Late Paleoindian Bison

An interesting day, as usual.  The Late Paleoindian sediments have yielded many intact bison over the years that have to be seen to be appreciated.

DSC_0653I decided to make an attempt to collect the forelimb as a whole.  Paleobond helped consolidate the bone, but the soft silt was uncooperative.  It was a risk, but a piece of masonite was slipped under the block to remove the limb as a whole.

DSC_0661A little more cleaning in the lab and this specimen will be suitable for a new museum display.  This was a young Bison antiquus.

Field School Update

Lots of remarkable progress has been made using the field school students in and out of the South Bank Building.  The bonebed has yielded a few surprises and given up more excellent paleontological specimens.  More information to come, but here are a few photos to entice.

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A Surprise Find

Sometimes in archaeology things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes the past hides gems under our noses (or boots).

Last November, students working with ENMU faculty as a part of an NSF New Mexico EPSCoR grant gained experience in climate change research. The purpose of the study is to better understand the Pleistocene to Holocene transition, and to apply the results to modern climate changes. Students collected pollen, phytolith, diatom, ostracod, and stable carbon isotope samples from a variety of sites along the eastern border of New Mexico. One of the areas that was of interest lies a few hundred meters south of the main portion of Blackwater Locality #1 known as Locality X. This locality has been surveyed and excavated sporadically over the last few years, and is mainly composed of lithic debitage.The climate study group was attempting to relocate a unit that was dug during the ENMU 2010 Field Session, which can prove to be a daunting task, even with good notes and today’s technology. The students did locate the unit, but in the process disturbed an adjacent unexcavated unit. During the screening of the disturbed dirt, a small arrowhead surfaced and revealed more information about this locality.

Much of the early work in Locality X was limited to surface collection and limited coring.  This southern portion of the site has yielded Paleoindian, Archaic, and Late prehistoric components including an anomalous metate fragment on the surface, arrow and dart points, and a graver.  Although we tend to focus on and highlight the Paleoindian components of the Blackwater Draw site, we always keep in mind that the occupation ranges from Clovis-age deposits through Proto-Historic and even Historic Native American settlement.  The arrow points found scattered on the southern landscape of the site probably indicate hunting that occurred around the outflow channel and dunes between the ancient lake bed and the draw.

Climate Change Study at the Clovis site

“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.

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This class is supported by an NSF New Mexico EPSCoR grant.

Photo of the Week 9/23/2011

Excavation of Alberto Isequilla’s pit resumed in 2009 as the fieldschool for ENMU archaeology students.  Many similarities exist 40 years after the initial work; hand-shoveling tons of sandy overburden, traversing the steep entrance ramp into the pit, and seeking shade of any sort.  One major difference is the water present during the Sanders gravel mining operation.

Field school wrap-up

The 2010 Blackwater Draw Field School ended officially last Friday.  The addition of two professional helpers and two excellent Graduate Assistants made for a very smooth and productive season.  A summary of this year’s activities so far…

We continued opening more area in the pit from last year encountering more intact and articulated bone in both the late Paleoindian level and the (probable) Folsom level.  Although the Folsom level is barely uncovered (2 square meters) there appears to be no rodent activity and the bone preservation is good.  This is mostly due to the sediments consisting of diatomaceous earth which is dense, calcium rich, and very abrasive.  More good news from the Folsom level is the presence of at least one lithic artifact and several chunks of charcoal around and under the bone.

During this field project we were lucky enough to have some help from Drs Holiday and Haynes with coring in our southern research area as well as on the Mitchell Locality.  This southern area is being explored after an extensive surface survey last summer recovered a large number of exotic raw materials in the form of pressure flakes.  Five 1 x 1 units and a 1 x 3 trench were excavated to the 17,000 year B.P. strata in the southern locality which yielded about 1000 flakes.  More information on this area to follow.

We will be excavating about one more week later in the summer to test an area previously unexplored but known through erosion to contain both cultural materials and extinct fauna.  More updates to follow.  Really…