Buffalo Jumps & Kill Sites
Try Ancient Bison for more information.
Wednesday May 29th 1805.
-Today we passed on the Stard. side the remains of a vast many mangled carcases of Buffalow which had been driven over a precipice of 120 feet by the Indians and perished; the water appeared to have washed away a part of this immence pile of slaughter and still their remained the fragments of at least a hundred carcases they created a most horrid stench. In this manner the Indians of the Missouri distroy vast herds of buffaloe at a stroke; for this purpose one of the most active and fleet young men is scelected and 〈being〉 disguised in a robe of buffaloe skin, having also the skin of the buffaloe’s head with the years and horns fastened on his head in form of a cap, thus caparisoned he places himself at a convenient distance between a herd of buffaloe and a precipice proper for the purpose, which happens in many places on this river for miles together; the other indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all shew themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffaloe; the disguised indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently nigh the buffaloe to be noticed by them when they take to flight and runing before them they follow him in full speede to the precepice, the cattle behind driving those in front over and seeing them go do not look or hesitate about following untill the whole are precipitated down the precepice forming one common mass of dead an mangled carcases; the 〈Indian〉 decoy in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranney or crivice of the clift which he had previously prepared for that purpose. the part of the decoy I am informed is extreamly dangerous, if they are not very fleet runers the buffaloe tread them under foot and crush them to death, and sometimes drive them over the precepice also, where they perish in common with the buffaloe. –
The buffalo jump was used for 5,500 years by the indigenous peoples of the plains to kill buffalo by driving them off the 11 metre (36 foot) high cliff. Before the late introduction of horses, the Blackfoot drove the buffalo from a grazing area in the Porcupine Hills about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of the site to the “drive lanes”, lined by hundreds of cairns, by dressing up as coyotes and wolves. These specialized “buffalo runners” were young men trained in animal behavior to guide the buffalo into the drive lanes. Then, at full gallop, the buffalo would fall from the weight of the herd pressing behind them, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. The cliff itself is about 300 metres (1000 feet) long, and at its highest point drops 10 metres into the valley below. The site was in use at least 6,000 years ago, and the bone deposits are 12 metres (39 feet) deep. After falling off the cliff, the buffalo carcasses were processed at a nearby camp.
The camp at the foot of the cliffs provided the people with everything they needed to process a buffalo carcass, including fresh water. The majority of the buffalo carcass was used for a variety of purposes, from tools made from the bone, to the hide used to make dwellings and clothing. The importance of the site goes beyond just providing food and supplies. After a successful hunt, the wealth of food allowed the people to enjoy leisure time and pursue artistic and spiritual interests. This increased the cultural complexity of the society.
In Blackfoot, the name for the site is Estipah-skikikini-kots. According to legend, a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff from below, but was buried underneath the falling buffalo. He was later found dead under the pile of carcasses, where he had his head smashed in.
World Heritage Site
Head-Smashed-In was abandoned in the 19th century after European contact. The site was first recorded by Europeans in the 1880s, and first excavated by the American Museum of Natural History in 1938. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1968, a Provincial Historic Site in 1979, and a World Heritage Site in 1981.
The park was established as a World Heritage Site in 1981 for its testimony of prehistoric life and the customs of aboriginal people.
Legend of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”. Bison in Mythology and Religious Ritual. University of Calgary, the Applied History Research Group. 1997. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
^ UNESCO. “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”. Retrieved 2006-01-10.
Some exciting news (Jan 13 2047) just published: Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside. Royal Alberta Museum archaeologists dug up a 1,600-year-old roasting pit at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta. This photo shows the preservation of the pit and plaster jacketing being started.
The roasting pit was first discovered in 1990, but archaeologists didn’t excavate it until last year, before packing it up and moving it to Edmonton. The oven was intact and still had a prepared meal inside, which could make it the only known artifact of its kind.
Two years after floods tore through communities across southern Alberta, archeologists are still exploring what was unearthed by the raging water.
At FM Ranch, an ancient bison jump just south of the Calgary city limits, the flood exposed “thousands and thousands” of bison bones, and significantly changed a major archaeological resource for the better.
“There’s no question we lost a lot (in the flood). But, there’s a silver lining in the fact the new exposures have revealed hundreds of previously undiscovered sites,” said Darryl Bereziuk, director of the archaeological survey unit of Alberta Culture and Tourism.
Students from the University of Calgary’s archeology department joined archaeologists with Alberta Culture and Tourism at the site on Thursday afternoon to excavate animal bones and artifacts including stone tools and ancient pottery.
“It’s really quite a fascinating and interesting spot,” Bereziuk said.
“You can stand there and envision a bison jump having occurred, with bison at the bottom of the slope and all the processing activities: bison butchering, boiling pits, stone toolmaking.”
Almost immediately after the 2013 flood, the province started getting calls from members of the public stating they’d found “bones hanging out” or unearthed stone tools along southern Alberta riverbanks.
The province launched a three-year archeological flood recovery program, and staff began following up on tips, surveying river banks, identifying what was lost, and scouring the new sites that have been revealed.
After flood waters walloped the FM Ranch site, citizens turned to a provincial website and phone number in droves to report new archeological discoveries.
“Of all the calls we’ve received through our Report a Find hotline, the FM Ranch site was by far the largest reported,” Bereziuk said.
