Blackwater Draw

Coordinates: 34°16′40″N 103°19′28″W / 34.277874°N 103.324580°W / 34.277874; -103.324580
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Blackwater Draw
(Anderson Basin)
ENMU museum and archaeological logo
Blackwater Draw is located in New Mexico
Blackwater Draw
Blackwater Draw is located in the United States
Blackwater Draw
Nearest cityClovis and Portales New Mexico
Coordinates34°16′40″N 103°19′28″W / 34.277874°N 103.324580°W / 34.277874; -103.324580
Area3,200 acres (1,300 ha)
NRHP reference No.66000483[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated NHLDJanuary 20, 1961

Blackwater Draw is an intermittent stream channel about 140 km (87 mi) long, with headwaters in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, about 18 km (11 mi) southwest of Clovis, New Mexico, and flows southeastward across the Llano Estacado toward the city of Lubbock, Texas, where it joins Yellow House Draw to form Yellow House Canyon at the head of the North Fork Double Mountain Fork Brazos River.[2][3] It stretches across eastern Roosevelt County, New Mexico, and Bailey, Lamb, Hale, and Lubbock Counties of West Texas and drains an area of 1,560 sq mi (4,040 km2).[4]


The Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark contains an important archaeological site that was first recognized in 1929 by Ridgley Whiteman of Clovis, New Mexico.[5] Blackwater Locality No. 1 (29RV2; LA3324) is the type-site of the Clovis culture. The first large-scale excavation occurred in 1932, though local residents had been collecting bone and lithic materials for decades.[6][7][8][9]

In the 1960s Frank J. Brolio excavated a camp site just to the northwest of the main site, known colloquially as "Franks Folsom Site".[10] Finds included an especially large chert bi-face. In this period (1952 to 1970) Blackwater Draw was being commercially mined for gravel with a number of mammoth and bison kill stations being uncovered.[11]

In another part of Blackwater draw known as the Mitchell Locality a large Folsom period campsite was excavated in the 1980s. A number of lithics were recovered including some with bison and pronghorn blood residue.[12][13][14][15]

Evidence of "fluted" points, spearheads now known as Clovis points (a New World invention) and other stone and bone weapons, tools, and processing implements were found at the archaeological site. The Clovis points were lanceolate and often, though not always, longer than Folsom points.

The Clovis-age artifacts are in association with the remains of extinct Late Pleistocene megafauna, including mammoth, camel, horse, bison, saber-toothed cat, sloths, and dire wolf that were hunted by the early peoples who visited the site. Generations of some of the earliest New World inhabitants hunted and camped at Blackwater Draw, creating stratified levels of archaeological remains from many different time periods, including Clovis, Folsom, Midland, Agate Basin, and various Archaic period occupants.[16]

Clovis chipped stone technology is currently one of the oldest and most widespread chipped stone technologies recognized in the New World; radiocarbon dates on sediment from the Clovis layers at Blackwater Draw average around 11,290 years before the present.[17] Two of the projectile points from Blackwater Draw were used as the type specimens to define Clovis chipped stone technology in the 1930s.

The archaeological site is known for its well-defined and dated stratigraphic horizons that exhibit numerous cultural sequences. The sequences begin with the some of the earlier New World peoples and continue through the southwestern archaic, and into the historic period. Investigations at Blackwater Draw have recovered protein residue on Clovis weapons, indicating their use as hunting and possibly butchering tools on extinct Pleistocene animals.

Welcome sign at the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark

Towards the end of the Pleistocene period, the climate began to change, which brought warmer and drier weather, causing the water flow in the region to dramatically decrease.[18] This decrease caused small seasonal lake basins called playas to form. These areas became popular hunting locations for early North Americans. In that period the site had a number of active springs. A number of lithics were found in the sandy spring drains. The usual assumption is that they were discarded into the springs though it has been suggested there was a ritual component.[19][20]

Folsom point-Blackwater Draw

Since its discovery, the Blackwater Locality No. 1 site has been a focal point for scientific investigations by academic institutions and organizations from across the country. The Carnegie Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Academy of Natural Sciences, National Science Foundation, United States National Museum, National Geographic Society, and more than a dozen major universities either have funded or participated in research at Blackwater Draw. Eastern New Mexico University owns and manages the excavations and visitations at the site.

