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Where the Buffalo Groan: Topographic Variables Governing the Placement and Spatial Organization of Wold Bison Jump, Wyoming

Author(s): Brigid Grund ; Todd Surovell ; Spencer Pelton

Year: 2016

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Summary

The Wold Bison Jump in Johnson County, Wyoming, is one of many prehistoric, mass kill sites scattered across the Plains. At Wold, a foraging basin of prime ungulate grazing habitat abuts the gently sloping backside of a bluff. Funnel-shaped drivelines of cairns extend across the top of the bluff towards a treacherous cliff. The drive was configured to constrain stampeding bison (Bison sp.) as prehistoric hunters communally drove them from the foraging basin to the precipice. Previous GIS analyses of bison jumps inductively analyze surrounding landscapes by classifying jump locations as known, unvarying focal points of analysis. While this approach can be informative, at Wold we attempt to obtain a more general understanding of how bison jumps operate. Using iterative models of least cost paths, topographic cross-sections, and visibility analysis, we test which landscape-embedded variables are optimized at Wold as compared to other potential localities across the study area. We find that this site’s placement is primarily explained by minimizing the distance at which the cliff face is visible and secondarily by minimizing the cost of slope and curvature routes ascending into the drivelines. Our procedure could hypothetically be used to predict optimal jump locations on similar landscapes.


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Where the Buffalo Groan: Topographic Variables Governing the Placement and Spatial Organization of Wold Bison Jump, Wyoming. Brigid Grund, Todd Surovell, Spencer Pelton. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405028)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -113.95; min lat: 30.751 ; max long: -97.163; max lat: 48.865 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America