At the site, flood waters exposed significant new deposits, and archeologists have spent the past two weeks assessing the site and excavating certain portions.
“The new exposures show that the site is so much larger than what we had originally protected. We’re trying to get a handle on how extensive the site deposits are so we can expand our protective boundaries,” Bereziuk said.
He said it’s important the protective boundaries around FM Ranch be expanded to prevent any kind of developments in the future from affecting the archeological sites.
“Archeological sites are extremely sensitive to both natural and cultural disturbances. It’s a non-renewable resource. We’re not making any new sites. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever,” he said.
“These sites, each of them preserve a record of the human history of Alberta that we’re really striving to save. It’s a legacy for all Albertans.”
Uncovering secrets: Ancient southern Alberta hunting site: published Jan 2015
We marvel at the secrets hidden in our backyard!
In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features telling human stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area. We will share these sites in monthly installments, beginning with an archaeological excavation on grazing land east of Lethbridge, which has uncovered an ancient hunting site dating back circa 2,500 years.
To help archaeologists determine the full story of artifacts, they need to study them where they were originally left and eventually buried. The site in question had previously been disturbed by human activity, making it critical for archaeologists to obtain a government permit in order to excavate undisturbed areas, before valuable information was lost forever.
Shawn Bubel, archaeology professor at the University of Lethbridge, along with U of L and Red Crow College students, discovered that a group of hunters had killed at least 65 bison at this site. Stone tools and projectile points, thousands of animal bones and teeth, debris from tool making processes, and fire-broken rock all indicated that the hunt would have taken place in the fall.
The shape of the Besant projectile points indicated hunters were using darts, a technological improvement over the spear. The shorter shafts, thrown with the aid of a throwing stick called an atlatl, made for a very efficient tool with increased accuracy and power. The majority of points were made from Knife River Flint quarried in North Dakota, and a few of Obsidian from the Yellowstone area, revealing travel to, or trade with, people in those areas. The fire-broken rock shows that at least some of the meat was processed on site. Rocks heated in a fire were dropped into water boiling pits to extract grease from the animal bones. The grease was added to dried bison meat and possibly dried berries to make pemmican, easily stored for later consumption. Several unusual arrangements of bones were found placed vertically, in precise patterns, and are thought to have had a ceremonial function.
More information about this exhibit, including images, is available at http://www.galtmuseum.com.
Your old photos, documents and artifacts might have historical value. Please contact Galt Museum & Archives for advice before destroying them.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is a provincial park in Central Alberta, Canada, located about 103 km (64 mi) southeast of Red Deer and 16 km (9.9 mi) east of Trochu. The park is situated along the Red Deer River and features badlands topography. Its name derives from the large plateau in the middle of the park, 200 m (660 ft) above the Red Deer River, which has never been developed by humans and retains virgin prairie grasses.
The park is situated at an elevation ranging from 720 m (2,360 ft) to 875 m (2,871 ft) and has a surface of 34.5 km2 (13.3 sq mi).
The park is the site of an ancient buffalo jump, where Cree native people drove bison over the cliffs in large numbers to provide for their tribes. The hills also contain unique flora and fauna that are not found this far east of the Rocky Mountains in as large numbers as at Dry Island.
The park contains the most important Albertosaurus bone bed in the world, which was first discovered by Barnum Brown in 1910 and rediscovered by Dr. Phil Currie in 1997. The bone bed excavation was halted at the end of August, 2005. Dr. Currie left the Royal Tyrrell Museum in October 2005 to become the Canada Research Chair with the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Alberta. Under university auspices, excavation at the bone bed has continued in the summers of 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation & Culture. “Activities in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park”. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
Ross Buffalo Jump, southern Alberta
Ulm Pishkun Ulm, Montana
Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump is likely the largest buffalo jump in the world. It was used by the Native Americans in the area between 900 and 1500 AD. The cliffs themselves stretch for more than a mile and the site below has compacted bison bones nearly 13 feet (4.0 m) deep. Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump is located in First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park in Cascade County, Montana, north-northwest of the community of Ulm. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park in Cascade County, Montana in the United States. The park is 1,481 acres (599 ha) and sits at an elevation of 3,773 feet (1,150 m). It is located about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northwest of the small town of Ulm, which is near the city of Great Falls.
First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park contains the Ulm Pishkun (also known as the Ulm Buffalo Jump), a historic buffalo jump utilized by the Native American tribes of North America It has been described as, geographically speaking, either North America’s largest buffalo jump or the world’s largest. There is some evidence that it was the most utilized buffalo jump in the world. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1974. The former name of the park was derived from the Blackfeet word “Pis’kun,” meaning “deep kettle of blood,” and the nearby town of Ulm.
Although there are more than 300 buffalo kill sites in Montana, First People’s Buffalo Jump is one of only three protected buffalo jumps in the state. The other two are Madison Buffalo Jump near Three Forks, and Wahkpa Chu’gn near Havre (both of which are also on the National Register of Historic Places).
Madison Buffalo Jump: Threeforks, Montana
Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park in Gallatin County, Montana in the United States. The park is 638 acres (258 ha) and sits at an elevation of 4,554 feet (1,388 m). The park is named for a canyon cliff used by Native Americans as a buffalo jump, where herds of bison were stampeded over the cliff as an efficient means of slaughter. This limestone cliff was used for 2,000 years by Native Americans.
Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is a day use-only park. It is open year-round for hiking, wildlife observation, and some picnicking. There is an impressive 3-D reconstruction of Charles M. Russell’s painting of a buffalo jump on display at the Helena State Capital Museum, Helena, Montana.
The buffalo jump at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park was used by numerous Native American tribes for approximately 2000 years, dating as far back as 500 B.C. and ending around 1750 A.D. The indigenous peoples stampeded the herds of bison off the cliff without the aid of horses or guns. They used the bison for food, clothing, provisions and shelter. The bison were forced into a stampede by young men known as runners.
The runners were trained for endurance and speed. The bison were also forced into groups by linear cairns and logs that were placed to funnel the bison into specific locations on areas in behind the cliff face. The introduction of the horse to North America by European explorers and settlers brought about the end of the buffalo jumps. The State park has not changed much over the years; bone shards are still scattered at the base of the cliff and tepee rings still gather around the top.
The buffalo jump along the Madison River was used by numerous tribes including the Hidatsa, Shoshone, Lakota, Dakota, Nez Perce, Bannock, Arapaho, Salish, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Gros Ventres, Cree and Assiniboine. The families of the runners from the tribes would camp at the base of the cliffs. From there they were able to process the bison. The meat was used for food and the meat that was not eaten right away was dried. Skins were used for tipis and horns and bones were used for various types of tools. Markings on many of the bones indicate that foul play was a possible cause of death.
Atlas Obscura Feb. 2017
Madison Buffalo Jump
For thousands of years, Native American hunters drove buffalo straight off this cliff in Montana’s Yellowstone Country.
The native tribes hunted their prey without guns or even horses, but by strategically using the natural landscape. A young boy would dress in the pelt of a buffalo calf and lure the animals to the edge of the cliff, while athletic young men trained as runners would shepherd the herd from behind. The bison would plummet to their deaths in a frenzy. At the bottom of the hill, pelts, meat, and bones could be harvested from the fallen animals.
The Madison buffalo jump was utilized by tribes from across the plains. The Hidatsa, Shoshone, Lakota, Dakota, Nez Perce, Bannock, Arapaho, Salish, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Gros Ventres, Cree and Assiniboine all used this cliff to hunt bison, sometimes simultaneously, which required cooperation between peoples despite their cultural differences.
Plains Indians who had never before used horses or guns began using them to hunt when westward expansion brought these goods to the tribes. The buffalo jump method of hunting waned in the mid-17th century, though the site remained significant to the tribes who had used it in their past.
Too Close For Comfort Site and Olsen-Chubbuck Bison Kill Site.
Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump State Historical Monument Park and Center. LewisAndClarkTrail.com
Madison Buffalo Jump State Monument”. Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. June 1, 1995. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
a b “Madison Buffalo Jump State Park”. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Montana Official State Travel Site
Nestled in the shadow of the Bear Paw Mountains, on the road to everywhere in north central Montana, WAHKPA CHU’GN (pronounced walk-pa-chew-gun) is the most extensive and best preserved Native American hunting ground buffalo bone deposit in the northern Great Plains.
Dating to 2,000 years ago, visitors are given a chance to view up close, with no glass cases or “incredible simulations,” extensive Native American material and buffalo bone remains. This is NOT a sterile museum or tourist trap. Wahkpa Chu’gn is a real historical site. Search the National Register of Historic Places using the site number 1974-12-30, site name “Too Close For Comfort Site” or the location of Havre, Montana.
You get to see actual archaeological excavations, with a 20 foot wall of buffalo bones, buffalo skulls and Native American arrowheads. All left where they were found by the archaeologists for you to experience.
Sarpy Creek Kill Site: Crow Reservation, Montana. (Billings Gazette)
In Oct of 2014, Billings Gazette paper read: 2,000-year-old bison bone site mired in controversy.
The enormous bone bed they left behind, salted with hundreds of projectile points that may have been used in the kill, is now part of the Crow Reservation. Enough bison fragments were removed to nearly fill a semitrailer. A pile of bones the archaeologists considered “redundant” material, unlikely to add significant information to the samples already collected, remains near the scar left by the excavation. Early estimates said 30,000 pounds of bone and 13,000 pounds of fire-cracked rock lay in the bone bed.
“The site was sacred, he said. Rituals had been performed”.
Pretty On Top
Henry smith Kill Site, Montana (Along the Big Bend of the Milk River)
In April 2015, the NOC partnered with the BLM HiLine District Office in Montana to collect imagery over the Henry Smith archaeological site near the small town of Malta. The Henry Smith and Beaucoup sites are located in the Big Bend of the Milk Cultural Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which encompasses nearly 2,000 acres in north-central Montana. Both sites are dominated by the presence of an Avonlea-period cultural resource complex, including a buffalo kill site, prehistoric drive lines, ground figures (both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic), habitation sites, and medicine wheels. The project also included a first-of-its-kind prescribed burn over a known cultural site to remove vegetation so that a more thorough and accurate aerial mapping mission could be accomplished. Products derived from this project include digital surface models and orthophotography.
Orthophoto mosaic derived from UAS-collected imagery, Henry Smith archaeological site. North is oriented toward the top of the image.
BLMHiLine District archaeologist Josh Chase walks around the perimeter of a teepee ring in the site near Malta. It can be distinguished from other features by it’s size, typically 16-23 feet in diameter.
