Monthly Meeting

Join us May 15 for:

Paleoclimate, Playas, and
the Paleoindian Occupation of the Northern Jornada del Muerto

Chris Merriman

7:30 pm, May 15 2018

Albuquerque Museum, 2000 Mountain Rd NW

The Pleistocene-Holocene transition (~15,000-8000 BP) was a period of significant climate fluctuation, mass extinction, and human expansion into the New World.  Recently, much attention has been given to the effects climate change may, or may not, have had on Paleoindian hunter-gatherers–in particular the abrupt onset of near full glacial conditions during the Younger Dryas (12,900-11,700 BP).  This presentation will discuss these climate fluctuations in reference to the Paleoindian occupation of the Northern Jornada del Muerto (NJM) in eastern Socorro County, New Mexico.  Archaeologically this includes the Clovis, Folsom, Plainview, and Cody techno-complexes that respectively correspond in time with the Bølling-Allerød (B-A), Younger Dryas (YD), and Early Holocene (EH) climatic periods.  The topics addressed will include new paleoclimate records from playas (ephemeral lakes) in the NJM, the Paleoindian archaeological record represented by the Robert H. Weber Collection, and the shifts in Paleoindian foraging strategies in response to Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene climate change.  Stable isotope records from two playas in the NJM and speleothems from southeastern New Mexico indicate that there were abrupt transitions between the warm/dry B-A, the cool and wet YD, and the highly variable EH. The Weber Collection contains roughly 800 well documented and tightly provenienced Paleoindian projectile points from dozens of sites throughout the NJM, which allows for a big picture examination of Paleoindian occupation in relation to the paleoenvironmental setting.  Juxtaposing the paleoclimate and archaeological records demonstrates a strong correlation between Paleoindian settlement and mobility patterns and climatically driven shifts in surface water availability.

Christopher W. Merriman is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Mexico with research interests focused on human paleoecology, hunter-gatherer archaeology, lithic technological organization, geoarchaeology, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction.  His dissertation concerns Paleoindian responses to climate change in the Northern Jornada del Muerto in south-central New Mexico.  He is also engaged in ongoing research projects in the Maya Mountains and the Toledo District of southern Belize, as well as the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Mr. Merriman was the recipient of the 2015 Douglas King Memorial Scholarship, presented by the Albuquerque Archaeological Society.


The Albuquerque Archaeological Society is an avocational group that advocates preserving archaeological and other cultural resources by informing members and the public about archaeological and ethnological subjects through our meetings, presentations, newsletter, other electronic media, field trips, volunteer efforts, field surveys, and studies. Membership is only $25 for an individual or family, and it’s free to students with a Student ID or current class schedule. Membership puts you on our mailing list for our monthly newsletter, and gives you access to our field trips. However, our meetings are always free and open to the public, so come see what we’re all about!


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