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Lecture 3

Anthropology 2100 Lecture 3: lecture 3

Course Code
ANTH 2100
Peter Timmins

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Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada
CBC Digital Archives: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Jump site to kill buffalo
Archaeological deposits at the bottom of remains and tools
Used 500 years before pyramids built
Displays show how the Natives needed them for survival
Buffalo jumps
o Young men dressed up in animal hide and went out into the herd. They made
imitation sounds of wolves or coyotes to make the buffalo split up
o Behind the rocks were men dressed in buffalo robes
The waved the robes so they wouldn’t come back
All the buffalo see is a continuous plain
They cannot stop because they are front heavy and run off cliff
Smashed head in refers to a guy standing against the cliff to see the buffalo fall over the
flic. However too many buffalo fell over the cliff and he was buried later he was found
with a smashed in head
There may be no other type of archaeological site that can match the drama, fire the
imagination and has a story as utterly compelling as that of a buffalo jump
Pictured: Head-Smashed-In Cliff in Alberta
Buffalos ran off cliff for food and shelter
Head smashed in buffalo jump located in southern Alberta
100 km south of Calgary
Canada and Alberta recognized it as a historic site
“The mother of all buffalo Jumps”
Touristic attraction made by Alberta
Head-smashed-in buffalo jump lies at the southern end of the Porcupine Hills

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Complex land requirement for buffalo kill site
Three main components
o The gathering basin
40 km in size
West of the kill site and jump
Attracted large amounts of buffalo
o The kill site
o The camp and processing area
George Catlin’s painting of hunters disguised as white wolves stalking a buffalo herd
o Boy imitate sounds of calve to draw herd in right direction
o This process would go on for several days
Drive lanes shapped as a V or funnel
o “the small rock clusters of the drive lanes show up as a line of faint hummocks
on the land as seen here just to the left of the person standing
Brink - Thinks that the rock clusters were too small to stand behind
If these stuctures were made of wood and branches then there wouldn’t
be much left of them today
The drive lanes leading to Head-smashed-in and the nearby Calderwood jump
o 20 drive lines some more then 8km long
As you look down the final run of the drive, the cliff disappears as the lower prairie
appears to merge with the uplands
A stampeding buffalo herd on the prairies can be felt, heard and seen from far away
There are no living eyewitnesses to describe the sights, sounds and smells of a herd of
bison plunging from a steep cliff
Aerial view of Head-Smashed-in
o sloping apron at the bottom of the cliff
o bison bones built up with each hunt
o with eroded sand stone and bones it is only 10 meters today
o in the alter years the biosin would only be injuried in later years so hunters wuld
have to kill them once they fell over
The camp location at head-smashed-in beside the buffalo jump
o Hides used as tipi covers
o Women making pemmican: A mixture dried buffalo meat, fat and berries
o Needed to cut the meat off the animals, haul them, store them, cook them
o Had to do this for 150 animals at a time so they needed a huge group of people
Beyond the work of butchering hundreds of large animals, camps at kill sites were places for
feasting and socializing
o This George Caitlin painting of a native camp shows people preparing hides on the
ground and on a rack
o Many hides were required for tipi covers
o Many bands had to get together for the buffalo hunts
o They were times of feasting, socializing, marriages, trading

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A small stone structure built on a high hill near Head-smashed-in was used by native people
to receive visions from the spirit world
o Similar structures are still made
o Done by specific people in the herd like shamin or medicine man
o Able to predict where the buffalo were
o Shamins who led successful hunts were allowed back for more hunts
Deep excavations conducted by Brian Reeves at Head-Smashed-In
o layers of white calcined bone
o kill site deposits were ten layers of buffalo bones and artifacts
o difficult to keep track of levels when excavating
o mysteries
o layers of burnt mold encountered
o thousands of bones sharred black
o archeaologists suggest they are burnt because of forest fires however the burnt
bones suggest intentional burning at high temperatures
o burning remains help with getting rid of smell
Part of the projectile point sequence on the northern Plains
o changed regularly throughout history
o can be traced throughout strata
o let us know the sequence of groups who used the site
o commonly found with wood and charcoal
o measured together to find the years the group was there
A late PaleoIndian Scotsbluff point found at Head-smashed-in in 1949
o farmer bulldowsed the area to help water cattle and it was found
o from style and other artifacts these points estimated to date between 9,500 and 9,000
years ago
o not found in kill site deposit
o tell us that people vist spot for thousands of years before they used it as a buffalo jump
o people think they may have driven them into the spring channel to then kill them
Excavation unit in the processing area showing a pavement of fire-broken rock
o Rock exposed to great heat
o Brink said he didn’t find one complete unbroken rock
o Soils all wind blown
o Most common rock was corsite
o The view from head-smashed-in southeast to the oldman river. Most of the fire-broken
rock as quartzite which was likely brought in from the Oldman river valley, 5km away
from the site
o They carried tones of rock to the site from the river
o The rock was probably used in stone boiling to render bone grease from broken
bison bones by boiling them in water
To render bone grease from the buffalo bones
Cross section of a boiling pit at head-smashed-in
It would have been lined with a buffalo skin that has long decayed
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