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it was nearly impossible to control content or make changes to our “official” website leading to angry complaints about out of date information, incorrect hours and dates for our museums, and a general lack of useful or real information about this world-class National Landmark.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a museum, even a small one, does not happen overnight and it isn’t a matter of just moving a truck load of 45 year old, outdated displays to a new room.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.

Finally:

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.

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.

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.

Catching Up on the Blog

Too many projects and too few hands have meant that the Blackwater Draw blog gets neglected more than it should.  Too much time is spent in petty bureaucracy, assisting other researchers with their personal projects, and fixing the many problems associated with a large, under-staffed cultural property and museum.  Hopefully, our new Curator will be posting here soon as she brings new ideas and energy to the position.

However, great things are afoot…

I have been allocated a small but significant amount of money from the University Administration to revamp the Blackwater Draw Museum.  Our new facility will be somewhat smaller but is a much better space in a far better location on the main campus of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico.  For those who have been to the older museum, you may remember that the displays and much of the “look” dated to about 1970 with several displays being updated in the mid-1980s.

April and May are always busy…

Conferences, school field trips, regional talks fill the calendar.  We will be attending the New Mexico Association of Museums meeting later this week, setting up a display and demonstration table at the Archaeology Fair at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces next weekend, and speaking in Santa Fe next week.  Then there are the SAA confernece in San Francisco and the Southwestern Federation of Archaeological Societies meeting in Hobbs, New Mexico.

And Finally…

We will be hosting the New Mexico Prehistory Day and Open House at the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark on May 2nd.  Come celebrate New Mexico Cultural Heritage Month at the Clovis site with demonstrators and archaeologists from around the state from 10:00 – 4:00 p.m.  It’s FREE and open to everyone.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear (Arctodus simus) was not as Bizarre as Originally Thought

George Crawford:

Interesting updates about everyone’s favorite Pleistocene bear. Not quite what we first thought but still a formidable predator.

Originally posted on GeorgiaBeforePeople:

Scientists first described the giant short-faced bear as an unusually long-limbed bruin with a shortened catlike face.  Some proposed this species outran prey, much like a cheetah does.  However, later studies determined it was not a particularly fast runner but was instead built for endurance.  Nevertheless, these descriptions suggested a very bizarre kind of bear.  But now, the most recent and thorough study of the short-faced bear’s anatomy upends much of what was previously thought about this bear. Paleontologists, led by Borja Figuerida, compared skeletons of the giant short-faced bear with those of 56 different species of carnivores including all living species of bear.  In all they looked at 411 specimens.  They believe the giant short-faced bear did not sport much of a different appearance than any living species of bear, though it was very large. The legs were not unusually long.  They claim the assumption of a bear with…

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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.