Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump: Archaeological Review

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Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, located in Southwest Alberta, Canada, is one of the most well-known and to a great extent excavated runing sites known to day of the month from the Paleo-americans of the Late Archaic epoch. The site of turn overing hills is cut at its border by a looming sandstone drop that drops off towards the E. This coastal interruption gives itself to the crude hunting technique of mass self-destruction basically, but for Paleo-Indians, it is a excess of bison meat necessary for their endurance.

The bison that one time wandered the North American fields in incalculable figures, were critical to the native manner of life. However, one time discovered how much could be benefited from the add-on of these animals into ancient civilizations, their population figure became factorable.

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For many old ages native people of the Great Plains hunted the North American bison, ensuing in the dependent life style on runing the bison, and farther explicating the legion runing techniques Paleo-americans adapted to prolong their support ( Frasier ) . Without a uncertainty the most intricate of technique designs developed to kill the bison was the ill-famed American bison leaps ( Agenbroad ) .

The lands were free and plentiful of natural resources prefering the booming bison population. Sounds of grass blowing in the air current and occasional bird calls resonate the lands presents ; nevertheless, for many old ages long ago, this topographic point echoed with the noise of frightened American bison rushing to their at hand deceases. The sight from the sandstone drops, now so peaceable, would on these cases have been blanketed with fume and soil torn up by 1000s of stampeding hooves ( Agenbroad ) .

The clean odor of the adust prairie would hold disappeared afore the shocking gross outing olfactory property of death. In these exhilarating and awful times of bison hunting, the fantastic topographic point now called Head-Smashed-In would be hardly recognizable.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the most old and most good preserved archaeological sites of this design. Its luxuriant thrust lane composite and archeological sedimentations still good together are of a few grounds why it is resounded so particular in the archaeological community of today. The timeline of this site follows severally from 3,600BC, so periodically to 900BC, and in conclusion, repeatedly one time more get downing 200AD to 1850 ( Arthur ) .

Since its innovator geographic expedition of 1938, it has been an point of regular diggings since 1960 which has significantly improved the cognition of prehistoric equipment and engineerings, and most of all, enriched ideas on the use of game as nutrient along with vesture.

The American bison leap appears modest plenty in thought, which is acquiring a clump of bison to leap off a drop all together in unison. However, for transporting out the process, the demand of a creativeness, doggedness, and an advanced sum of directorial accomplishment is a immense factor in the equation. Hunters had to be really much so in harmoniousness with the animate beings nature and cognize what they were believing, upwind elements like air current way, every bit good as local topography ( Brink ) . Aside from the action of the bison leap, “spiritual observations ever preceded the event” ( Frasier ) .

Now to the West of the drop dwells a monolithic drainage basin 40km in stretch ( Duke ) . This country is a premier croping country with abundant sums of H2O with assorted grasses, which therefore attracts bison and animate beings likewise tardily into autumn before winter season breaches the lands. To get down the art of the Hunt, immature athletic work forces referred to as “buffalo smugglers, ” would entice the bison herds to drag them by miming the whining of a calf in hurt ( Arthur ) .

The bison would so district in closer and closer to the driving lanes following the sound of the whining calf, this basically corralled up the bison towards the drop ( Rafferty ) . The huntsmans so basically get down a terror for the bison shouting and beckoning their custodies frightening them and acquiring them rushing. Now as the bison began to stampede consecutive towards the border of the Cliffside, the taking bison would recognize excessively late what is fast approaching ( Frasier ) .

They would seek to halt from traveling over, but from the pure weight of the herd unrelentingly stacking up behind them would coerce the bison to rain down over the drop ( Frasier ) . The drop itself is approximately 300m long, and at its highest point drops 10m into the vale below ( Huck ) .

One can visualize the sight on the level evidences below the drops as the bison piled up in grisly hills. Down below the drop putting to death site are profoundly buried layered sedimentations that contain cogent evidence of usage dating back more than 6,000 old ages ago ( Agenbroad ) . These sedimentations contain cumulative beds of rocks, soil, and assorted rubble and of class, bison castanetss, which is referred to as “loess” ( Huck ) .

During the many old ages of use, the loess accumulated to a ample deepness. Artifacts unearthed in the putting to death site zone included the “stone tools and sharpening flakes, 1000s of rock points, dart points and arrow heads” used to complete off the last of the still keeping on but now immobilized bison ( Huck ) .

Now back to the level land straight following below the putting to death site was where these skilled huntsmans and their households sleep out while they completed butchering the bison ( Arthur ) . The level land is spotted with Tipi rings that originally held tipis up can still be seen down on the prairie degree.

Just like mentioned in category, big campgrounds for processing was where waiting adult females and kids hung out here and would get down the undertaking of butchery and clambering the bison, drying much of the meat, grating fells and originating the tonss of other undertakings that turned bison into nutrient, vesture and shelter ( Rafferty ) . “Large leg castanetss were smashed to take the alimentary marrow, and the legion boiling cavities excavated by archeologists in this country indicate these broken castanetss were besides boiled to render grease” ( Arthur ) .

The last recorded usage of Head-Smashed-In as a American bison leap was in the center of the 19th century. At this clip, Equus caballuss and guns had revolutionized traditional bison-hunting imposts, so much so that by the closing of the 1800s the species was really on the threshold of riddance all together ( Brink ) .

One might believe Head-Smashed-In was coined its name for the hapless bison that met their decease at the underside of the drop, but non precisely. Harmonizing to fable, the topographic point is named for a unwisely funny “Peigan young person that was pinned to the drop wall by the toppling bison, and subsequently discovered with his skull crushed” ( Huck ) . The leap is hence called “ where he got his caput smashed in ” ( Huck ) .

The deep down sedimentations of bison castanetss concealed at the underside of the drop embody the over 6,000 old ages or more of American bison leap by Paleo-Indians ( Brink ) . This scene is an exceeding design of subsistence hunting that persisted into the late 19th century and it sheds much visible radiation on the system of life and patterns of traditional hunting civilizations for this part every bit good as other parts likewise in the universe for this clip period. Bison Jumps were non something that would travel over really into today’s universe, but for the clip period it thrived it, it was a genuinely radical technique that aided in mankind’s endurance.


  1. Agenbroad, Larry D.The Hudson-Meng Site: An Alberta Bison Kill in the Nebraska High Plains. Washington, D.C. : Uracil of America, 1978. Print.
  2. Arthur, George W.An Introduction to the Ecology of Early Historic Communal Bison Hunting among the Northern Plains Indians. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1975. Print.
  3. Brink, Jack W. , and Bob Dawe. “ Hot Rocks as Scarce Resources: The Use, Re-Use and Abandonment of Heating Stones at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. ”JSTOR. 2003. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
  4. Duke, P. G.Points in Time: Structure and Event in a Late Northern Plains Hunting Society. Niwot, Co. : Uracil of Colorado, 1991. Print.
  5. Frasier. “ All About Bison ; Buffalo Jumps. ”All About Bison ; Buffalo Jumps: Detecting the Heritage of the American Bison. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
  6. Huck, Barbara. “ Site Profile: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. ”Alberta: How the West Was Young – Archeology and Pre-Contact – Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. University of Alberta, Dec. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
  7. Rafferty, Sean.Ancient Plains. Capital of new york: University at Albany. PPT.

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Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump: Archaeological Review. (2017, Jul 05). Retrieved from


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