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University of Oklahoma Archaeologist Unearths Cultural and Environmental Knowledge at Excavation Site

June 01, 2012

A University of Oklahoma archaeologist and team of students hope to find bones of bison killed during the Folsom age, nearly 10,500 years ago, at the Badger Hole excavation site in Harper County near Woodward, Okla.

With so much history in one place, new discoveries could provide clues to the culture responsible for the buffalo kill.  The researchers will be working this summer at the site near the Clovis age Jake Bluff bison kill and three kills at the Folsom age Cooper site.

Leland Bement, OU project director, Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, says excavating this site will add to the knowledge of large animal hunting activity used by the peoples of the Folsom age.  According to Bement, the Folsom group was the first of the PaleoIndian culture to appear after the mammoth became extinct leaving a much larger bison (Bison antiquus) than the modern bison.  Interestingly, the adaptation of the Folsom culture resulted, in part, from global warming and the effects of climate change during the period, Bement maintains.

Further shifts in the climate, ultimately, led to the extinction of the large bison.  Using bones and other cultural materials uncovered at the site, Bement plans to reconstruct the environmental timeline of the period.  Knowing how past cultures adapted to extreme climate changes will provide invaluable historical perspective for cultures experiencing climate shifts today.  Surprisingly, the shift in climate then is very much like the shift in climate taking place in Canada today.

At a previous excavation site—the Cooper site—a skull, the oldest painted object ever found in North America, was recovered and is now on exhibit at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.  Bement and his team of students will conduct excavation work at the Badger Hole site this summer from June 1 to July 6.  Contact Leland Bement at lbement@ou.edu for more information about this project or visit the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey website at http://www.ou.edu/cas/archsur/.