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Key Number: HS 17557
Site Name: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Other Names:
Site Type: 1910 - Archaeological Site

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
9 27 4


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Architectural

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Environment: The site is located on the southeast margin of the Porcupine Hills approximately 18 km west of Fort Macleod, Alberta. West of Ft. MacLeod on southeast edge of Porcupine Hills DkPj-I and DkPj-2. A steep slope along the porcupine hills and an associated campsite (Tipi rings, gathering basin, drive lanes and ceremonial site). 15.23 acres.
Condition: The area is primarily used for grazing and is generally compatible with the intention to develop Head-Smashed-In as a world class site. Very few visual impacts, mostly of a minor nature, exist at this time. Under excavation at present time (Jan. '74). Unfortunately 'pot-hunting' has robbed the site of some information and artifacts. The extent of this vandalism has not been assessed yet. A cairn was erected after initial excavations in 1948. Until recently the site was simply called 'the early man site'.
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History: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump constitutes the finest surviving example of such sites in the northern Plains. In use since ca. 3,500 B.C., it represents the ultimate development of a unique subsistence procurement system which allowed Native Albertans to master the harsh environment of the Northwestern Plains. The complex, consisting of a gathering basin, jump-off, and campsite, is the most complete known.

Under excavation at present time (Jan. '74). Unfortunately 'pot-hunting' has robbed the site of some information and artifacts.
The extent of this vandalism has not been assessed yet. A cairn was erected after initial excavations in 1948. Until recently the site was simply called 'the early man site'.
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A steep slope along the porcupine hills and an associated campsite (Tipi rings, gathering basin, drive lanes and ceremonial site).
Carbon 14 tests have indicated a date ca. 3700 B.C. It was probably used in a fairly continuous way until the mid 1800's. There are some artifacts at the campsite that suggest a culture not found at the jump.
Age: ca. 3700 B.C.

Historical Significance: The largest and oldest bison jump excavated in the Province of Alberta and on the Northern Plains; containing much valuable cultural information.
Historical Site.
Provincial Historic Resource in June 21, 1979.
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Encyclopedia > Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump located where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin to rise from the prairie 18 km northwest of Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada on highway 785, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum of Native American culture.

History
The buffalo jump was used for 5,500 years by aboriginal peoples of the plains to kill buffalo, by driving them off the 10 metre high cliff. The Blackfoot drove the buffalo from a grazing area in the Porcupine Hills about 3 kilometers west of the site to the "drive lanes," lined by hundreds of cairns, then at full gallop over a cliff. The cliff itself is about 300 meters long, and at its highest point drops 10 meters into the valley below. The site was in use at least 6,000 years ago, and the bone deposits are 10 meters deep. After falling off the cliff, the buffalo carcasses were processed at a nearby camp.

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 accidentally had his "head smashed in" when he wandered too close.

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 Canadian National Historic Site in 1968, a Provincial Historic Site in 1979, and a World Heritage Site in 1981, according it the same significance as the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands.
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World Heritage Site - Aboriginal bison drive (Parks Canada).

Internal

Status: Status Date:
signed)

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Federally Designated
Provincial Historic Resource
1968/01/01
1979/06/21
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/07/24

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0139
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