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Welcome to

Blackwater Draw

in Black and White

Blackwater Draw in Black and White is our inaugural online exhibit, and our very first in-person exhibit outside of the museum proper at our opening on December 4, 2017, in the Runnels Gallery on the ENMU - Portales campus. While we had the idea for the online exhibit first, hoping to make our website an enjoyable visit for anyone who stumbled across it, the evolution into a formal gallery event truly occurred as a surprise to us! 

It was one of those days where you're talking to someone-- or in our case, two someones-- and it just feels like you've somehow teleported into the greatest think tank ever. "What if we did this?" someone will start off. Then someone else chimes in, "Perfect, and then we can add this!" Someone else gets excited. "Oh! Or how about we have some of this!"

Before we even knew it, we had essentially planned the entire concept of Blackwater Draw in Black and White as a formal gallery show. Barbara Klapperich Senn is the curator of the gallery show, while Bryan Hahn helped facilitate the event from pretty much every other conceivable angle. Check out a brief history and some context for the online exhibit below.

The story of Blackwater Draw is long, and archaeologists choose to tell only part of it. We do this because of who we are as researchers and as scientists. Archaeologists are different from paleontologists because we only concern ourselves with the buried history that involves human beings. Sometimes this can be confusing, because at Blackwater Draw there are no human burials. However, that doesn't mean that there is no evidence of humans. We find campsites, lithic scatters (areas where chipped stone is found in clusters), projectile points, even some potsherds. But what we find more than anything else are the remains of animals that were killed by ancient hunters.


So even though those animals bones aren't human burials, archaeologists care about them. Every new discovery, every careful sweep of a brush over a painstakingly revealed mandible, or humerus, or rib, is another brightly colored thread of the rich tapestry of the prehistory of our area. Reconstructing this tapestry gives us treasured insights into the people who inhabited it 13,000 years ago.



Still, we never forget that beneath our oldest archaeological deposits, a mere 13,000 years in age, lie millions more years of the story of Blackwater Draw. And even more importantly, we must always remember that the story continues today, with us.

So when Ridgley Whiteman, a skinny kid of only 19, stumbled across a Clovis point in proximity to a mammoth bone in 1929, kicking off a chain of events that would change the archaeological world as we knew it... well.


He turned the page, and started a new chapter.


Our exhibit features photos from many of the 85 years of archaeological investigations at Blackwater Draw. Blackwater Draw was first excavated in 1932, and one of our oldest photos is of "a view northwest from the south pit" from 1933! We continue throughout the decades, highlighting things we found to be interesting, funny, or just plain old weird. Our most recent photo is from 1998.


Sometimes, we don't know a lot about a photo. With over 5,000 in our archive, it can be frustrating for us that fewer than 10% of those are labeled, and fewer still are clear enough for our staff to recognize faces. That said, we hope that some of you will be able to help us fill in the blanks. If you're local, just checking out the exhibit, maybe you know someone in a photograph. If you're from the other side of the country, even the world, maybe you can help us with other details. Heck, we aren't picky! We would love to hear what you have to say, even if it's just to tell us you liked (or maybe even loved?) us, or that you think we could work on something. Any comments can be submitted through our "Contact" page on the main navigation bar at the top of this page.

Check out the photos below!

To view the slideshow full-sized, click on the image and the black-screen display will open up. Text will be smaller in the full-size slideshow. Each photo will have as much information included as we know about it at this time. The problem with photography is that sometimes we forget that our subjects will be unknown to many of our viewers, or that we will someday forget what we were seeing, thinking, doing when the shutter released. (Remember, this is long before digital!)


Archaeological photography is no different. We know better; really, we do... but sometimes, the information simply never gets logged. If you know someone or can help us narrow down dates (even if you just recognize a car!) let us know. The more we know, the more we can share with our visitors.

A note on "authorship": Photography exhibits usually include an artist-- the person who took the photograph. That is a rare bird indeed in archaeology, because generally photos are being taken for documentary purposes. Many archaeologists couldn't even tell you who manned the camera on any given day. When we have this information, we share it, but mostly we try to give you anecdotes and information to help you appreciate the great story of Blackwater Draw.


Thank you for visiting- enjoy! 

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