The 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Anderson Basin district around Blackwater Draw in Roosevelt County, near Clovis and Portales was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and incorporated into the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Blackwater Draw Museum[edit]

ENMU students visit the Blackwater Draw Museum

The original Blackwater Draw Museum was first opened to the public in 1969, at 42987 Highway 70,[21] Portales, New Mexico primarily to display artifacts uncovered at the Blackwater Locality No. 1 site. The artifacts and displays illustrated life at the site during the Clovis period (over 13,000 years ago) through the recent historic period.

Southwest pottery from the Miles Collection

In 2017, the museum moved onto the Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) campus, and expanded its focus to incorporate local history, as well as archaeology on a broad scale. Exhibits now include descriptions of archaeological work, different archaeological sites, cultural complexes, and scientific methods, among other topics. Visitors can learn more information about Blackwater Draw, archaeology, and see materials from the greater Southwest obtained from private collections. Currently, the Miles Collection displays Southwestern pottery, basketry, and textiles. As of August 2017, Blackwater Draw is under the direction of Dr. Brendon Asher of ENMU in Portales.[22][23] The museum hired its first Collections Manager in 2020, Samantha Bomkamp.

The museum and site operate under the supervision of the Eastern New Mexico University's Department of Anthropology and Applied Archaeology. ENMU students are able to work at the museum and site as student employees, interns, or volunteers. Anthropology students regularly use museum collections for class projects, research, and master's theses. Both facilities host class visits from ENMU and K-12 year round.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ United States Board on Geographical Names. 1964. Decisions on Geographical Names in the United States, Decision list no. 6402, United States Department of the Interior, Washington DC, p. 49.
  3. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Blackwater Draw
  4. ^ Seaber, P.R., Kapinos, F.P. and Knapp, G.L. 1987. Hydrological unit maps. United States Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2294, p. 46.
  5. ^ Bonnichsen, Robson; Sorg, Marcella (1989). Bone Modification. Dexter, MI: Center for the Study of the First Americans. p. 452. ISBN 0-912933-06-2.
  6. ^ Cotter, J.L., "The Occurrence of Flints and Extinct Animals in Pluvial Deposits Near Clovis, New Mexico, Part IV - Report on Excavations at the Gravel Pit, 1936.", Proceedings Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences 89, pp. 2-16, 1937
  7. ^ Cotter, J.L., "The Occurrence of Flints and Extinct Animals in Pluvial Deposits Near Clovis, New Mexico, Part VI- Report on the Field Season of 1937", Proceedings Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences 90, pp. 113-117, 1938
  8. ^ Howard, E.B., "Evidence of Early Man in North America", The Museum Journal 24(2 & 3), 1935
  9. ^ Sellards, E.H., "Early Man in America", University of Texas Press, Austin, 1952
  10. ^ Stanford, D. J., and F. J. Broilo, "Frank's Folsom Camp Site. The Artifact", 19(3&4), pp. 1-11, 1981
  11. ^ Boldurian, Anthony T., "Folsom Mobility and Organization of Lithic Technology: A View from Blackwater Draw, New Mexico", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 36, no. 137, pp. 281–95, 1991
  12. ^ Boldurian, A. T. et al., "Folsom Biface Manufacture, Retooling, and Site Function at the Mitchell Locality of Blackwater Draw", Plains Anthropologist 32, pp. 299-311, 1987
  13. ^ Boldurian, A. T., "BACKGROUND FOR RESEARCH AT THE MITCHELL LOCALITY", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 35, no. 130, pp. 21–39, 1990
  14. ^ David C. Hyland and Thomas R. Anderson, "Appendix A: BLOOD RESIDUE ANALYSIS OF THE LITHIC ASSEMBLAGE FROM THE MITCHELL LOCALITY, BLACKWATER DRAW, NEW MEXICO", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 35, no. 130, pp. 105–10, 1990
  15. ^ Boldurian, A. T., "METHOD OF INVESTIGATION AND STRATIGRAPHY OF THE MITCHELL LOCALITY", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 35, no. 130, pp. 41–48, 1990
  16. ^ Agogino, George A., and Irwin Rovner, "Preliminary Report of a Stratified Post-Folsom Sequence at Blackwater Draw Locality No. 1", American Antiquity, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 175–76, 1969
  17. ^ Hirst, Kris. "Blackwater Draw Locality 1, New Mexico". Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  18. ^ Stine, "Climate and provenance variation across the mid-Pleistocene transition revealed through sedimentology, geochemistry, and rock magnetism of the Blackwater Draw Formation, Southern High Plains, Texas, USA",m Untangling the Quaternary Period. A Legacy of Stephen C. Porter, hrsg. v. Richard B. Waitt, Glenn D. Thackray, Alan R. Gillespie (GSA Special Papers 548)., 2021
  19. ^ Haynes, C. V. and G. Agogino, "Prehistoric Springs and Geochronology of the Clovis Site, New Mexico", American Antiquity 31, pp. 812-821, 1966
  20. ^ Boldurian, Anthony T., and George A. Agogino, "A REEXAMINATION OF SPRING DEPOSITED LITHICS FROM BLACKWATER DRAW LOCALITY NO. 1", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 27, no. 97, pp. 211–215, 1982
  21. ^ "Blackwater Draw Museum (Clovis) - 2019 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)". TripAdvisor.
  22. ^ "Meet the Team, Blackwater Draw". Blackwater Draw NHL and Museum, Portales NM.
  23. ^ "Blackwater Draw NHL and Museum, Portales NM". Blackwater Draw NHL and Museum, Portales NM.

