The Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed Site
The bison bonebed at the Hudson-Meng site illustrates the importance of taphonomy. This is because taphonomy shows how things have become a part of the fossil record; how natural processes contribute to the formation of archaeological sites, which, in turn, helps define patterns that should be interpreted in human behavioral terms. The bones were confined to an area approximately 100 square meters, and these were the remains of at least five hundred bison. Radiocarbon dating by mass spectrometer shows the site going back to about 9500 years old. The bones showed no cut marks, such as from butchering. Only a few carnivore tooth marks were found. They looked as if they had simply died there and were left undisturbed. However, the tops of the skulls were missing. Larry Agenbroad, a paleontologist from Northern Arizona University, went under the presumption that maybe the ancient Plains Indians did as the modern Plains Indians have been known to do. This was to often break open the crania of the bison to remove the brains and use them in their process of tanning hides.
But, with only twenty-one spear point fragments found at the site of at least five hundred bison remains, this doesn’t explain how they were slaughtered. It would have taken many more than twenty-one spear points to kill that many bison. Agenbroad then inferred that there must have been a low cliff nearby that is now buried beneath the sand that accumulated from daily winds across western Nebraska, where the bonebed is located. And he concluded that the Indian hunters of yore, did as their more modern counterparts have done – and that is to drive the herd of buffalo or bison over the cliff to their demise. They then dragged the carcasses to a processing area, where they would be stripped of meat, hides, et cetera for practical usage.
Cited: Archaeology: Down to Earth. Kelly, Robert L. and
Thomas, David Hurst. Fourth Edition. 2011. Pages
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