Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Anna Prentiss

Commitee Members

Linda Gillison, Randall Skelton


Bear Gulch, cognitive archaeology, Northern Plains, places of power, rock art, shield bearing warrior, statistical analysis, structural analysis, warrior identity


University of Montana


Centuries ago prehistoric warriors carved and painted their identities on the sandstone cliffs of Bear Gulch 24FR002. Bear Gulch is the premier shield bearing warrior site on the Northern Plains; in fact it holds the most shield bearing warriors known on the Northern Plains at a single site. Shield bearing warrior consists of an anthropomorph with a shield for a body, a head, feet, and weapons or flags protruding out from behind the shield. At Bear Gulch there are elaborate headdresses, flags, shields, weapons, bustles, and wolf tail moccasins. Many of these elements are only found in the ethnographic literature and rarely occur in rock art. We know ethnographically these elements made up either the personal medicine bundle or were used as associated regalia suggestive of which secret military society one belonged. This is how the historic warrior identified himself and others within their society. Assuming these aspects of historic Indian life have ancient origins, perhaps these identities are reproduced in the warrior rock art though forms of relationships between elements that make up the shield bearing warrior. Also if these relationships are found in abundance at a single site, we can assume this site held socio-cultural meaning and was a place of power on the landscape. Through statistical testing I am seeking the underlying pattern or relationships inherent in the warrior rock art of Bear Gulch. With my database of 759 shield bearing warriors with 50 variables coded in SPSS (statistical package for social sciences) I use Pearson’s chi square tests to seek relationships between the shields, headdresses, flags, weapons, bustles and wolf tail moccasins. Cramer’s V is utilized to assess the strength of these potential relationships. The sheer number of shield bearing warriors at Bear Gulch suggests it is a place of power. Though contextualizing the rock art with the ethnographic record and utilizing statistical methods, these warriors can hint at warrior identity and what role Bear Gulch played on the cultural landscape.



© Copyright 2007 Melissa Marie Ray