Head-Smashed in Buffalo Jump is one of the most significant aboriginal archaeological sites in Canada, which is not surprisingly on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. For some 6,000 years, the natural sandstone cliff was used by hunters to drive bison over the edge to their death. Below the cliff the carcasses were butchered and processed, and it is the remains of these activities that archaeologists have been excavating since the 1960s. One of the most astounding features at the site is a large mound of bison bones, accumulated over the years the site was in use.
Today, there is an excellent interpretative centre at the site, open all year round, that was sensitively built into the side of the sandstone cliff.
The name for the site comes from the Blackfoot name, which is Estipah-skikikini-kots. According to Blackfoot legend, a young boy wanted to watch the buffalo jumping off the cliff from below. When the carcasses were taken away the boy’s dead body was found – with his head smashed in.
Below the cliff are deep stratified deposits that show the site was used during a number of different periods; first continuously between 3600 BC and 2600 BC, then intermittently until about 900 BC, and again continuously from AD 200 until about 1850 AD. The site was first recorded by Europeans in 1938, but not excavated until the 1960s, and on. The deposits have accumulated to a depth of 11 metres, and consist of layers of dirt, stone rubble, bones, and various bone and stone tools, including stone knives, resharpening flakes, choppers, thousands of stone points, dart points and arrow heads.
Other sites like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump are Solutré in France, here it was the slaughter of wild horses, and Vestonice in the Czech Republic where many young mammoths were slaughtered; but it is a much bigger site than both of these.
The photographs on this page are in the public domain, taken from Wikipedia.