High-Elevation Bison in the Rocky Mountain Front Range during the Late Holocene


This is an abstract from the "A Tribute to the Contributions of Lawrence C. Todd to World Prehistory" session, at the 88th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

During the late Holocene, large bison herds occurred in grass-dominated ecological zones across much of the North American mid-continent. However, in situ fossils and historic accounts illustrate the adaptability of bison to a broad ecological niche space, from grassy prairies and plains to eastern forests. Yet, there are few bison found at high elevations. This research, spurred by the discovery of bison remains at >3,000 m in the front range of the Rocky Mountains, explores how bison used these landscapes through the lens of horn (keratin), bone, and tooth (enamel) stable isotope systems (C, N, O, Sr). Bison horn keratin was sampled in seven late Holocene bison for δ13C, δ15N, and δ18O to understand life history trends. Oxygen isotopes exhibit up to 8‰ periodicity. Changes in δ15N, occasionally in concert with δ18O from the same samples, are interpreted to represent movement from lower-elevation grassland environments (high microbial activity) to high-elevation ridgelines with herbaceous vegetation (low microbial activity). Results of serial tooth enamel samples (δ13C, δ18O, and 87Sr/86Sr) from seven nearby bison molars also reflect diet and mobility patterns. Enamel 87Sr/86Sr suggests four of these acquired forage >10 km from the location where they were recovered.

Cite this Record

High-Elevation Bison in the Rocky Mountain Front Range during the Late Holocene. Chris Widga, Darian Bouvier, Lawrence Todd, Amy Phillips, Kenneth Cannon. Presented at The 88th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. 2023 ( tDAR id: 473311)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 36578.0