Further reading[edit]

  • Agogino, George A., et al., "BLACKWATER DRAW LOCALITY NO. 1, SOUTH BANK: REPORT FOR THE SUMMER OF 1974", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 21, no. 73, pp. 213–23, 1976
  • Boldurian, Anthony T., and Susanne M. Hubinsky, "PREFORMS IN FOLSOM LITHIC TECHNOLOGY: A VIEW FROM BLACKWATER DRAW, NEW MEXICO", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 39, no. 150, pp. 445–464, 1994
  • Broilo, F.J., "An Investigation of Surface Collected Clovis, Folsom, and Midland Projectile Points from Blackwater Draw and Adjacent Localities", Master's thesis, Department of Anthropology, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, 1971
  • Hester, J. J., "Blackwater Locality No. 1. A Stratified Early Man Site in Eastern New Mexico, with Selections by E. L. Lundelius, Jr. and R. Fryxell" Publication of the Fort Burgwin Research Center, No. 8. Southern Methodist University, 1972
  • Patrick, R., "The Occurrence of Flints and Extinct Animals in Pluvial Deposits Near Clovis, New Mexico, Part V- Diatom Evidence from the Gravel Pit", Proceedings Philadelphia academy of Natural Sciences 90, pp. 15–24, 1938
  • Saunders, Jeffrey J., et al., "A Mammoth-Ivory Semifabricate from Blackwater Locality No. 1, New Mexico", American Antiquity, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 112–119, 1990
  • Saunders, Jeffrey J., et al., "A Mammoth-Ivory Burnisher-Billet from the Clovis Level, Blackwater Locality No. 1, New Mexico", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 36, no. 137, pp. 359–363, 1991
  • Seebach, John D., "Stratigraphy and Bonebed Taphonomy at Blackwater Draw Locality No. 1 during the Middle Holocene (Altithermal)", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 47, no. 183, pp. 339–358, 2002
  • Smith, Shirley, and George Agogino, "A COMPARISON OF WHOLE AND FRAGMENTARY PALEO-INDIAN POINTS FROM BLACKWATER DRAW", Plains Anthropologist, vol. 11, no. 33, pp. 201–03, 1966
  • Stevens, D., "Blackwater Draw Locality No. 1, 1963-1972, and Its Relevance to the Firstview Complex", Unpublished M A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, 1973

External links[edit]