Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Anna Prentiss

Commitee Members

Ashley Mckeown, Dan Pletscher


Late Archaic, Late Prehistoric, Zooarchaeology


University of Montana


The University of Montana excavated the Tongue River bison kill site (24RB2135) in 2005 on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. This was the site of a prehistoric bison hunt. Over 20,000 bone fragments and over 1,000 stone tools were recovered during the excavation. This study focuses on the bone material in order to understand past hunting practices at this site. In order to complete the analyses required to understand the faunal material, specific data was gathered for each bone element. These data points include: the taxon, skeletal element, side, body orientation, portion, color, size, weathering, age, and any natural or cultural modifications. Qualitative observations such as carnivore activity, rodent gnawing, root damage, and beetle drilling, measured natural modifications. Cultural qualitative characteristics include cut marks and excavation damage. Calculations including, bone density, bone utility, butchering practices, and age of the bison, were used to determine the cultural significance of the bones. The bone bed was not created by environmental factors, but more likely created by human actions. Exposure to the elements, fire, carnivore activity, and rodent damage were minimal. The site was the initial kill site and hunters removed highly nutritious parts for processing. The Tongue River site contains bison from many age classes including at least one fetus. Such an age range indicates that the site was used more than once. There are two different events within the bone bed: one to the east and one to the west. One of the hunts took place on a cow-calf herd during the winter or early spring.



© Copyright 2007 Hilleary Allison Sutton