The Vore Buffalo Jump is “one of the most important archaeological sites of the late-prehistoric Plains Indians,” according to VoreBuffaloJump.org. The site, which is five miles west of where Highway 14 intersects the Wyoming-South Dakota state line, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently host to a bevy of students who are working to uncover the remains of bison.
The Billings Gazette reported that the site—a large natural sinkhole—was used by at least five Native American tribes for 300 years to trap buffalo, which were harvested for food, clothing and tools.
“Buffalo were driven over the edge of the sinkhole as a method for the Native American tribes to procure the large quantities of meat and hides needed to survive the hard prairie winters,” says VoreBuffaloJump.org.
The site was dormant until the 1970s when it was discovered during the construction of Interstate 90. Excavations then revealed about 10 tons of buffalo bones and projectile points, all well preserved, according to the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office.
“There’s really nothing to compare it to in terms of size or preservation or number of cultural levels,” Dr. Charles Reher, of the University of Wyoming, told The Billings Gazette. He described it as one of the best-preserved and largest bison traps in the world, and noted it’s importance stems from the number of Native Americans who used it.
“People got together there,” he told the newspaper. “Had religious ceremonies, got married and had dances. There was a seasonal concentration of many social activities.”
According to the Gazette, students have been continuously working at the site to gain experience over the summers since 2004.
The site is staffed through Labor Day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is $5 or $10 for a family.