The most recent New Mexico Archaeological Council newsletter is out. this issue focuses on Paleoindian archaeology and includes a short article of recent activities at the Clovis site. Click here to download. If you are a New Mexican, or have an interest in the archaeology of our fine state, consider joining NMAC.
2013-2 Paleoindian Archaeology in New Mexico Contents: In Memorium: Patrick Culbert Introduction Current Research and Investigations at Blackwater Draw, NM Recent Research at the Mockingbird Gap Clovis Site New Finds at the Water Canyon Paleoindian Site Recent Paleoindian Studies at Spaceport America Interpreting the Paleoindian Signature of Southeast New Mexico Late Paleoindian Projectile Point Technology
We don’t find many predators in our assemblages on the Southern High Plains. When we do, it is generally a tooth, a single toe bone, or a few bits. Predators weren’t hunted in droves and likely wander off to die alone so they don’t end up in the cultural assemblage. However…
There are some interesting finds coming from UNLV lately. Las Vegas wash has produced many fossil animals, but, just as in many other ancient sites, it’s the predators that are the rare ones.
“The Pleistocene predators are starting to pile up in the fossil-rich hills at the northern edge of the valley.
Less than a month after a California team found evidence of a saber-tooth cat in the Upper Las Vegas Wash, UNLV researchers announced the discovery of a 1½-inch long foot bone from what they believe was a dire wolf that stalked the valley between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago.” Read the article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal here.
There is more information about the saber-tooth cats in this short article in the RGJ. Another interesting find that I want to know more from. With so much great information coming out through the scientific community, and the exponential nature of the data, it’s sad to think of all the time and energy focused away from this good stuff and onto the wacky pseudo-science floating across the television and internet.
Smilodon fatalis. Image from the Indiana Geological Survey (click image for more information).
The Mitchell Locality is a large portion of the Clovis Site (LA3324) lying along the northwest margin of the prehistoric pond and extending into the slight upland rise to the west. Over the last few years, we have been fortunate to extend our researches in this direction primarily through geologic coring. The best available overview of the Mitchell Locality is Anthony Boldurian’s summary in Plains Anthropologist 1990. The area is primarily known for the extensive Folsom-age materials found there but has a smattering of older and younger artifacts scattered throughout.
Primary localities within the Clovis site.
Vance Holliday and Shane Miller coring the south bank.
There was an intent to core more in this area but the soft sand created problems for both the machine and vehicle access. Devising Plan B for the autumn.
Coring in the paleo arroyo of the Mitchell Locality.
Up on the Mitchell Locality, the sparse cover wheat allowed clear view of the surface with many small flakes visible.
C. Vance Haynes overlooking the mine pit.
We were fortunate that the great wealth of geoarchaeological knowledge of the southern high plains was present in the form of Haynes and Holliday.
Core sample laid out for recording.
The fine sand overburden varies throughout the site and can be over 4 meters deep. In this area, it is only about 40 centimeters outside the arroyo.
The climate studies class at Eastern New Mexico University has resumed, instructed by Dr. David Kilby, and funded through a grant from New Mexico NSF EPSCoR. The class spent the Fall 2011 semester collecting sediment samples from various locations in Eastern New Mexico, including various locations at Blackwater Locality #1. The Students are now analyzing the samples in ENMU’s new geoarchaeology lab.
The students are describing the samples using the Munsell hue test, a standardized way of describing the color of the sediments when they are dry, moist, and completely saturated. They are also testing the plasticity, carbon content, and calcium content of the sediments using various tests including the amount of effervescence after the application of acid (pictured above).
Lots of activity at the site. Preparing to open for the season, giving guided tours to visitors, working on the analysis and re-writing our story. We also had some professional photography done recently and will add those images in the following days.
“Climate Change in New Mexico” is a new class offered by Dr. Kilby at ENMU for undergraduate students to directly participate in the scientific study of the effects of long-term climate change by focusing on the Pleistocene-Holocene transition (about 12,000 years ago).
The class is attended by students from Anthropology, Geology, and Biology departments, who actively participate in collecting field samples, analyzing results, and reconstructing past environmental changes from the Ice Age to the present.
The Clovis site provides a stratigraphically ideal opportunity for students to learn the basics of collecting samples for radiocarbon and OSL dating, as well as sediment, pollen, phytolith, diatom, and stable isotope analysis.
The slideshow documents the class taking samples from the east profile of Isequilla’s Pit on the South Bank of the Clovis site.
This class is supported by an NSF New Mexico EPSCoR grant.
We are in the new Dust Bowl. There have been more than a few dust-filled days this year but the Haboob yesterday was pretty phenomenal. Luckily, Ward Beers, an employee at the site got some photos from Portales.
The temperature plummeted and it was virtually impossible to see outside. The wind seemed to come from several directions at once. Between the open plowed land and fires, there is little to hold down the sediments.
Here is a good video shot from across the Texas border of the storm approaching:
Excavations of the amazing finds near Snowmass, Colorado are wrapping up. Mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths, bison, camels and horses were all found in excellent state of preservation. There was apparently wood and leaves found in the boggy environment. I hope some great information comes from this extraordinary find.
The Geoarchaeology class had two assignments from last week:
1) Updating and validating plan view maps from the previous excavation efforts of the Folsom wedge in 2009.
Once the plan views were updated and the initial identifications made, a preparatory cleaning of the bison bone and matrix was conducted to prepare for removal of the stabilized bone.
2) Beginning the granulometric analysis from auger tests at LA3324 Locality X.
The granulometric analysis refers to the measurement of sediment grains with regard to the distribution of particle sizes in a sample. Particle size distribution aids the interpretation of conditions under which sediments were deposited, including the strength and variability of the transport agent (Kilby 2011).
Students prepared sediment samples by first removing extraneous particles, disaggregating consolidated sediments, then size grading through a nested set of sieves. Most of the size grading work was performed by the mechanized Ro-Tap shaker. Once the individual levels of sediment were size graded and weighed, a microscopic analysis of each size class was conducted to record observations of texture, sphericity, organics, and micro-artifacts.