Wyoming August 01, 2017
What Archaeologists Found At This Wyoming Dig Site Revealed A Grisly Secret
Some of the most amazing archaeological finds are unearthed when no one is looking for them.
The Vore Buffalo Jump in Wyoming is just such a discovery. For almost 500 years, the area hid a gruesome secret which was only uncovered when the construction of an interstate accidentally revealed the area to be an ancient killing field.
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The Vore Buffalo Jump is about 5 miles west of the Wyoming - South Dakota border, in the Redwater Valley.
The Vore family had been farming the ground since the late 1880s.
This picture of William Vore and his 12-year-old son is thought to have been taken shortly after they came out west.
In the 1970s the southern part of the family ranch was being considered as the location for a section of I-90 - that is, until the survey revealed that a huge sinkhole lay right in the interstate's path.
Because sinkholes are by nature unstable, Interstate Highway 90 was moved a little to the south onto ground that wouldn't require the extensive filling and compacting that would be necessary if the road would have been built on the originally planned route.
Before the Wyoming Department of Transportation made the decision to adjust their plans for the interstate, they drilled numerous holes in the bottom of the sinkhole to determine how unstable it was. To everyone's surprise, the drills immediately started bringing up mass quantities of buffalo bone.
The archeological department at the University of Wyoming was notified that something historically and culturally significant had been discovered. A crew from the university began excavating the site right away and, over the next two years, confirmed that the sinkhole contained bone and cultural materials.
Archeologists determined that Wyoming Plains Indians had used the sinkhole between 1500 and 1800 C.E. as a trap. The hunters would drive herds of buffalo toward an almost invisible 40-foot drop into the sinkhole, providing their tribes with hides and meat in large amounts. The kills were processed right where they landed, and the bones were left behind.
It's estimated that over the course of about 250 years, around 4,000 bison were slaughtered at Buffalo Jump.
In 1989, the Vore family donated 8.25 acres of their land including the sinkhole to the University of Wyoming so that it could be used as an education and research center.
U.W. archeologists continued digging in and around the sinkhole and discovering new artifacts for over 20 years.The property has since been transferred to the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation, a non-profit organization that maintains the site for visitors and continually works toward the goal of furthering educational, scientific, and cultural programs.
In 2013, a visitor's center built to look like a giant teepee was opened to provide education to the public and showcase some of the finds discovered at the site.
The Buffalo Jump is open to tours between late May and early September, and visitors not only get the chance to see part of Wyoming's history exactly as it was found...
...but they can view exhibits and learn a lot about ancient Native American culture, too.
Bones from bison aren't the only things found in the sinkhole at Buffalo Jump. Skeletal remains from wolf-dogs have also been unearthed there.
Dogs were an essential to Native Americans during the time in which the Buffalo Jump was used. Domesticated dogs were bred with wolves and were used for hunting, guarding, and helped with hauling items from one place to another.
A variety of different types of arrowheads have been found at the site, as well, revealing that several different tribes used the jump over more than two centuries.
A metal building has been constructed right down in the sinkhole, as well.
It protects the main dig site and serves as a research lab.
Excavation is ongoing at Vore Buffalo Jump and new exhibits are added every year.
Have you visited the Buffalo Jump? What did you find most fascinating about it?