S.Crouthamel, American Indian Studies/Anthropology, Palomar College


SITE # 1

 Blackwater Draw


I. History of Excavation

Blackwater Draw is a  Paleo-Indian complex of sites located near Portales and Clovis, New Mexico. This area is in  the Southwestern part of the Plains called the Llano Estacado or Staked Plains. The site was discovered in 1929 by J.R. Whiteman, who sent mammoth bone and a Clovis point to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1932 a Folsom point was discovered by A.W. Anderson of Clovis , NM. E.B. Howard of the University of Pennsylvania and John Cotter of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences did the initial excavation at a location that is referred to as Blackwater Draw Locality #1. Unfortunately, gravel mining was conducted at this site from 1932 -1978 and did considerable damage to the  various prehistoric camp sites and butchering sites located in the area. In 1978 Eastern New Mexico University was able to purchase 157 acres and preserve some of the sites. Here is a summary of excavation at Blackwater Draw:

Years Who Affiliation
1929 J. R. Whitman Antiquarian/pothunter
1932 A.W. Anderson Antiquarian/pothunter
1932-37 E.B. Howard/John Cotter U. of Pennsylvania/Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences; Carnegie Institution of Washington
1949-50 E.H. Sellards/G.L. Evans Texas Memorial Museum, U. of Texas, Austin
1950-1963 E.H. Sellards;F. Wendorf; A.E. Dittert;A.J. Jelinek

Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU); El Llano Archaeological Society

1964- George Agogino/students ENMU; including land purchase 1978
1969- D. Stanford/V. Haynes Smithsonian Inst./U. of Arizona
1988- J. Montgomery/J. Dickenson curators; Blackwater Draw Museum


II. Cultural Context

Initially, Blackwater Draw revealed evidence of the Paleo-Indian tradition referred to as Clovis that was a killsite that included weapons and tools associated with the killing and butchering of mammoths. Later, excavation revealed strata with Folsom and Plano (Portales) tools associated with ancient and modern bison. Further, camp sites and a well were discovered. Also, Archaic and later cultures even occupied the area.



Level(top F/G) Strata Date/Culture


Jointed Sand 4,500/Archaic-Recent


Silt 8,500-4900/Plano
D Blue Sand 10,400/ Folsom
C Brown Sand Wedge 11,500
B Gray Sand 13, 000+/Clovis
A Gravel ,15,000


It is clear that this desert region was a much moister environment with a lake and water sources that supported conifers (flora) and Pleistocene megafauna.

Columbian mammoth spruce
camel pine
ground sloth  
dire wolf  
short faced bear  
saber toothed cat  
ancient bison  
ancient bison  
turtle (terrapin)  
modern bison  

 Blackwater Draw is valuable primarily because of the complete sequence from Clovis through Archaic. The data of climate, geology, flora/fauna and cultural activity gives a good look at cultural change in an area that seems rather bleak today, but was once a lush lake/forest region of the North American Plains.


III. Contemporary Status

Since 1940 with John Cotter there have been many attempts to preserve Blackwater Draw.

In 1969 the Blackwater Draw Museum was opened near Portales, NM. In 1978 ENMU was able to purchase some of the site. In 1982 Blackwater Draw was put on the National Register of Historic Places and later became a National Historic Landmark. In 1991 the site, Blackwater Locality No. 1 was open to the public.


Copyright S.J. Crouthamel