Prehistory Day 2015

Here are a few photos of the Blackwater Draw Open House and Prehistory Day.  Thanks to everyone who came out and especially those who dedicated a Saturday to make this event possible.  As usual, we were all so busy that we didn’t take too many photos, especially during the rush.  Here are a few to whet the appetite for next year.  An estimated 250 people attended throughout the day.  The weather was as fair as it gets and a good time was had by all.

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The North Bank Excavations ca. 1963

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Photo courtesy of James Warnica, El Llano Archaeological Society.

Here is a great photo-mosaic from the North Bank excavations in the early 1960s.  The humans in the background examining the stratigraphy really put the Clovis-age mammoths in their proper scale.  Unfortunately, Mammoth IV in the background is covered in this photo.

Dawn of the Dog Article

A dog skull sits on a disk, as scientists prepare to photograph it for geometric morphometrics.

A dog skull sits on a disk, as scientists prepare to photograph it for geometric morphometrics.

A very important and fascinating subject to undertake.  Here’s an interesting new article about the domestication of dogs from Science.

Science Magazine

Greger Larson holds a wolf skull at the Oxford Museum of Natural History (top). Ardern Hulme-Beaman (bottom) examines an ancient dog jawbone (middle).

Dogs were the very first thing humans domesticated—before any plant, before any other animal. Yet despite decades of study, researchers are still fighting over where and when wolves became humans’ loyal companions. “It’s very competitive and contentious,” says Jean-Denis Vigne, a zooarchaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, who notes that dogs could shed light on human prehistory and the very nature of domestication. “It’s an animal so deeply and strongly connected to our history that everyone wants to know.”

PHOTO: ARDERN HULME-BEAMAN, PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE SWEDISH MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (2)

PHOTO: ARDERN HULME-BEAMAN, PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE SWEDISH MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (2)

Money proved a great motivator. Though dogs loom large in the public consciousness, they don’t tend to loosen the purse strings of funding organizations. As a result, many scientists work on them as only a hobby or side project, piggybacking on funding from other grants. But Larson and Dobney made a strong case to European funding agencies in 2012, arguing that the domestication of dogs set the stage for taming an entire host of plants and animals. “We said, without dogs you don’t have any other domestication,” Larson says. “You don’t have civilization.”

The skeletons of a human and dog (upper left) discovered underneath a 12,000-year-old home in northern Israel are early evidence of the human-canine bond.

The skeletons of a human and dog (upper left) discovered underneath a 12,000-year-old home in northern Israel are early evidence of the human-canine bond.

For the first time, we’re going to be able to look at some of these strange skulls like the Goyet skull and figure out how strange they really are,” he says. “Are they wolves becoming dogs, or are they just unusual wolves?” Combining the two approaches, he says, should allow the collaboration to home in on just where dogs came from—and when this happened.

“Archaeology is storytelling,” Hulme-Beaman says. “I think we’re going to be able to tell a great story.”

Read the short article HERE or download the full PDF HERE.

Reference: Science 17 April 2015:
Vol. 348 no. 6232 pp. 274-279
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6232.274

Tusk Weight

I have been searching for some time for information about the weight of mammoth tusks.  I quite inadvertently came across this today while searching something else.  Such is the way of libraries and the internet.  It seems that the old estimates for a fifteen to sixteen foot long tusk weighing over 300 pounds is fairly realistic when compared to some African elephant examples from the nineteenth century.   headertusksFrom Work, No. 161, 1892.

Revisiting the Vero Beach Mammoth

We, at the Clovis site, have a tie to Vero Beach through the work of Dr. Elias Sellards.  Much of his work in New Mexico was forty years later but we owe a great debt to his research out here.

Mastodon bone inscribed with image of a mastodon shown by amateur collector James Kennedy of Vero Beach, Florida, NOT A SMITHSONIAN SPECIMEN.

Detail of the mammoth engraving on the unidentified megafauna bone.  Click the image to link to the earlier article.

I hope we find more paleoindian art as it is mysterious to me why there is so little in the Americas.

rouffignac

Compare the Vero Beach mammoth to these from Grotte de Rouffignac, France. Striking similarity in the simple depiction of a mammoth family.

Another fine mammoth depiction from ca 14,000 years ago.

Another fine mammoth depiction from ca 14,000 years ago in the Grotte de Rouffignac.  Maybe the French were already raising the bar in art.

 

References:

 

Lepper, Bradley

“Mammoth Engraved on Bone from Florida,” Mammoth Trumpet (27) 1 January 2012

 

Sellards, E.H.

“Human Remains and Associated Fauna from the Pleistocene of Florida,” Florida State Geological Survey 1916.

Open House 2015

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

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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.

Bison

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The signature species of the Great Plains of North America.

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They were utilized in abundance by prehistoric people and are extremely common at the Clovis site. The hunting traps at Blackwater Draw were in regular use for thousands of years.

“After nine days’ march I reached some plains, so vast that I did not find their limit anywhere that I went, although I traveled over them for more than 300 leagues. And I found such a quantity of cows in these, of the kind that I wrote Your Majesty about, which they have in this country, that it is impossible to number them, for while I was journeying through these plains, until I returned to where I first found them, there was not a day that I lost sight of them.”

Vázquez de Coronado writing to king Carlos of Spain, 1541

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Thevet’s engraving of “The Buffalo”, Antwerp 1558. This is the oldest known depiction of an American bison by a European.