English Français
Help preserve sites now!

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

In south-west Alberta, the remains of marked trails and an aboriginal camp, and a tumulus where vast quantities of buffalo (American Bison) skeletons can still be found, are evidence of a custom practised by aboriginal peoples of the North American plains for nearly 6,000 years. Using their excellent knowledge of the topography and of buffalo behaviour, they killed their prey by chasing them over a precipice; the carcasses were later carved up in the camp below.

Le précipice à bisons Head-Smashed-In

Dans le sud-ouest de l'Alberta, les vestiges de pistes balisées, les restes d'un campement autochtone et un tumulus où l'on a trouvé d'énormes quantités de squelettes de bisons illustrent un usage pratiqué pendant près de six millénaires par les peuples autochtones des grandes plaines de l'Amérique du Nord. Ceux-ci, grâce à leur connaissance très précise de la topographie du terrain et du comportement des bisons, pourchassaient les troupeaux vers le précipice et dépeçaient ensuite les carcasses dans un campement en contrebas.

جرف البيسون المغروز الرأس

في جنوب غرب مقاطعة ألبرتا، تشهد آثار المدارج الموسومة وبقايا مخيم سكنته الشعوب الأصلية وإحدى الجثوات التي تحوي كميّات كبيرة من الهياكل العظمية الخاصة بحيوان البيسون على عادة فريدة درجت لمدة ست آلاف سنة تقريباً لدى الشعوب الأصلية المنتشرة في السهول الشاسعة لأميركا الشمالية. وبفضل الإطلاع العميق لهؤلاء الشعوب على تضاريس هذا المكان وعلى سلوك البيسون، كانوا يطاردون قطعان البيسون باتجاه الجرف ثم يقطّعون هياكلها العظمية في المخيم الذي يقع في أسفل الجرف.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Место охоты на бизонов - «Хэд-Смешт-Ин-Баффало-Джамп-Комплекс»

На юго-западе провинции Альберта обнаружены старые маркированные погонные тропы, а также следы лагерей аборигенов и могильники с огромным количеством бизоньих скелетов. Всё это свидетельства традиционных приемов охоты коренных жителей Северной Америки, применяемых ими на протяжении почти 6 тыс. лет. Используя свое хорошее знание местности и поведения бизонов, индейцы подгоняли их к крутому обрыву, с которого те падали и разбивались насмерть. Затем туши разделывались в расположенных внизу лагерях.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Despeñadero de bisontes Head-Smashed-In

En este sitio del sudoeste de la provincia de Alberta, se han hallado vestigios de pistas balizadas, restos de un campamento de nativos y un túmulo con enormes cantidades de osamentas de bisontes. Todos estos elementos ilustran una costumbre practicada durante seis milenios por los pobladores aborígenes de las grandes llanuras de América del Norte. Gracias a su exacto conocimiento de la topografía del terreno y del comportamiento de los bisontes, los nativos acosaban sus manadas hasta un precipicio para despeñarlas. Luego, descuartizaban a los animales en un campamento instalado en la base del despeñadero.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Head-smashed-in buffalo jump

Het landschap van de Head-smashed-in buffalo jump (ingeslagen-kop buffelsprong) ligt in het zuidwesten van Alberta. Er bevinden zich de overblijfselen van gemarkeerde paden, een kamp voor de inheemse bevolking en een grafheuvel waar nog steeds enorme hoeveelheden buffel (Amerikaanse Bizon) skeletten liggen. De restanten zijn het bewijs dat inheemse volkeren van de Noordelijke -Amerikaanse vlakten hier bijna 6.000 jaar hebben gewoond. Dankzij uitstekende kennis van het gebied en het gedrag van buffels, kon de inheemse bevolking de buffels doden door ze over een afgrond te jagen. De karkassen werden later opgedeeld in het ondergelegen kamp. Deze jachttechniek werd de buffalo jump (buffelsprong) genoemd.

Source: unesco.nl

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump © Maureen J. Flynn
Statement of Significance

The significance of the landscape of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump lies in its cultural, archaeological, and scientific interest. The deep layers of bison bones buried below the cliff represent nearly 6000 years of use of the buffalo jump by Aboriginal people of the Northern Plains. This landscape is an outstanding illustration of subsistence hunting techniques that continued into the late 19th century and which still form part of the 'traditional knowledge base' of the Plains nations. It throws valuable light on the way of life and practices of traditional hunting cultures elsewhere in the world.

Criterion (vi): Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the oldest, most extensive, and best preserved sites that illustrate communal hunting techniques and the way of life of Plains people who, for more than five millennia, subsisted on the vast herds of bison that existed in North America.

Long Description

Situated in south-west Alberta, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the most important hunting sites identified to date. At the edge of a landscape of hills and of highlands cut by natural passes, a high sandstone cliff falls off to the east. This coastal relief lends itself ideally to primitive hunting methods.

For thousands of years the native people of the plains hunted the North American bison. The plains Indian lifestyle became dependent on hunting buffalo, and they adapted numerous hunting techniques to obtain their livelihood. The most sophisticated technique developed by the native people to kill buffalo was the buffalo jump. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the oldest and best preserved sites of this kind with its elaborate drive lane complex and deep archaeological deposits still intact.

The site was used for the slaughter of bison from 3600 BC to 2600 BC, then intermittently towards 900 BC, and finally, continuously from AD 200 to 1850. Explored for the first time in 1938, it has since 1960 been the object of systematic excavations which have considerably enriched the knowledge of prehistoric arms and tools, and above all, transformed current thinking on the use of game as food and in clothing and lodging.

West of the cliff lies a large drainage basin 40 km2 in extent. This is a natural grazing area with plenty of water and mixed grass which remains fresh well into the fall. This natural grazing area attracted herds of buffalo late into the fall.

To start the hunt, 'buffalo runners', young men trained in animal behaviour, would entice the herd to follow them by imitating the bleating of a lost calf. As the buffalo moved closer to the drive lanes (long lines of stone cairns were built to help the hunters direct the buffalo to the cliff kill site), the hunters would circle behind and upwind of the herd and scare the animals by shouting and waving robes. As the buffalo stampeded towards the edge of the cliff, the animals in front would try to stop but the sheer weight of the herd pressing from behind would force the buffalo over the cliff.

Below the cliff kill site are deep stratified deposits that contain evidence of use going back more than 5,700 years. These deposits consist of accumulated layers of dirt, stone rubble and bones referred to as loess. Over thousands of years of use, the loess has accumulated to a depth of over 11 m. Artefacts found in the kill site include bone, worn or broken stone tools and resharpening flakes, thousands of stone points, dart points and arrow heads. A few stone knives and choppers have also been found.

The flat area immediately below the kill site was where the hunters camped while they finished butchering the buffalo. A few tipi rings, the stones used to anchor tipis against the wind, can still be seen on the prairie level. It was here that meat was sliced into thin strips and hung on racks to dry in the sun. Large leg bones were smashed to remove the nutritious marrow, and the numerous boiling pits excavated by archaeologists in this area indicate these broken bones were also boiled to render grease. Boiling was done by throwing red-hot rocks into hide-lined pits filled with water.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is associated with human survival during the prehistoric period and bears witness to a custom practised by the peoples of the North American plains for some 6,000 years. By its size, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump broadly outdistances analogous sites discovered in the 19th century in Europe, such as Solutré in France (slaughter of wild horses) or Vestonice in Czechoslovakia (slaughter of young mammoths).