Nomadic groups of people were lifting and moving large stones to create drive lines, cairns, vision quest sites and — most unusual of all — outlines of animal and human figures. Ancient artisans were also chipping animal hoof prints and other symbols into boulders.
The densest collection of these features, along with numerous teepee rings and tool and arrowhead artifacts, are crowded onto a parcel of Bureau of Land Management acreage known as the Henry Smith site.
Casey Page/Gazette Staff, read more
“This hike was on private land, so I obtained permission from a couple ranchers several days before setting off on the walk. I wanted to explore the buffalo jump before it warmed up enough for rattlesnakes to come out, and then walk a loop that included climbing each of the four buttes. So I left Helena at 4:45 am on a Saturday morning a couple days after school let out for the summer, drove the 85 miles, put my snake gaiters on, and started hiking. The kill site exceeded my expectations – It was much more impressive than the few developed buffalo jumps that I’d visited. ”
Thanks to Rodney Benson, for sharing his adventure and allowing me to publish it.
So much more to read, the past & present. I suggest, you may want to check out their site.
History, Educational Programs, Facilities Concept, Exhibited Building. and much more!
Vore, Crook Co WY
The Vore Buffalo Jump is an archeological site in Crook County, Wyoming. A sinkhole, formed where gypsum soil was eroded, leaving a steep-sided pit about 40 feet (12 m) deep and 200 feet (61 m) in diameter. Native American hunters could stampede bison in the direction of the pit, which was deep enough to kill or disable the animals that were driven into it. The location is one of a number of buffalo jump sites in the north central United States and southern Canada. The Vore site was used as a kill site and butchering site from about 1500 AD to about 1800 AD. Archeological investigations in the 1970s uncovered bones and projectile points to a depth of 15 feet (4.6 m). About ten tons of bones were removed from the site. About five percent of the site has been excavated, and the pit is estimated to contain the remains of 20,000 buffalo.
Bison bones in an excavation in the bottom of the buffalo jump. Lithic evidence suggests that the Kiowa and Apache used the site as they migrated southwards to their modern home in the Texas-New Mexico region. Later peoples using the Vore site included the Shoshone, Hidatsa, Crow and Cheyenne.
The site was discovered during the construction of Interstate 90 in the early 1970s. Located on the Vore family ranch, the site was to be crossed by the Interstate. Exploratory drilling in the sinkhole yielded quantities of bison bones. The University of Wyoming was notified of the potential archeological site and the road was moved to the south. The site was investigated in 1971 and 1972 by Dr, George Frison of the University of Wyoming. In 1982 the site was transferred to the University by the Vore family with the stipulation that it be developed as a public education center within twelve years. Funding limitations prevented development, so the site was again transferred to the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation, which has built a small interpretive center and provides interpretive services. The Vore site is located in a narrow strip of land between I-90 and US 14. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
1. ^ a b “National Register Information System”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
2. ^ a b “Vore Buffalo Jump”. Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
3. ^ a b “About the Vore Buffalo Jump”. Vore Buffalo Jump. Vore Buffalo Jump Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
4. ^ Gade, Gene. “Tribes That (Probably) Used The Vore Buffalo Jump Part 1”. Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
5. ^ Gade, Gene. “Tribes That (Probably) Used The Vore Buffalo Jump Part 2”. Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
6. ^ Gade, Gene. “Tribes That (Probably) Used The Vore Buffalo Jump Part 3”. Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
7. ^ Gade, Gene. “Tribes That (Probably) Used The Vore Buffalo Jump Part 4”. Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
8. ^ “History of the Project”. Vore Buffalo Jump. Vore Buffalo Jump Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
The photo shows an excavation unit at the Vore Buffalo Jump with some of the more than 20 layers of bison bone and other artifacts. The photo was taken during the post-discovery survey in 1971.
The variety of arrow point styles and stone types found at the Vore site provides inferential evidence that the “Jump” was used by multiple tribes.
April 11, 2016 — One of the world’s most significant bison kill sites will be among discussion topics on this week’s UW podcast, “The University of Wyoming Today.”
Charles Reher, professor in the UW Department of Anthropology, will discuss the history and significance of the Vore Buffalo Jump site in northeastern Wyoming.
In other segments, UW Cultural Programs Director Janelle Fletcher will explain why many world-class acts continue to perform in Wyoming, and coordinator Tanner Parmely will discuss the merits of earning an MBA degree.
To listen to the podcasts, go to www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/podcast/index.html or click on the link provided in the left-column navigation on the UW News home page. You can listen to the podcasts by clicking the link on the page, or subscribe to the RSS feed, which will deliver the podcast link to you via email each week. You also can click on the iTunes link and listen to or subscribe to the podcast there.
New podcasts are scheduled weekly and will be updated with new episodes every Thursday.
Level of Significance National Areas of Significance Prehistoric/Science
Resource Type Restricted site.
Period of Significance 1000-500 AD 1499-1000 AD 1749-1500 AD 1900-1750 AD
Historic Function Agriculture/subsistence
Current Function Agriculture/subsistence
Plains Anthropologist © 1970 Plains Anthropological Society
The Glenrock Buffalo Jump, 48CO304 is part of a Late Prehistoric period buffalo procurement complex in central Wyoming along the south side of the North Platte River. Operation of the jump required controlled movements of buffalo herds for as far as one to three miles before they were finally stampeded over a bluff 40 feet high. The effective width of the bluff was small and as a result the herd had to be under control during the final stampede as well as the initial drive. Good bone preservation in much of the site allowed recovery of large samples for analysis and in addition large numbers of simple but functional tools were found in context. Marks that reflected a number of butchering operations appeared repeatedly suggesting stylized methods, and from this a model of Late Prehistoric butchering is postulated which needs further testing in other mass butchering contexts.
