archaeologist specializing in iconographic analysis. Her primary interest is the documentation and interpretation of Pecos River Style rock art in southwest Texas and Coahuila, Mexico. Her research examines the role of hunter-gatherer artists as active participants in the social, economic, and ideological fabric of the community and the function of art as communication and a mechanism for social and environmental adaptation. In 1998, Boyd founded a nonprofit corporation, Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center (, to preserve through documentation and education the prehistoric art of the Lower Pecos. She continues to serve as a research advisor to Shumla and to work with the organization in their documentation efforts.

Current Research
My current projects include Origins and Tenacity of Myth in Archaic Period Rock Art of Southwest Texas and Northern Mexico, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Layers of Meaning: Chronological Modeling & Pictograph Stratigraphy, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Mesoamerican cosmological concepts originated from an Archaic core of belief that persisted across time and cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries. Origins and Tenacity of Myth will identify the date, extent, and location of some of the oldest documented graphic expression of these ancient concepts. Patterns in Pecos River style (PRS) murals created by foragers 4000 years ago contain evidence of the Archaic core. Archaeological fieldwork will build an inventory of PRS core elements and identify the rules governing their production and arrangement. Ethnographic fieldwork among the Huichol people in Mexico, whose belief system closely reflects ancient Mesoamerican cosmological concepts, will address the persistence of the Archaic core. PRS graphic data will be shared with the Huichol elders to determine whether these elements are recognizable and embedded in Huichol cosmology. This work informs studies of myth, forager social organization, art history, and the origins of Mesoamerican myth and art.

Layers of Meaning will conduct a formal analysis of the art to document and describe diagnostic PRS pictographs, establish the technical history of the imagery through a stratigraphic study using digital microscopy and construction of Harris matrices, and examine spatial patterning using GIS. Based on these data, we will collect 60 paint samples from 10 murals for plasma oxidation and AMS radiocarbon dating. Results will inform research into possible drivers for the emergence and decline of PRS, including environmental, social, and extra-regional cultural influences.

Select Publications

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2021, Speech-Breath: Mapping the Multisensory Experience in Pecos River Style Pictography. Latin American Antiquity.

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2021, Images in the Making: Process and Vivification in Pecos River Style Rock Art. In Ontologies of Rock Art: Images, Relational Approaches and Indigenous Knowledge, edited by Oscar Moro Abadía and Martin Porr, pp. 245–263. Routledge, New York.

Steelman, Karen L., Carolyn E. Boyd, and Trinidy Allen
2021, Two Independent Methods for Dating Rock Art: Age Determination of Paint and Oxalate Layers at Eagle Cave, TX. Journal of Archaeological Science 126:1–12. DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2020.105315, accessed February 1, 2021.

Steelman, Karen L., Carolyn E. Boyd, and Lennon N. Bates
2021, Implications for Rock Art Dating: A Review of Results from the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Quaternary Geochronology 63:1–17. DOI:10.1016/j.quageo.2021.101167, accessed March 1, 2021.

Conkey, Meg and Carolyn E. Boyd
2017, Amérique de Nord. In L’art de la Préhistoire, edited by Carole Fritz, Michel Barbaza, Genevieve Pincon, and Gilles Tosello, pp. 239-273. Citadelles & Mazenod, Paris.

Carolyn Boyd - The White Shaman Mural, Texas State Applied AnthropologyBoyd, Carolyn E. and Kim Cox
2016, The White Shaman Mural: An Enduring Creation Narrative in the Rock Art of the Lower Pecos.  University of Texas Press, Austin.
- Recipient of the 2017 Society for American Archaeology Scholarly Book Award

Bates, Lennon, Amanda M. Castañeda, Carolyn E. Boyd, and Karen Steelman
2015, A Black Deer at Black Cave: New Pictograph Radiocarbon Date for the Lower Pecos, Texas. Journal of Texas Archeology and History. Online only journal, Volume 2, Article 3.

Boyd, Carolyn, Marvin Rowe, and Karen Steelman
2014, Revisiting the Stylistic Classification of a Charcoal Pictograph in the Lower Pecos. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 85:235-241.

Koenig, Charles W., Amanda Castañeda, Carolyn E. Boyd and Karen Steelman
2014, Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy of Pictographs: A Case Study from the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas. Archaeometry 56(1):168-186.

Boyd, Carolyn E., Amanda Castañeda, and Charles W. Koenig
2013, A Reassessment of Red Linear Style Pictographs in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas. American Antiquity 78(3):456-482.

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2013, Drawing from the Past: Rock Art of the Lower Pecos. In Painters in Prehistory: Archaeology and Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, edited by Harry Shafer, pp. 171-221. Trinity University Press, San Antonio, TX.

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2012, Pictographs, Peyote, and Patterns in the Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas.  In Companion to Rock Art, edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth, pp. 34-50. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA.

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2010, El Arte Rupestre de Tejas: Análisis Contextual de Motivos Recurrentes en el Área de la Desembocadura del Río Pecos. Revista Iberoamericana de Lingüística 5:5-42.

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2003, Rock Art of the Lower Pecos.  Texas A&M University Press, College Station.