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.

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

bison

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.

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.