|14 February 2004
Clovis Man turns 75, plus 13,000
Last week marked 75 years since a local amateur archaeologist discovered Clovis Man at Blackwater Draw, about 14 miles southwest of Clovis in eastern New Mexico (USA). Clovis people lived between 11,500 and 13,000 years ago. Since Clovis Man's discovery, evidence has surfaced that prehistoric man's first North American appearance may have been on the East Coast, but many researchers still favor Clovis Man as the oldest.
In the time of Clovis Man, Columbian mammoths and giant bison roamed the Plains with saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, giant horses, camels, giant ground sloths and big turtles. "The Columbian mammoth stood almost 14 feet at the shoulder, weighing 8 to 10 tons," said Matt Hillsman, curator of the Blackwater Draw Museum north of Portales. If Clovis Man hunted these mammoths, many companions may have helped haul the prey home. Maybe Clovis Man scavenged the mammoths, some have speculated.
"We don't know specifically what the Clovis Man ate. We don't know what he wore. We don't know what he looked like. We've never found any skeletal evidence of these people, but we know they were here" because they found arrow points made of flint in the skeletal remains of mammoths and bison. Radiocarbon dating of these arrow points and bones show Clovis Man is certainly the earliest known human occupant of this region, if not in North America. The earliest recorded finding of the arrow points and mammoth bones was on Feb. 5, 1929, by a 19-year-old man named Ridgley Whiteman.
Scientists believe Clovis Man also created the earliest water control system in the New World. Wells dug by Clovis Man have been found at Blackwater Draw that indicate climate fluctuations and variable water tables in one of the most stable spring-fed lakes of the past. Layers of sand that can be dated indicate Clovis Man dug these wells.
Hillsman said the importance of the find is that "Clovis man is the oldest well-documented evidence of early occupation" in North America.
Sources, Clovis News Journal, Corvallis Gazette-Times (11 February 2004)
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