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.
The signature species of the Great Plains of North America.
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
Thevet’s engraving of “The Buffalo”, Antwerp 1558. This is the oldest known depiction of an American bison by a European.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Okay, not fully destroyed in every case but needlessly damaged, often beyond recognition. One good reason to document what we can while we can. Often, these are just looked at as buildings or just someone’s property without understanding the window they provide into our human past. I see this on a different scale an in a different light here in the western United States. Archaeological sites aren’t understood as important information but as a pile of disassociated bits and pieces to be collected up and sold on. Our short lifespans hardly justify our ridiculous idea of “ownership” when it comes to an important place.