Big Goose Creek, Sheridan, Wyoming
The Wardell Buffalo Trap, Pinedale Wy in Sublette County, Wyoming is a small box canyon used by Native Americans
for 500 years during the Late Prehistoric Period. Nearly 55 feet of bison bones were found at the site. A campsite and butchering area is located nearby, and evidence has been found for a fence at the entrance to the canyon.
BLM Archaeologists revisit prehistoric Indian buffalo kill site
by Clint Gilchrist & Dawn Ballou (read more)
September 10, 2005
‘Organized chaos’ may be the best way to describe a group of Indians on foot driving a herd of 1500-pound wild bison at full speed for as much as a mile into a specially built corral of juniper and sagebrush and then killing them with bow and arrows. It would have taken a long time for full-grown, excited, angry bison to bleed to death from the small 1-2” stone arrowheads, giving them plenty of time to raise havoc.
It seems inevitable that people would get injured or killed during the drive or kill. But the danger was acceptable because the success of the fall hunt could be the difference between life and death for the whole group in the upcoming harsh Rocky Mountain winter. One thousand years ago, right here in our Upper Green River Valley, this very scene unfolded over and over again each fall not far from Big Piney.
Casper Bison Site
Hell Gap Bison Kill
Agate Basin Site
The Horner Site
850 Year Old Buffalo Jump In James River Valley,South Dakota (Aug 2016)
Archaeologists in the state are hoping to start excavating a bison kill site near Ree Heights later this summer.
Three years ago, a rancher noticed bison bones sticking out of a hillside near Ree Heights. Now a team of archaeologists are set to begin excavating the site.
Michael Fosha is the assistant state archaeologist for the State Historical Society.
“So what we’re looking at is populations were either driving these bison from on top of Ree Heights down into this existing slump, or what has normally occurs is people drive bison up slope into the depression. And it was enough of a depression to successfully kill quite a number of bison,” says Fosha.
Fosha says the time period makes the site unusual. He says most bison kill sites in the state date back to 3,000 years ago. The Ree Heights site is about 890 years ago.
Cibolo Creek, South Central Texas
Prior to European settlement, Cibolo Creek was referred to as Xoloton by the Coahuiltecan Indians. The Tonkawa called it Bata Coniquiyoqui, as noted by Father Damian Massanet, who referred to the creek as Santa Crecencia in 1691. It is thought that Coahuila Governor Alonso de Leon had one of the earliest encounters with the creek in 1689 while on the first Spanish entrada to explore the French-claimed lands believed to lie beyond the Nueces River. Records suggest a camp was set up on the creek, identified as Arroyo del Leon, coined from the discovery of a dead mountain lion along the banks. Explorer Domingo Terán de los Ríos named the creek San Ygnacio de Loyola in 1691 during an expedition and Domingo Ramón referred to it as San Xavier in 1716. The first known use of the term Cibolo came from Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo who identified the stream as Río Cibolo, or Cibolo River, in 1721. Cibolo is a Spanish and Native American term for American bison (buffalo),] which used to inhabit the area. The Native Americans are believed to have used the steeply banked bluffs along the creek as hunting grounds, chasing herds of buffalo into the bed where the creatures would fall to their deaths.
^ a b c Weinert, Willie Mae. “Cibolo, Texas”. Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 16 March 2010
^ a b c d “Cibolo Creek”. Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. February 22, 2010. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
^ Foster, p. 22
^ Bandelier, p. 132
^ Tarpley, p. 46
At the Bonfire jump-site in southwest Texas, archeologists found the bones of hundreds of buffalo that plunged over a cliff to their death on a massive pile of rocks. Native American hunters in the area had used the kill site as early as 12,000 years ago! It is clear, however, that prehistoric hunters did not stage mass kills frequently. They were once-in-a-lifetime events for the hunters. There was evidence of perhaps only four successful jump-kills at the Bonfire site over its long history. Many other times hunters must have tried and failed to trick the buffalo into “falling for” their plan.
There were other methods for mass kills. Prehistoric hunters also herded buffalo into enclosed areas, such as box canyons, or into corrals made of poles where they would kill the trapped animals.
Hunters herded the bison and drove them over the cliff, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. Tribe members waiting below closed in with spears and bows to finish the kills. The Blackfeet Indians called the buffalo jumps “pishkun”, which loosely translates as “deep blood kettle”. This type of hunting was a communal event which occurred as early as 12,000 years ago and lasted until at least 1500 CE, around the time of the introduction of horses. These hunts were never witnessed by European settlers. The broader term game jumps includes buffalo jumps and cliffs used for similarly hunting other herding animals, such as reindeer. The Indians believed that if any buffalo escaped these killings then the rest of the buffalos would learn to avoid humans, which would make hunting even harder.
Buffalo jump sites are often identified by rock cairns, which were markers designating “drive lanes”, by which bison would be funneled over the cliff. These drive lanes would often stretch for several miles.
