Saturday, August 9, 2008

Blackwater Draw

Right near Clovis is an incredible archeological site, where you can hike the trails up and down through time, stop at digs that are still in progress, and sit under a shady tree and picture the ancients going about their hunting and gathering. It's a place where mammoth bones have been found together with spear points within the mammoth's body cavity, indicating that almost 11,500 years ago prehistoric men hunted and brought down these huge creatures.

Blackwater Draw, located between Clovis and Portales, New Mexico, is a National Historic Landmark and is considered to be one of the most important archeological sites in the world. As with many archeological discoveries, it came to the attention of archeologists through a series of almost accidental events.

In 1929, a young man named Ridgely Whiteman found an arrowhead and a piece of mammoth bone there and sent them off to the Smithsonian Insitute with a letter. There wasn't much of a response, but the Smithsonian filed his contributions away. It wasn't until much later that he was recognized as the original discoverer of the Clovis Man site.

In 1932, when the highway between Clovis and Portales was being built, an articles on tells us: The State of New Mexico had secured a portion of privately owned property as a right of way and as a location for its material pit. The sand and gravel at this spot were quarried with a horse-pulled scraper and screened by hand. Many prehistoric bones were uncovered. They were displayed in the windows of Ed J. Neer's store in Portales, according to the Portales Valley News of Thursday, October 20, 1932, but were not considered an earth-shaking event but rather a curiosity.

Finally, later in 1932, archeological excavation began and it continues today. At the site of the gravel quarry, now owned by Eastern New Mexico University, you can travel down through time from the present to 9500 B.C. It's an exciting place to be--the next stone you see could be part of a wonderful new prehistoric find. There are at least 20 archaic wells on the site with, no doubt, more to be discovered. Current digs are protected with roofs; you can visit them to see down through the layers of time. The self-guided walking trail takes you to an area where the peoples of the past camped--a spot that has yielded thousands of artifacts and prehistoric bones.

Curiously, no human bones have yet been discovered at the site, although all kinds of human-made artifacts have been dug up. There are a number of theories as to why the bones haven't been found--one being that bodies were taken elsewhere to be buried; another that the discovery simply has yet to be made.

A few miles away from the Blackwater Draw Site itself you can visit the Blackwater Draw Museum, which contains displays that show the amazingly exquisite Clovis points made of colored chert, chalcedony, jasper, and agate; and that illustrate how the finds fit into the prehistoric timeline.

For more information, see's Blackwater Draw Locality 1 and Minnesota State University's page on Blackwater Draw, which includes some photos of Clovis points. The Eastern New Mexico University's web page for the Blackwater Draw Museum gives its location, admission information, and hours of operation; the page for Blackwater Draw Locality No. 1 gives the information for the archeological site.

1 comment:

Rain said...

Very interesting. I have been to a lot of Sinagua, Hohokam and Anasazi ruins in the SW but not even heard of this one. I will be sure and have it on the list if I get back to New Mexico. Sounds great. I feel a lot of that energy in any of the ruin sites.