Working on the Re-model


The old museum will remain open through the autumn but please call if you are traveling and want to know about specific dates.

I was told by a very wise museum professional last year that to hope to have a new museum in place inside a year was extremely optimistic.  Even a small one.  I think I could hear the word “crazy” in her sub-textual language.

So where are we now?

Honestly, little has occurred to the physical structure since May.  We discovered a fairly large roof leak that fortunately occurred while the space was essentially empty.  How lucky is that?  For good or ill, we are part of a university and share maintenance and construction with many departments.  As a “non-revenue generating, non-essential” department, we are far down the list of real priorities in the larger scheme.

Planning goes forward

I have visited several other museums in the interim and we continue to develop the plan and, in the mean time, some actual research is happening.

Art is commissioned

Our artists in Communication Services are working to create some new designs for T-shirts, mugs, and the like and we like what we are seeing so far.

Vendors are researched

Having never developed a museum it is sometimes difficult to know where to start for odd-ball museum goodies on a budget.  Good stuff is being located.

and finally, a completely new website is under development

I intend to upkeep this blog, however slow it may be, but the University has finally dove in and is re-working the entire website.  Our expected launch should come in the winter with a hoped-for opening of the new facility will be in the early spring.


In the interim, I intend to keep the old museum open for as long as possible because, until we have a space to move into, there won’t be much to see there.  And for the positive responses to the last post, both public and private, as well as the safe return of many appropriated objects from the Landmark, I want to personally thank you.

Changes Ahead and an Update from the Director

blackwater-draw logoAbout our web presence or disturbing lack thereof:

We have been working with our Communication Services Department for some months now to develop a new and better website that is university sanctioned. Until recently, blogs like mine, had to be maintained “unofficially” as there was this great fear of rogue blogging.  When I started in this position, and for the subsequent few years, it was nearly impossible to control content or make changes to our “official” website leading to angry complaints about out of date information, incorrect hours and dates for our museums, and a general lack of useful or real information about this world-class National Landmark.  Adding new blog-like posts were out of the question as there was a  two-week delay between submission and publication.

Social Media:

I believe we have (finally)  entered a new era in social media and we even maintain a relatively active Facebook presence (and no, we don’t have the time, nor are we exciting enough to use Twitter).

Changes to the Museum:

YES!  We are finally in the process of updating our museum. It is always a shock to avocational and professional archaeologists that there is not an enormous edifice with an attached research center at the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark or nearby on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University. I know, I felt the same when I first visited this Mecca.  This massive archaeological landscape has been largely overlooked and held in statu quo for decades now while some serious myths have made it into print about the nature and status of the cultural resources here.

I have sacrificed much to remedy this and I think, maybe, we are now on the right path.  We have been allocated a small but significant amount of money to create new displays in a better space on campus.  I don’t even care that others have taken credit for this many year long struggle, I’m just glad it is getting done.

Creating a museum, even a small one, does not happen overnight and it isn’t a matter of just moving a truck load of 45 year old, outdated displays to a new room.  We intend to do this right, and that means a complete re-vamp of the story we tell and how it is told.  Please bear with us during the coming year while we make these changes.

I will continue this blog though it will soon be mirrored, in an edited form, elsewhere and we will, I hope, produce something to further the understanding of the Clovis site and the spread of early humans on the Southern High Plains.


To the many individuals and institutions who have worked with us in recent years to return materials taken, borrowed, or purchased unscrupulously from the site, I thank you.*

George Crawford, Director – Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark

*Despite rumor and legal hearsay, there is no legitimate way to own specimens from this site, whether you work for the Federal Government, another state, or you purchased something from someone who worked for the mine company.

And on a personal note: I sincerely hope that some of the people and institutions who have taken artifacts and other specimens from our site will be able to let them go to be returned to our research collection.  Greed for possession and the ego boost of having something from the type-site do not advance our field, they only serve to divide us and blur our understanding of the past.

