Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Anna M. Prentiss

Commitee Members

Douglas H. MacDonald, Jeffrey A. Gritzner


lithics, northwestern plains prehistory, southeastern montana prehistory, technological organization


University of Montana


Bison hunting has long been recognized as a key element of the lifeways of American Indians of the Northwestern Plains. Bison served as an integral component for food, shelter, tools, and clothing. It is no surprise that the importance bison hunting, as a socioeconomic institution, is revealed in the archaeological record of this region. A study of the material culture, most often lithic tools, found at prehistoric bison kills and processing sites allows archaeologists to draw inferences about the technology associated with the procurement of such vital animals. An investigation of bison jump, trap or pound lithic assemblage can provide the opportunity to infer the organization of lithic technology associated with communal bison procurement on the Northwestern Plains. The Tongue River Bison Jump (24RB2135) is located in southeastern Rosebud County in southeastern Montana. Due to the low number of previously recorded and tested communal bison procurement sites in the area, investigating this site offered a chance to better understand the social and technological organization of bison procurement in a poorly understood region. This study of the organization of lithic technology is divided into two components: 1) a quantitative typological classification of the tools, and analysis of the debitage; 2) a qualitative comparison of the lithic assemblage with lithic assemblages from other known bison kill sites in a defined geographical study area. The results of this analysis illustrate that the people operating the Tongue River Bison Jump used a generalized biface/core technology to make hunting and butchering tools. Tools reflect an efficient mixture of informal expedient flakes and formalized tools, such as projectile points and scrapers, to complete the task. The tools are predominantly made of porcellanite, a local raw material, but non-local raw materials from as far away as the Big Horn Mountains was observed. This assemblage also may reflect a collector-type social organization where local raw materials were heavily utilized and logistical forays to distant locations where finished tools made of high-quality raw materials were manufactured and transported.



© Copyright 2007 Joseph Shawn Hamilton