Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Anna Marie Prentiss

Commitee Members

Dr. Kirsten Green, Dr. David Beck


Sunlight Basin, Dead Indian Creek, Taphonomy, McKean Complex, Middle Archaic


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology | Biological and Physical Anthropology


This is a preliminary taphonomy study of archaeofaunal remains found at site 48PA551, more commonly known as the Dead Indian Creek Site. 48PA551 is a well-known and commonly cited example of a McKean Complex occupation dating to between 3,800 and 4,800 B.P. The University of Montana held a field school at the site conducting small test excavations under the supervision of Dr. Anna Marie Prentiss in 2018. In the course of this testing a highly fragmentary bone bed consisting mostly of mammalian bone, cervids largely, was discovered eroding into the nearby creek. Ten 50 x 50 cm quadrants were excavated and a large number of faunal remains recovered. This study seeks to reconstruct taphonomic site history specifically focusing on what taphonomic agents and processes have created and impacted the data recovered from the Cut Bank. Using well established statistical methods, I test for both human and non-human processes that may have biasing effects on the data. In doing so patterns in the data emerge that build upon and reinforce interpretations from previous studies at this site. Implications for the importance of the contribution of this site to the greater understanding of the socio-economic changes that were taking place during the McKean complex are offered, as well as recommendations for future research and the need for further data recovery.



© Copyright 2021 Morgan H. Thurman