Buffalo jump sites yield significant archaeological evidence because processing sites and camps were always nearby. The sites yield information as to how the Native Americans used the bison for food, clothing and shelter. Plains Indians in particular depended on the bison for their very survival. Every part of the animal could be used in some way: hides for clothes and shelter, bones for tools, sinews for bowstrings and laces. Hooves could be ground for glue, and the brains could be used in the tanning process for the hides. The extra meat was preserved as pemmican.
In one of his journals, Meriwether Lewis describes how a buffalo jump was practiced during the Lewis and Clark
Expedition: “one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin… he places himself at a distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose; the other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all show themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffalo; the disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight and running before them they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the Indian (decoy) in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranny in the cliff… the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous.
Source: A Buffalo Jump, Discovering Lewis and Clark, The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation
Mass Kills. Texas Beyond History.
Wednesday May 29, 1805. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Volume 4). Gary E. Moulton, Editor
Lake Theo – Texas, Folsom Bison Kill Site
Stone tool fragments were discovered in 1965 and 1972 on the shores of Lake Theo, named for former landowner Theodore Geisler. Archeological testing in 1974 revealed a campsite and bison butchering and processing area dating back to the age of Folsom man, between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Projectile points and scraping tools were found at a depth of four feet, along with over 500 bones from an extinct type of bison. Ponds in Holmes Canyon, now covered by Lake Theo, probably attracted prehistoric men to this area. (1978)
Lake Theo Folsom Bison Kill Site at the park became one of the most important archeological sites in the study of human-bison interactions. This 10,000-year-old archeological site yielded valuable information about Paleo-Indian culture and the methods used to hunt a now-extinct form of bison known as Bison antiquus. Bison leg and jaw bones were found in a manmade circular pattern at the site, illustrating the sacred, long-standing relationship between man and beast. The bones are on display at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.
Plainview points are Paleo indian projectile points dated between 10,000–9,000 Before Present. The point was named in 1947 after the discovery of a large cache of unfluted, lanceolate spear tips with concave bases that were found in a Bison antiquus kill site along the Running Water Draw river, near the town of Plainview in Texas. The point is found primarily throughout the South Plains, however, this range may sometimes be misidentified, as “Plainview” was previously used as a general term to describe unfluted lanceolate points throughout the entirety of the Plains, as well as the eastern Upper Mississippi Valley.
PLAINVIEW — It’s not quite an arrowhead, but not quite a spearhead.
The Plainview point is a weapon all its own. The device has been the subject of a giant body of research since a pair of Boy Scouts found the first of its kind in the mid-1940s.
At its location along Running Water Draw on the south-central side of town, check out an arrangement of newly planted hackberry trees. Soon, if plans proceed, the Plainview Point Kill Site will also contain a gazebo, brick terrace and herd of buffalo statues.
Nearby, a plaque and a Quanah Parker Trail arrow have stood for a few years now.
“It’s a registered archaeological site and a registered historical site, and we think if we can get this done we can pull some tourism,” Sam Van Hoose said. “And from an educational standpoint, for our kids, they can learn how people lived 8-9,000 years ago.”
Van Hoose teaches computer science at Wayland Baptist University and leads the university’s chapter of the worldwide, nonprofit service group Enactus. Wayland’s 12 or so Enactus members spent much of their free time at the park before the semester wrapped up, strategizing the project and planting the hackberry trees. They received the first three bison statues last week and anticipate the rest of the herd will arrive later.
The rest of the renovations committee consists of local civic leaders and other Hale Countians.
“I’m excited about it,” said Rodney Watson, director of Wayland’s Museum of the Llano Estacado.
Funding comes from various sources, said Andrew Freeman, Plainview’s assistant city manager and another committee member. The 19 trees, for instance, came from a grant, and the bison were purchased through money left over from a previous fundraising project.
The “draw” in Running Water Draw refers to a sharp elevation drop near the Plainview point collection site. Its jump now is a few feet or so; Van Hoose suspects it was steeper thousands of years ago.
The fall probably wasn’t enough to kill the bison Native American hunters chased off it, but it could at least break their legs. The hurt bison at that point made easy prey for the hunters’ spears.
That first documented Plainview point preceded a collection of others. Diggers eventually found more at the site; others of its kind were later found elsewhere in Texas and the Midwest and into the Northeast.
“The largest collection was found here,” Watson said. “Most tribes as they migrated, families would teach their kids how to make points. Through the generations, tribes that migrated tended to have similar points. Each one would have similar markings and (other) similarities.”
The Boy Scouts who found that original point presented it to one of their fathers, who agreed it seemed a significant find. He sent it to the University of Texas for testing. Longhorn researchers have since made at least two trips to the kill site for excavation projects, Van Hoose said.
The committee is raising funds to build a gazebo at the kill site. For more information or to make a donation, contact Van Hoose at [email protected]
Josie Musico / A-J Media
May 20, 2016
Flying W Guest Ranch: Sayre.Oklahoma
Has within its acreage a buffalo jump site documented as the largest and most complex bison kill site by Indians on the Southern Plains. At this site, the Plains Indians stampeded herds of bison over a cliff and into a canyon as an efficient means of slaughter. Archaeologists from the University of Oklahoma oversee the exploration and excavation at the Flying W Guest Ranch kill site, revealing the remains of an estimated 800 bison. The site is dated as being used by Native Americans between 300 BC and 300 AD.
