Planet Earth

Prehistoric Prairie Days

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorApr 3, 2009 5:26 PM


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Who knew there was a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southern Alberta, named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump? (Hat tip, Heather Pringle.) Who knew there was a recently published book on this extraordinary site, which you can download for free, courtesy of Athabasca University Press? (Hat tip, prairiemary.) As Pringle notes, Jack Brink, the book's author, spent

15 years working at Head-Smashed-In, excavating part of the massive 5500-year -old bone bed and analyzing the remains. In one drive along, he once estimated, prehistoric hunters killed more than 225 bison, racking up some 100,000 pounds of meat.

In a separate news story, Brink says

This is the single greatest food-getting event ever devised by human beings. Nobody ever produced more food in a single moment than people driving bison over a cliff.

In her post over at Archaeology magazine, Pringle reminisces about the time she spent exploring the place years ago:

I know Jack Brink, and I once had the greatest pleasure spending several days with him wandering around the massive site of Head-Smashed-In, with its 40-square-kilometer gathering basin and its more than 30 intersecting drive lanes made up of as many as 20,000 stone cairns. One of the things that really impressed me, however, was how prehistoric hunters had pulled off such massive kills without being mounted on horseback.

I'd love to see this reenacted on A Prairie Home Companion.

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