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Beckham County

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216 reported archeological sites for Beckham County to date

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The Certain Site

In 1970, a Beckham County rancher noticed bone eroding from the wall of a canyon on his western Oklahoma ranch. He notified the Oklahoma Archeological Survey who confirmed the bone were bison. With the permission of the landowner, the site was monitored for 20 years. In 1992, new landowners, Bob and Jackie Fleshman became interested in the site where bison bone continued to show up after every heavy rain storm. They agreed to a University of Oklahoma Department of Anthropology/Oklahoma Archeological Survey field school in which college students learn field techniques of archeology under the supervision of trained archeologists. This first excavation at the Certain Site began in 1992.


Excavation of bison bone bed at the Certain site.

In that excavation, archeologists and students uncovered the site of a 1700 year old bison-kill site . The Certain Site has been investigated throughout the 1990's and has become the best-investigated kill site on the Southern Plains.

Along with the original bone-bed, five more kill sites along the same canyon have been discovered. Archeologists have used information gathered to fill in our knowledge of the bison-hunting people who lived in western Oklahoma two millenia ago.

The famous bison kill sites excavated on the Northern Plains in the US have revealed a hunting technique where native American people drove bison herds over the edge of a steep cliff. The bison were killed in the plunge. And while there were plenty of bison in the Southern Plains, early hunters in our state didn't have many cliffs. What they probably had an abundance of in western Oklahoma were erosional gullies or arroyos. After stampeding a bison cow-calf herd of anywhere from a dozen to 50 or more animals up into a dead-end canyon, hunters standing on the edges of the canyon could throw spears down on the milling animals and kill them without danger to themselves.

Research on the Certain site has revealed that the kill episodes appear to occur in late summer or early fall. Because the vertebrae from the tails are missing in the excavation, archeologist can tell that the hides were removed during butchering. Apparently, the tongue was prized as the small hyoid bones from the back of the mouth are frequently missing.

Further excavation and research on this fascinating site will continue this year.

For further reading, consult:
"Where's the Cliff? Late Archaic Bison Kills in the Southern Plains" by Kent Buehler (Plains Anthropologist Memoir 29, No. 159, 1997)
"Preliminary Results from the Certain Site: A Late Archaic Bison Kill in Western Oklahoma," by Lee Bement and Kent Buehler (Plains Anthropologist 39[148]).


Prehistoric Sites in Beckham County Identified to Time Period

Chart of sites by time period.

Paleo = ?-8,000 BP / Archaic = 8,000-2,000 BP / Woodland = 2,000-1,000 BP / Village 1000-500 BP
BP (before present)


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Oklahoma Archeological Survey 111 E. Chesapeake Norman OK 73019-5111 (405)325-7211 Contact Webmaster: archsurvey@ou.edu

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