Blackwater Draw, Site #1
Who are the earliest Americans? 

From 1948 to 1956, a team of researchers from the Texas Memorial Museum excavated at Blackwater Draw, outside of Clovis, New Mexico. They were working on a question that occupies many New World archeologists…who were the earliest Americans?  Over the years, the efforts of Glen other researchers at this site have helped to establish that humans were in this area at least  13,350 years ago. The earliest widespread culture in North America was named for the nearby town of Clovis, New Mexico.

At the turn of the 20th century, scholars believed that Amerindians arrived in the Americas no more than 3,000 years ago. A spear point found between the ribs of an extinct prehistoric bison outside of Folsom, New Mexico in 1927 pushed that date back to 10,000 years before present.  Some researchers believe that the first visitors may have arrived in the Americas as much as 30,000 years ago

Blackwater Draw is a stratified site, which means that it contains distinctly different layers of soil that were deposited over a long time.

From 15,000 to 6000 years ago, there was an intermittent pond at Blackwater Draw. Humans came to the pond to hunt and drink. During dry times, a layer of culturally sterile (no human artifacts) soil separated the deposits with human evidences. Stacked one on top of another, succeeding cultures can be traced through time.

 
Bison bison by Hal Story
Bison bison
sketch by Hal Story

Bed C
Portales Culture (11,800 to 9,200 years ago)

Artifacts (man-made objects) from early paleoindian sites are usually stone or bone. We assume that these early cultures used plant and animal material to make everyday objects, but this material has not survived. Ceramic material has also not been found. Since this should have survived if there had been any, we can assume that early man in North America did not use pottery.

 
Bison antiquus by Hal Story
Bison antiquus
sketch by Hal Story

Bed B
Folsom Culture (12,500 to 12,000 years ago)

At the Blackwater Draw site, the Folsom culture layer is above the Clovis culture layer. Prior to this find, it was not known which culture was older. Archeologists have used the information from this site to date Folsom artifacts from other sites across North America.

 
Mammuthus columbi by Hal Story
Mammuthus columbi
sketch by Hal Story

Bed A
Clovis Culture (13,500 to 13,000 years ago)

The earliest widespread culture currently known was the Clovis culture. The evidence found at Blackwater Draw helps to date the Clovis culture. Blackwater Draw is the type site for the Clovis Culture.

The Clovis layer lies distinctly below the Folsom layer at Blackwater Draw. On this level, stone spear points were found next to very large animal bones. These people used the spear points to kill mammoths and Bison antiquus. Because archaeologists knew these very large animals (or megafauna) were extinct by the end of the Pleistocene era, they could infer people hunted at Blackwater Draw about 13,000 years ago.

Hand-dug wells 

Hand dug well

At Blackwater Draw are rare hand-dug wells one dating to 13,000 years old. The holes were dug using either turtle shells, or stones, bones and wood tools during a drought in Clovis times. The wells are dug down to the water bearing gravels. These wells represent  the earliest water control system in the New World.

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