Portales gets prehistoric

Linda Milbery of Portales sat beneath a tent in Blackwater Draw wearing a tear skirt and learning how to flint knap obsidian as part of the Prehistoric New Mexico Open House this Saturday.

After dulling one edge of the piece of obsidian with a grinding rock, Milbery used the sharp edge to smooth out a piece of wood that she was fashioning into walking stick.

"It's a chance to learn the old arts, the old techniques, the old crafts, some things I've been interested in my whole life," said Milbery.

Joshua Lucero: PNT Correspondent

Eastern New Mexico University student Ethan Ortega (far right) teaches attendees how to make yucca sandals Saturday at the Blackwater Draw dig site open house. The event is an expansion of Cultural Heritage month and shows the prehistoric past through tools, weapons and other artifacts.

Many of the attendees had an opportunity to try their hand at making something with these antiquated materials. In addition to flint knapping, people learned how to make sandals out of yucca and bracelets out of snail shells and thin yucca fibers.

Taylor Connell, a Portales student, took particular interest in the atlatl, an old hunting and battle spear-thrower, and got some practice throwing it at a target.

"It's fun to see how they hunted, how they'd eat to stay alive and get their food," said Connell.

Chuck Hannaford, an archeologist from Santa Fe's Museum of New Mexico, said that Blackwater Draw was the first archeological site to find human beings and mammoths and polycystine animals of the same time period in North America. Hannaford also served as the weapons expert and demonstrated how to use the atlatl as an offense while using a fending stick to ward off spears from an enemy.

Joshua Lucero: PNT Correspondent

Taylor Connell of Portales uses an atlatl Saturday at the Blackwater Draw dig site.

"If we want to get food, we go to the grocery store and there it all is," said Hannaford. "If I'm a hunter, where do I go in my environment to find the resources I need to make my stone tools? I need to know my environment intimately."

Stacey Bennett, a graduate student from Eastern New Mexico University, demonstrated the different types of containers for water, food, hunting, storage and traveling. According to Bennett, the yucca plant was frequently used as a material to make storage items while bamboo was used as a container for cooking. A woodpecker trap was also on display.

"If a woodpecker is inside a tree, you place the woodpecker trap on the outside of the tree and tap on the other side of the tree to make the woodpecker come out," said Bennett.

Tony Perez of Portales went to the Prehistoric Open House with his wife, an archeology student at ENMU. This is his first year at the Open House and he said the passion and knowledge that the archeologists have for their subject has inspired him to learn more about making some of the objects on display.

Joshua Lucero: PNT Correspondent

10-year-old Troy Coleman from Clovis digs for buried bones and artifacts with supervision from ENMU archaeology graduate student Ali Schipani (background) at Blackwater Draw.

"The average person may not have the need to make their own sandals or hollow out a gourd," said Perez, "I'd rather have that knowledge and not need it, than need it one day but not have it."

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