Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump


  • Name: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
  • Location: Province of Alberta, Canada
  • Added to the World Heritage List: 1981
  • Nomination Criteria: Criteria vi; which says describes the site “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”
  • Other World Heritage sites in Alberta: There are 4 other natural sites in Alberta, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is the only cultural site

Basic Archaeological Site Information:

  • Size of Site: Did not say exact size of site; it consists of a very large plain where the buffalo would roam, and then to the west of this plain, there is a large drainage basin that extends to about 40 square kilometers (about 15.4 square miles)
  • Time Period: 3600-2600 BC, then intermittently towards 900 BC, and again throughout 200-1850 AD (represents over 6000 years of use)
  • Cultural Period: Associated with human survival during the prehistoric period
  • Cultural Group: Associated with the aboriginal peoples of the North American Plains

Archaeological Summary:

There are many aspects culture that can be intertwined between two, three, or even more different ares. Hunting is one of these ideas.  Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is an excellent example of a specific practice of hunting that occurred within the aboriginal peoples of the North American Plains. The site of the Buffalo Jump shines light upon over 6,000 years of different practices of culture that were apparent and how they were used in every day life.

This site is composed of a very large area of grassland continued by a large cliff into a deep drainage basin, and then above outside of the basin was more flat ground. The people of this land studied the buffalo’s behavior and used topographical knowledge to find a great spot where buffalo would be seen frequently roaming. Once a herd was spotted, a “runner” would then lure the herd to move over in his direction by imitating the sound of a bleating calf, meaning that the calf was lost. Once a vast majority of them moved that way, the rest of the hunters would circle upwind of the herd and chase them with robes and shout until they reached the kill site. The animals in the front would soon realize what was

happening, but by the time they had stopped, the weight of the other buffaloes would prove to be too much. The herd would then fall to their death in the basin. After the buffalo were gathered, they were then butchered and used very resourcefully as food, clothing, tools, and many other things.

Hundreds of archaeological deposits are found in this site, that can still be seen to be intact to this day. Throughout the basin, there were deep stratified deposits that could date back to more than 5,700 years. These deposits, in the basin, mostly consisted of bones, dirt, and stone rubble.  This is referred to as loess. The loess was found, over the years, to have accumulated to as deep as 11 meters (about 36 feet). Around the basin, many artifacts were found, consisting of tools like stone points, arrowheads, and resharpening stones.

As it was stated before, the site of the Buffalo Jump goes back as far as 6,000 years, bringing to life a very vivid picture of how a specific hunting technique was used religiously by a group of people to carry on their every day lives.


  • At this time, there are no known threats to this site.


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