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.

Loss of Water

ENMU excavation on the South Bank probably in the late 1960s.

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.

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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.

BWD 0716The 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.

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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.

Thesis for Download

Bennett, Stacey D.
2014    Blackwater Locality 1: Synthesis of South Bank Archaeology 1933-2013.  Unpublished Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology and Applied Archaeology, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales.

The S.D. Bennett Thesis is now available for download HERE.

Following Up on the South Bank

The South Bank of the Clovis site refers to an area at the southern end of the prehistoric pond around which lie a group of cultural sites spanning a time from the end of the last ice age until recent historic times.  This watering hole provided a marshy habitat for plants and animals and was the focus of human activity for the last 14,000 years.

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The South Bank area of the Clovis site. View to the southwest.

Professional research on the South Bank of the Clovis site has been going on since the mid-1930s.  In fact, this is the area of the Clovis site where it was discovered for the first time, beyond any legitimate doubt, that humans were hunting mammoths in North America.  Other than the spear points we now know as Clovis, major discoveries in the South Bank area include bone spear points embedded in mammoth, spokeshaves, gravers, Levallois blades, turtle shells, bone flakers, bone foreshafts, and a variety of knives and other cutting tools.

Although more work has been done in the South Bank area than any other portion of the site, only a tiny fraction of all the work in this area has been published to date.  A few of us are working hard to remedy this and I have dedicated my career to unraveling the mess of 80+ years of excavation, sampling, and recording of this site.

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Edgar Howard at the Clovis site, 1933.

What we’re up to now.  A building was placed over a small portion of the South Bank in the 1990s to preserve in situ some of the spectacular preserved specimens from this area.  As time permits, we are slowing removing the overburden in this area to reveal the palimpsest of bison kills, butchering, and other activities in this area.  A particularly good crew of excavators with faunal experience were willing to volunteer some of their time over the past couple weeks and huge progress is being made.

 

Here’s a gallery of random photographs from the excavations so far.

Thanks to those who are giving time to this project of mine.  Since, for me, archaeology isn’t worth doing without disseminating the information to the broader public I’ll update the blog as we continue to make progress.  Unfortunately, day-to-day operations of the Landmark and the university take precedent over the fun stuff like this so it will be back to the grindstone before too long.

A Bison Trap at the Clovis Site (poster)

Bison Trap_S.BennettAn excellent poster about Ms. Bennett’s work on the South Bank Bison Trap at the Clovis Site.  Click the image for a larger image or the following for a full pdf:

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Late Paleoindian Bison

An interesting day, as usual.  The Late Paleoindian sediments have yielded many intact bison over the years that have to be seen to be appreciated.

DSC_0653I decided to make an attempt to collect the forelimb as a whole.  Paleobond helped consolidate the bone, but the soft silt was uncooperative.  It was a risk, but a piece of masonite was slipped under the block to remove the limb as a whole.

DSC_0661A little more cleaning in the lab and this specimen will be suitable for a new museum display.  This was a young Bison antiquus.