Students Survey Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

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Matt Nelson Madison Buffalo Jump State Park
University of Montana archaeology graduate student Matt Nelson helps map one of many teepee sites used by indigenous people along the base of the Madison Buffalo Jump State Park on Thursday afternoon outside of Three Forks. Photo: Mike Greener/Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Thursday, May 29 marked the final day of a two-week field survey completed by archaeologist and University of Montana Associate Professor of Archaeology, Doug MacDonald and UM students. They documented features within the 640-acre Madison Buffalo Jump State Park near Three Forks, Montana. MacDonald collected charcoal that will be sent for radiocarbon dating. The team also discovered small shards of buffalo bones and stone circles in an area believed to have been the site where for 2,000 years Native Americans have stampeded herds of bison off a nearby limestone cliff.

The last time a study of this scale was done in the park was in the 1970s. This year, they had access to GPS and other modern technologies to assist with the survey and documentation.

The park is open to the public, and thousands of people walk through it every year, but to the untrained eye it is easy to ignore patterns in the stone circles that indicate how bison were funneled off the edge of the cliff.

“It’s surreal seeing teepee rings in a park that’s been open to the public for years,” gradutate student Liz Lynch said.

MacDonald and his students hope that the report will provide a complete, up-to-date record of the park and its features, and allow the state to better monitor changes which are sometimes caused by visitors.

Read More: Students dig into the past at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

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