Tracing the Impacts of Prehistoric Climate Change

Eastern New Mexico’s Water Resources Across the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition


This section of the Blackwater Locality #1 website details and illustrates, textually and visually, the fieldwork and data-analysis conducted by ENMU students and lead investigator, Professor Dr. J. David Kilby, as part of a scientific study of the affects of long-term climate change. This study is funded by a New Mexico NSF EPSCoR grant received by Dr. Kilby in 2011. It is comprised of two complementary 8-week classes, in which students learn to investigate hydrologic changes through reconstructing past depositional environments, to investigate corresponding ecological changes through the collection and analysis of paleoenvironmental data, and to report results in a scholarly format.

The majority of the fieldwork for this study was conducted at or adjacent to Blackwater Locality #1, where intact and deep stratigraphy afforded us the opportunity to take secure pollen; phytolith; diatom; ostracod; and carbon isotope samples, as well as Carbon 14 and OSL dating samples for the purpose of investigating climatic, hydrologic, and ecological changes that have occurred from the Late Pleistocene through the Holocene. Additionally, samples were taken from a location known as Frost Arroyo- located approximately 90 km north of Blackwater Locality #1. The results of this study will offer insights into the physical environment inhabited by Paleoindian cultures (Clovis, Folsom, Agate Basin), Archaic cultures, prehistoric ceramic period cultures, and modern cultures that have existed within the Llano Estacado.

The objectives of this study on climate change are threefold:

  1. To investigate the affects of climate change on the water resources and ecology of eastern New Mexico using the extensive paleoenvironmental record contained at Blackwater Locality No. 1 and adjacent areas as a case study.
  2. To improve science education for ENMU’s undergraduate student population by providing opportunities to participate in problem-oriented, topically relevant scientific research in climate and hydrology.
  3. To establish an ongoing program of student-centered paleoenvironmental research at ENMU.

All activities, including sample collection; stratigraphic profiling; external lab-analysis; and data-analysis, associated with this program will be carried our during the 2011-2012 school year. The results of this study on climate change will be presented professionally at the Plains Anthropological Conference.


Click on the name of a location to learn more about that locality.

Isequilla’s Pit: “Isequilla’s Pit” is an area of Blackwater Draw Locality #1, that was partially excavated by Alberto Isequilla from 1997-1969. He abruptly abandoned his fieldwork, and left 10 meter long profile that documents environmental changes up to approximately 13,500 years ago.

Folsom Block: The Folsom block is a 2x1x0.5 meter block of sediments from the Folsom stratum of the now-destroyed North Bank of Blackwater Draw Locality #1 which was salvaged in the 1960’s in a plaster jacket.

Broadview Playa: Broadview Playa is a recently discovered pluvial feature exposed by the erosion of a 4-meter deep arroyo located just north of the caprock escapement near Broadview, NM.

Locality X: This locality is a few hundred meters Southeast of Isequilla’s Pit. This locality appears to be a Paleoindian camp.


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