Ted Vore explains how the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation was created.
“The sinkhole was here all of my life, and I’ve been here for 79 years. My grandfather homesteaded this property in 1882. The sinkhole was here then, but nothing was known about the sinkhole until 1969 when they were designing the interstate highway. They were concerned about foundation stability of the gypsum formations underneath the highway. So they built a road down into the sinkhole and drilled for foundation stability. And that’s when they found the bones. So they immediately got a hold of the University of Wyoming State Archeologist. They came out in the summers of ’71 and ’72. My father gave them permission to build a cross across that sinkhole to find the extent of the bones. They found the bones extended across the entire bottom of the sinkhole. So then in 1989, just before my father passed away, he donated this site to the University of Wyoming with the understanding that they would open it in 12 years for education and research. In 1990 we formed The Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation as a nonprofit entity to help the university in any way possible.”
Jackie Wyatt, President of the Vore says, that the archeologists determined roughly how many animals were killed in one single hunt by looking at a specific bone. “It’s the bone that goes right behind the skull. They call it the Atlas bone. So there’s one on a buffalo and we don’t think the Native American hunters had a use for this bones. So the archeologists count the atlas bones in one square meter. The strings and the bone bed mark up one meter squares in one layer. And then because anywhere they dug on the sinkhole floor, the bones are as thick as they are in the middle. They multiplied the number of Atlas bones in one square meter by the area of the floor of the sinkhole. And the estimate is a decent hunt killed 225 Buffalo.”
Vore continues, “Once they had a butcher down there. Then, as the bison plunged over the edge, they stirred up a lot of the dirt going down. And so the rains would come and wash that dirt down on top of the bones. And cover them up. So the archeologists claim it’s the most well preserved bone bed in the northern hemisphere. Every bit of the evidence here is still remains in the site. The only thing that ever left the site was either taken out by the Indians themselves or a predator.”
Wyatt also explains that in the spring and the fall, “We host up to 1000 schoolchildren a year. When we host a field trip, the students rotate through the site. We talk to them about how to jump a buffalo. The tribes that likely used the site, we go down below and talk about the uses of the bison as well as the archeology and what the archeology has shown us about the lives of these hunters. We also let them throw darts at a target with a primitive throwing stick called an atlatl. Their very favorite thing is throwing darts at the target.”
If you are interested in visiting the site, guided tours are offered during the summer months. The Vore Buffalo Jump is located off Old Highway 14 between Beulah and Sundance.
For more information, visit their website here.