600 YEARS OF BISON HUNTING At THE CERTAIN SITE FROM 300 BC TO AD 300 SPEAR WIELDING HUNTERS KILLED OVER 500 BISON IN THIS CANYON EARLY ON THE BISON WERE RUN OVER THE SANDSTONE CLIFF ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE CANYON BUTCHERING OCCURRED IN THE
CANYON BOTTOM AND SIDE GULLY LATER ON THE CANYON FILLED WITH SAND BURYING THE CLIFF AT THAT TIME BISON WERE RUN INTO THE FIVE SHORT DEAD END GULLIES AND KILLED BUTCHERING OF THESE ANIMALS OCCURRED IN THE SMALL GULLIES AND NEAR THE SPRING EXCAVATION BY ARCHAEOLOGIST AT THE OKLAHOMA ARCHAEOLOGIST SURVEY UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA HAVE IDENTIFIED AT LEAST SEVEN SEPARATE KILL EPISODES THE SIZE OF THE SITE AND NUMBER OF KILL EPISODES MAKE THIS THE LARGEST AND MOST COMPLEX BISON KILL SITE ON THE SOUTHERN PLAINS
Badger Hole, Oklahoma along Beaver River
Bison kill site in Harper County, Oklahoma. 10,500 year old Folsom Age site on a bluff near the Beaver River. Fifteen to 20 percent larger than modern bison, Bison antiquus bones make up the remains at the kill site. Skeletal remains of more than a dozen bison, some Folsom points — weapons used to kill bison — and some of the butchering tools Paleoindians used to cut up the animals. It dates back to right after the extinction of the mammoth at the end of the last ice age
The bison kill site at Jake Bluff, tentatively dated at about 10,750 years old, adds to a growing body of evidence that the Clovis had an eclectic diet and employed sophisticated hunting strategies. Two distinctive Clovis projectile points recovered at the site were fashioned of flint quarried in the Texas Panhandle, so the researchers know the group had traveled at least several hundred miles.
The bison kill site at Jake Bluff also adds to the evidence that as mammoth populations declined, Clovis hunting technology evolved accordingly.
Early mammoth hunters frequently preyed upon old, injured, or very young animals using the surround technique. The surround technique involved trapping an animal in a bog or swampy area, surrounding it, and spearing it to death. Only one or two animals were killed at a time, and the process could be extremely dangerous.
At Jake Bluff, hunters used the arroyo or nick point technique. A band of hunters herded 10 to 15 bison into a dead-end gully known as an arroyo; then, hunters sitting 8 to 10 feet (3 meters) above on the rim of the gully speared them.
Overkill versus Climate Change
Another point of contention is the role of the Clovis in the extinction of the large mammals of the Ice Age, sometimes referred to as megafauna.
When the Clovis first arrived, North America was home to mastadons, beavers the size of bears, giant sloths, camels, mammoths, and other large mammals. Less than 1,000 years later, these giant creatures were on the brink of extinction. Proponents of the overkill theory argue that the animals were hunted to extinction by humans.
Others argue that the extinction resulted from the loss of food and habitat associated with climate change.
“The [Jake Bluff] bison kill provides ample proof that Clovis people were actively hunting bison. Why didn’t they become extinct?” said Russell Graham, a paleontologist and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “We have no evidence that they were hunting camels or horses, or many of the other Ice Age megafauna that did become extinct.”
The find “puts another chink in the armor of the overkill fight,” he said. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/
The Jake Bluff Gully graphs. https://www.ou.edu/archsur/JakeBluff/jakebluff_res.htm
During the excavation of the Jake Bluff bison kill site (Bement and Carter 2010), an area of bison bone fragments was identified 50 m downstream from the Clovis and Folsom cultural manifestations and referred to as Jake Bluff East. Investigation into this deposit in 2004 identified a dispersed pile of butchered bison bone on a bench between two arroyos.
For more on this site please see K Carlson (roughly a 2 page paper with details of the findings)
Carlson and Bement report their findings in the journal PaleoAmerica.
The Cooper Bison Kill Site is an archaeological site near Fort Supply in Harper County, Oklahoma. It was explored in 1993 and 1994 and found to contain artifacts of the Folsom tradition, including arrowheads. It is believed that these artifacts are the results of hunters killing bison in an arroyo. The hunters of this culture found the site continuously useful; the known artifacts are believed to be the results of three different hunts.
Archaeology in America described the Cooper Site as “…a gully feeding the North Canadian River,” which contained evidence of three separate kills, with between twenty and thirty animals in each kill.[a] All three kills occurred during late summer or early fall, and each kill contained the remains of cows, calves and young bulls. Tools found at the site consisted only of projectile points and large flake knives.
The site has been dated to 10,900-10,200 BCE. In 2002, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A unique find at the site was that of a Bison antiquus skull, painted with a red zigzag. The Cooper Bison Skull is oldest known painted object in North America. The skull is currently in the collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the Norman campus of Oklahoma University. (source)
Bull Creek Paleoindian Camp, Oklahoma Panhandle
The Challis Bison Kill site and its associated Quill Cave provide one of the best-known archeological complexes in central Idaho. It has been an important site for the development of models of bison ecology and the role of the bison in the local native economy. It is in the National Register of Historical Places.
