Casting Clovis Artifacts

A short while ago Dr. Francis Smiley from Northern Arizona University suggested making some new casts of the collections from the Clovis type-site.  We were able to meet in Albuquerque and borrow some lab space from generous colleagues at the NMMNH.

I chose about 18 artifacts generally representing our materials including points, knives, scrapers, gravers, and a fine-pointed piercer for the initial trial run.  Along with this, I intended to bring the Dickenson Cache but lack of organization (and coffee) caused me to forget the cache when leaving the collections facility.  Anyway, we still had some good stuff to work with and it was a pleasure to sit back and watch someone else labor away.

After photographing each artifact, a temporary number was assigned to each specimen and mold box.  The mold boxes are custom fit to each artifact in order to save on casting materials.

The artifacts are then placed in each box, suspended away from the edges with foam and pins.

Next, the two-part compound is measured out on the balance, mixed, and the timer set.

Round one begins with the mold material poured up to about the halfway point on the artifact.  Then we wait.

Round two removes the stabilizing foam at the top and the boxes are topped off.  Again we wait.

The boxes are removed and molds are labeled.  A razor knife opens the molds to reveal the original artifact.  Each is inspected for imperfections or air bubbles.

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Voila! A mold is created to share these fine artifacts with the world without fear of damaging the originals.  Thanks to Dr. “Kim” Smiley for starting us off on this new endeavor.  We hope to see you again soon for the next round.

Thesis for Download

Bennett, Stacey D.
2014    Blackwater Locality 1: Synthesis of South Bank Archaeology 1933-2013.  Unpublished Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology and Applied Archaeology, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales.

The S.D. Bennett Thesis is now available for download HERE.

After Decades of Frozen Stagnation

It’s not often profitable to point out the negative but conversely, it doesn’t do us good to hide our problems and pretend they don’t exist.

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A little cleaning to start things off.

We have been making small improvements over the past year in the Blackwater Draw Museum and I certainly hope they continue.  We began by removing decades of accumulated junk, hoarded telephone books, outdated flyers, broken appliances, broken electronics, food containers, etc. that accumulated in the backrooms of the museum.  Now we begin a new phase.  We are still extremely limited by budget but a little enthusiasm from students and a little guidance can go a long way toward making things better.  Many thanks to those who began helping last year and who are moving us forward into a new era.

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Brightening and creating a clean look.

Much to everyone’s consternation, Some displays have lingered, unfinished, for 20 years.  This level of apathy brings me actual physical pain but enthusiastic volunteers were found to kickstart a new look.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph this before we began but this is a couple hours into work.  Tattered labels are removed, and a base layer of blue was put into the oceans.

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Coastlines were repaired, poorly-placed elements removed, and color is layered on.

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The artist not only repaired Cuba, Florida, the Canadian islands and lakes, but was so bold she added Iceland as well.

More to come as we move forward.

Following Up on the South Bank

The South Bank of the Clovis site refers to an area at the southern end of the prehistoric pond around which lie a group of cultural sites spanning a time from the end of the last ice age until recent historic times.  This watering hole provided a marshy habitat for plants and animals and was the focus of human activity for the last 14,000 years.

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The South Bank area of the Clovis site. View to the southwest.

Professional research on the South Bank of the Clovis site has been going on since the mid-1930s.  In fact, this is the area of the Clovis site where it was discovered for the first time, beyond any legitimate doubt, that humans were hunting mammoths in North America.  Other than the spear points we now know as Clovis, major discoveries in the South Bank area include bone spear points embedded in mammoth, spokeshaves, gravers, Levallois blades, turtle shells, bone flakers, bone foreshafts, and a variety of knives and other cutting tools.

Although more work has been done in the South Bank area than any other portion of the site, only a tiny fraction of all the work in this area has been published to date.  A few of us are working hard to remedy this and I have dedicated my career to unraveling the mess of 80+ years of excavation, sampling, and recording of this site.

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Edgar Howard at the Clovis site, 1933.

What we’re up to now.  A building was placed over a small portion of the South Bank in the 1990s to preserve in situ some of the spectacular preserved specimens from this area.  As time permits, we are slowing removing the overburden in this area to reveal the palimpsest of bison kills, butchering, and other activities in this area.  A particularly good crew of excavators with faunal experience were willing to volunteer some of their time over the past couple weeks and huge progress is being made.

 

Here’s a gallery of random photographs from the excavations so far.

Thanks to those who are giving time to this project of mine.  Since, for me, archaeology isn’t worth doing without disseminating the information to the broader public I’ll update the blog as we continue to make progress.  Unfortunately, day-to-day operations of the Landmark and the university take precedent over the fun stuff like this so it will be back to the grindstone before too long.

An Alibates Knife

AlibatesKnifeHere’s an interesting Paleoindian biface made from banded Alibates chert.  It was apparently discovered by a local resident in the early 1970s.  The tool (knife) measures about 12 cm (4 3/4″) and is remarkably thin, with flaking consistent with other Clovis bifaces from the site.  I have used this, as well as other unusual specimens to demonstrate the wide variety of lithic tools that are part of the tool kit that are often overlooked in the popular media.  Although we cannot be certain as to it’s exact temporal placement, based on morphology, the area where it was recovered and information from the finder, I think it is most likely Clovis in age, but we will never be certain.

I decided to post this today as one of our graduate researchers, Stacey Bennett just came across the original field note from when it was returned to the Landmark in 1984.

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