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Skull of a short-faced bear — he stood around 16 feet tall, ate only red meat, and was really fast! (Nancy Dunn – For the Daily Press)

A few of the pottery fragments found at the site. (Nancy Dunn – For the Daily Press)

New Mexico is great for many reasons, and I learned a few more the other night at the Artesia Public Library.

Blackwater Draw Museum curator Jenna Domeischel presented a lively and entertaining program on the significance of the site and — best of all — brought all sorts of bones, furs, pottery, and fun stuff that we could touch and handle!

The Blackwater Draw Museum and site in Portales is one of the longest-running excavation sites in North America. Archaeologists have been working there since bones were first uncovered by Dust Bowl winds in 1929.

It is THE reference point for the Clovis culture, the oldest culture of people in North America, and proves that humans existed at the same time as mammoths, bison, saber-toothed cats, short-faced bears, lions, dire wolves, giant sloths, camels, and horses. Most of these creatures were 20-30-percent larger than their modern versions, making it a time of giants!

Sandals made from yucca fibers. (Nancy Dunn – For the Daily Press)

The Blackwater Draw Museum recently moved into a new building on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University, where a lot of the cool bones and other objects excavated from the site are exhibited.

The actual excavation site is also open to be explored. It’s a nice trail that winds around the whole site, running a little over one mile. There’s a spot with actual excavation levels carved out so that visitors can see at what levels the bones, pottery, tools, and arrowhead points were actually found. There’s also the oldest well in North America — archaeologists have determined the well was dug by small children, who were dangled down into the hole while they worked!

The Blackwater Draw site is a National Landmark and is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, now until Labor Day. The hours change with the seasons, so check before you head out there. The museum is open year-round from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

For more information, visit www.bwdarchaeology.com or call 575-356-5235 (landmark site) or 575-562-2103 (museum).

Grinding corn is not easy! And this method explains why human skulls from this period have so many broken teeth: the sugars in the corn plus the stone fragments mixed in with the corn during the grinding process combined to destroy Clovis people’s teeth! (Nancy Dunn – For the Daily Press)

The skeletal paw of a short-faced bear, with a mammoth tusk fragment. The joints of the bear’s paw are very similar to human fingers — many people have mistaken them for human remains. (Nancy Dunn – For the Daily Press)