Bison Kill Site
Challis, Custer County
Location: Located near Land of the Yankee Fork Visitors Center, Challis, Idaho
Five Fingers Buffalo Jump SW Idaho
“Y” Buffalo Jump SW Idaho
In a 1976 paper, Agenbroad described the Five Fingers and “Y” Buffalo Jumps in southwestern Idaho. The features are described as Classic Plains Bison Jumps. This paper evaluates Agenbroad’s contention in view of the archaeological and ethnographic data for southwest Idaho as it relates to bison. Further, a recent reexamination of the faunal remains from the Five Fingers Jump is reviewed. The sites are interpreted as probable artiodactyl hunting facilities.
Blue Mound State Park, Minnesota (possible site)
Located in southwestern Minnesota on the Iowa and South Dakota borders. The cliff, one and one-half miles long and up to ninety feet high, appeared to be blue in color to the early Euro-American immigrants who saw it from a distance.
Plains Indians depended on the bison to survive. Different weapons were used to kill bison including the lance, and the bow and arrow. It is not known if the park’s quartzite cliffs were used by the Plains Indians to stampede the bison off the cliff. Local rumors have persisted for years on the existence of large quantities of bison bones piled at the base of the cliff.
No evidence exists today to substantiate these claims and stories. The large rock outcrop, first known as “The Mound,” has provided the park area with an exciting past. The cliff appeared blue to settlers going west in the 1860s and 1870s. They named the prominent landmark, the Blue Mound. The mystery of the Blue Mound is not restricted to the cliffs. At the Mound’s southern end is a 1,250 foot long line of rocks aligned in a east-west direction. Who built it and why is unknown. It is known that on the first day of spring and fall, the sunrise and sunset are lined up on this stone alignment.
Itasca, Minnesota Nicollet Creek
Jones-Miller Bison Kill Site, Colorado, in the northeast, was a Paleo-Indian site where Bison antiquus were killed using a game drive system and butchered. Hell Gap complex bones and tools artifacts at the site are carbon dated from about ca. 8000-8050 BC
Remains of 300 bison were found in an arroyo, or draw, above the Arikaree River basin. It was believed that the bison were strategically driven into an area difficult for the bison to traverse and easier to kill on three occasions. Because many of the animals were nursing calves, it is estimated that the kills occurred in late fall or winter.The bones from the bison kill were piled into many stacks, indicating that there were several butcher sites.
Folsom site in northern New Mexico designated by the Smithsonian trinomial 29CX1, is a major archaeological site about 8 miles (13 km) west of Folsom, New Mexico. It is the type site for the Folsom tradition, a Paleo-Indian cultural sequence dating to between 9000 BC and 8000 BC. The Folsom Site was excavated in 1926 and found to have been a marsh-side kill site or camp where 23 bison had been killed using distinctive tools, known as Folsom points. This site is significant because it was the first time that artifacts indisputably made by humans were found directly associated with faunal remains from an extinct form of bison from the Late Pleistocene. The information culled from this site was the first of a set of discoveries that would allow archaeologists to revise their estimations for the time of arrival of Native Americans on the North American continent.
A couple years ago I read that they estimated roughly 300 + sites….Sadly, I cannot find where I read that. In my search for it, I did come across a new site that was gracious enough to let me share some of their copyright protected material. [PNAS article & pictures, “Copyright (1998) National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.” ]
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Contributed by George C. Frison
The High Plains Paleoindian Chronology
Our knowledge of the chronology of Paleoindian hunting groups is based on stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates as well as on morphological and technological changes in weaponry and tool assemblages. The data are recovered in locations of human activity or sites named after a variety of situations, including their geographic locations, land owners, and individuals first credited with their discovery. Four stratified, multicomponent sites, Blackwater Draw in eastern New Mexico (16); Hell Gap in southeast Wyoming (17); Agate Basin in east central Wyoming (18); and Carter/Kerr–McGee in central Wyoming (19), complement each other in establishing and confirming the chronology. There are also numerous other sites with radiocarbon-dated dated components that augment this database (Fig. 1).
Locations of Paleoindian sites referred to in the text. 1, Agate Basin; 2, Blackwater Draw; 3, Carter–Kerr/McGee; 4, Casper; 5, Cattle Guard; 6, Colby; 7, Cooper; 8, Dent; 9, Finley; 10, Fletcher; 11, Folsom; 12, Hell Gap; 13, Horner; 14, Hudson–Meng; 15, James Allen; 16, Jones–Miller; 17, Lange–Ferguson; 18, Lindenmeier; 19, Lipscomb; 20, Mill Iron; 21, Olsen–Chubbuck; 22, Plainview; 23, Scottsbluff.
We do know that bison in Paleoindian times were larger and had different skull characteristics (Fig. 4 a andb) than the modern subspecies (Fig. 4 e and f). One important body of data on changes in Northern Plains bison comes from an arroyo kill radiocarbon dated at ≈6,500 years ago in the northeast Wyoming Black Hills with animals intermediate in size (Fig. 4 c and d) between modern bison and those of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene (31). The Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming during the period 8,000–5,000 years ago may have served as a refugium for bison while their numbers on the Plains declined. It is possible also that the Paleoindian bison hunting lifeway continued there during this period.
Male (a) and female (b) B. antiquus skulls; male (c) and female (d) 6,500-year-old intermediate type bison skulls; male (e) and female (f) Bison bison skulls.
This web site has quite a bit of info (Abstract, Faunal Studies, Prehistoric Hunting and more)
and, if you’d like further reading, here is their link.
Thank you PNAS.org