Open House 2015

2 May 2015 – Prehistory Day and Open House at the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark


Join us for our part of New Mexico’s Cultural Heritage Month, May 2nd from 9:00 to 5:00.  This event is free and open to the public.  We are already expecting a large turnout and several exciting demonstrators are committed to this year’s event.  We plan to have displays of Ice-Age animal bones, artifacts of New Mexico, atlatl throwing, primitive fiber arts, flint knapping demonstrations, tours of the bone bed excavations, and more.  Look for more information on the blog in the months to come.

An Assessment of the Llano Estacado, and a Little About the Dangers of Prairie Travel

A hilly portion of the northern Llano Estacado.  37,500 square miles (97,000 km2) of short grass cold, semi-arid prairie scrub.

In his report to the Secretary of War, after making a survey of the Southern Plains in 1849, Captain Randolph B. Marcy described the lands of the Llano Estacado in less than enthusiastic light.  “Not a tree, shrub, or any other object, either animate or inanimate, relieved the monotony…” It is “the great Zahara (sic) of North America.”  Furthermore, it is “a land where no man, either savage or civilized, permanently abides,” and it “always has been, and must continue, uninhabited forever.”


It’s a tough ride from Fort Smith to Santa Fe on the southern route.

Marcy was no greenhorn or soft skinned parade soldier.  In his 49 year career, he did much to aide American settlers heading west through his immensely popular book: The Prairie Traveler. A Hand-Book For Overland Expeditions, available online HERE.  It reminds us that most people heading west were blundering well outside their element and skillsets, and were likely to suffer and die by running off half-cocked across 3,000 miles of wilderness.  This book is a must-read for any scholar of the historic west. PTMarcy’s Prairie Traveler quickly became an indispensable guide to thousands of American overlanders in their arduous treks to California, Oregon, Utah, and other western destinations. It was a best-selling book for the remainder of the century. Andrew J. Birtle, author of U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860-1941, has described The Prairie Traveler as “perhaps the single most important work on the conduct of frontier expeditions published under the aegis of the War Department.”

Marcy provided the overland pioneer with advice on packing, choosing the best routes to California, wagon maintenance, and the selection and care of horses, which had life-or-death consequences. His advice covered food supplies, packing, and traveling: including the fording of rivers, tracking, and bivouacking on the Great Plains, finding and treating water, building a fire, and avoiding quicksand. His first-aid procedures included treating snakebites, and common injuries and risks to travelers. He also provided material “concerning the habits of Indians,” including Native American tracking and hunting techniques, smoke signals and sign language, and battle tactics.

This book was a best seller for half a century for seekers heading west on the Oregon trail, to the California gold mines, or following Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake.  More to come on this fascinating place.

American circa 1875

American cavalry soldier ca. 1875.

Loss of Water

ENMU excavation on the South Bank probably in the late 1960s.

ENMU excavation on the South Bank probably in the late 1960s.

Once upon a time, there was almost too much ground water in the Blackwater Draw area to deal with in deep excavations. Center-pivot irrigation came into vogue in the region from 1967.

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Stories from the gravel mining era indicate that water was early on considered a hindrance here.  Over time, the mine operators learned to utilize the water and isolate or flood pits as necessary, floating part of the operation on a barge built for that purpose.  The water was consistent enough that the mine company kept the lakes stocked with fish, providing the employees and local people the rare chance to fish in Roosevelt county.

BWD 0716The archaeological crews, mostly students from Eastern New Mexico University, took advantage of the water for screening sediments and to cool-off in during the hot summer days on the Llano.  By 1974, the near-surface water was gone, never to recharge.  The long-term effects on deeply buried fauna is unclear.  Although the area has seen continuous drying-out over the past 8,500 years, shallow, subsurface water was readily available until the mid-20th Century.

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The Blackwater Draw National Landmark includes the disturbed gravel mine area in the center of the above photo, the center pivot field to the west, and the 1/2 Section to the south with the relatively undisturbed surface. Of course, the cultural and paleontological materials extend outwards in all directions from this arbitrary designation. Work has been done in all these areas over the past 80 years.