Camelops at Blackwater

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July was an exciting month of fieldwork at Blackwater Draw.  Students and staff participated in a week-long survey and excavation examining surface erosion in one area of the site.  Few artifacts were recovered from the excavation but survey of the area located flaking debris and miscellaneous bone.  Of particular interest was a scattering of bones on the surface that had been known about for quite some time.  During the last week of July, a crew of four headed into the field to record the provenience of the bones and collect all that were on the surface of the eroding bank.

The crew members on the collection team discovered that the bones were in a very weathered state and quite fragile.  Erosion of the bank distributed many individual fragments downslope.  The proximity of fragments and the likelihood of finding material that could be refit increased as closer investigation of the area continued.  Many of the ‘surface’ bones extended into the underlying sediments and excavation was deemed necessary to remove the bones without additional damage.  The collection operation was reevaluated and only isolated teeth and bones lying on the surface that showed no potential for refit were collected.

While most of the collected fragments and teeth have not been thoroughly analyzed, the potential for identification appears high.  Of particular interest, and the ultimate subject of this post, is a nearly complete distal end of a scapula.  The two large fragments comprising the majority of the glenoid cavity were together in situ.  The coracoid process, which proved to be the key to identification and siding of the element was a few centimeters away and clearly associated when the two larger fragments were collected from the surface.  With the coracoid in hand, it was clear that this was not a bison!

Luckily, a Camelops sp. scapula was on hand from Blackwater Draw excavations conducted in 1963-1964 and identified by Jeff Saunders at the Illinois State Museum in 1983.  Having this comparative specimen along with S. David Webb’s, The Osteology of Camelops, the specimen was positively identified as the left scapula of an unknown Camelops species.  Further fieldwork and laboratory analysis are expected.

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