2015 Atlatl Day at Blackwater Draw

It’s been seven years since this fell on Halloween and it was great to see people dress in costume to come out; especially the little kids.

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Thanks to all who attended and supported the Mu Alpha Nu Atlatl Day again this year.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  A big thank you goes to Aaron, Lincoln, Trish, Laura, Becky, Mara, and the rest of the club whom I’m forgetting this morning, for picking up the slack and getting things together in a hurry.  Corey, as usual, handled the office and business end of things during the competition.  Overall, attendance was only slightly down due more to some specific conflicts of date rather than the late advertising.  We missed the enormous group that often comes from NMMI and a couple of the groups from the central valley that have participated in the past.  It is a very long drive.

There were 76 people at the pavilion area at the beginning of the contest and a mid-day car count was 46.  We think (it’s hard to keep track) that we had about 150 total throughout the day.  Aaron counted a total of 35 competitors signed in with a LOT more small children than we have ever had in the past.  We may need to make a contingency course for them in future.

We owe a debt gratitude to Tommy Heflin again for providing some pretty exciting prizes in the form of signed replica Clovis points he made specifically for the event.  He and his wife, Joletha, decided to go forward with the annual pig and turkey roast at their amazing house, again at their own expense.  He is the only person who has attended every one of these since before they were even an official event back in the late 90s.

I sincerely hope that Mu Alpha Nu ATLATL DAY at BLACKWATER DRAW continues as a student led, club event.  It was a lot to handle this year but everything, down to the weather came out perfectly.  Thank you again to everyone who helped make this happen, against some mysterious and ridiculous resistance from unexpected quarters.  I believe it was a great time for everyone who participated and we received many personal “thanks” from community members.

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Another Clovis Point

A bit more from the photography sessions.

Resharpened Clovis point made from Edward's Plateau chert, ca. 4 cm long.

Resharpened Clovis point made from Edward’s Plateau chert, ca. 4 cm long.

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Spring Polished

DSC_0162 (3)This little beauty was found associated with the main spring head at the Clovis site back in the 1960s.  Like other lithic tools in that area, it exhibits a silky, slippery polish.  People have thought it was plastic at first sight.

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Clovis Point

This is not the most beautiful Clovis point in the world but hey, it came from a mammoth kill site and is still in one piece.

Excuse the raw nature of this lab photo.

Excuse the raw nature of this lab photo.

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Folsom Point

Just because it’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

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The Art of Aaron Kuehn

For students of anatomy, here is an interesting Typogram to help in learning the names of bones on a human skeleton.

Here's the link to Aaron Kuehn's website: http://aaronkuehn.com/

Here’s the link to Aaron Kuehn’s website: http://aaronkuehn.com/

He has some other interesting art as well including a Typogram of human musculature:


Enjoy, and maybe throw a little business his way in appreciation.

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Here are a few wildlife photos from around the Landmark.  Being surrounded on three sides by industrial agriculture has created an island refuge on the property.  Having the most topography in the county creates some micro-climates and environments not found elsewhere.  In the past weeks we have spotted coyote, gray fox, eastern and western bluejays, barn owls, a slew of various hawks, kangaroo rats, mice, deer, rattle snakes, gopher snakes, coachwhip snakes, roadrunners, and probably a dozen other things I am forgetting.  Enjoy.

And yet another gopher snake. Some of these get remarkably large on a diet of wood rat, mice, and other rodents.

Another gopher snake. Some of these get remarkably large on a diet of wood rat, mice, and other rodents.

Coachwhip in the garden.

Coachwhip in the garden.

Roadrunner hatchling. I snatched this photo while the parents were away scooping up horned lizards to feed the little ones.

Roadrunner hatchling. I snatched this photo while the parents were away scooping up horned lizards to feed the little ones.

The ubiquitous gopher snake. It's a miricla more of them don't get run over as they haunt the parking lots throughout the day.

The ubiquitous gopher snake. It’s a miracle that more of them don’t get run over as they haunt the parking lots throughout the day.

And finally, one of the many mantises that arrive every fall to clean up the small insect population.

And finally, one of the many mantises that arrive every fall to clean up the small insect population.

Unfortunately, I don’t generally carry a camera so it’s just a lucky day when I have one handy.

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Survival of the Fittest and Dwarfism–A Paradox

Interesting thoughts on the place of dwarfism in natural selection.


The concept of natural selection forms the basis for the Theory of Evolution.  Environmental forces select the fittest members of each population to pass on their genes.  Most people think survival of the fittest means selecting the biggest, fastest, and strongest; and that is often true.  However, insular evolution (the evolution of species on islands) shows that survival of the fittest can mean the opposite as well.  During the Pleistocene many species of megafauna became stranded on islands.  Islands are often devoid of large predators.  Megafauna evolved to a greater size in response to predation, so without the presence of predators, there was no longer selective pressure toward a larger size.  Smaller individuals were just as likely to survive.  Moreover, these smaller individuals had an advantage on islands where less food was available.  On continents megafauna could migrate to different regions when forage became scarce, but they didn’t have this…

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Palmyra: A Lamentation

Sad. Knowledge is lost forever. I could see the same happening here someday. Zealots are horrible people. Remember when the Taliban did this in Afghanistan? Most people don’t.

Middle Savagery








I could write about the strange aesthetics of annihilation, iconoclasm, nationalism, symbolism, weaponized cultural heritage and the murder of people, a place, an archaeologist. I am supposed to be an expert in this, after all. Intimate of the ancient.

Or, on a more personal level–how Palmyra blushed toward the blue desert sky. How I was ragged sick so I didn’t take very many photos, but dragged around the site anyway, sitting in the shade of columns. Picking out details. Petting the friendly cats in the ruins. Now every time I hear about something else being destroyed I go back over the same photos. How it was the same when I found out about the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo, the Al-Madina Souq, Crac de Chevalier, Bosra, the Dead Cities–a UNESCO listing is a death sentence. These are only the big, well-known sites, there is extensive looting, destroying sites beyond all recovery.

It is easy to be…

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Quick Tips: Use of Phytoliths in Archaeology.

Phytoliths have played a major role in understanding the paleoenvironment of the Southern High Plains. Find out a little about them here with this excellent post.

All Things AAFS!

Phytoliths are a very important identification tool in identifying plants within ancient environments, often even classifying down to the species of the plant.

But firstly, what are phytoliths? As the name phytolith suggests, coming from the Greek phyto- meaning plants and lith– meaning stone, they are tiny (less than 50µm) siliceous particles which plants produce. These phytoliths are commonly found within sediments, and can last hundreds of years as they are made of inorganic substances that do not decay when the other organic parts of the plant decay. Phytoliths can also be extracted from residue left on many different artefacts such as teeth (within the dental calculus), tools (such as rocks, worked lithics, scrapers, flakes, etc.) and pottery.

Image Table 1 & 2: Examples of the descriptors found within the International Code for Phytolith Nomenclature (ICPN), 2005, for use of naming phytoliths.
Figure 1: A bulliform phytolith under…

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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.

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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.

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