Encyclopedia of Geoarchaeology

2017 Edition
| Editors: Allan S. Gilbert

Casper Site, Wyoming

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4409-0_73

The Casper site was a bone bed from a bison kill near Casper, Wyoming. It was destroyed by construction activity shortly after excavations in 1971. The site is on the fourth terrace above the northern bank of the North Platte River and is located near the margin of an extensive dune field that follows the North Platte valley. Geoarchaeological research informed investigators about the setting at the time of occupation and also provided insights into human actions involved in creating the site.

The site was exposed in stratified sands resting on top of Pleistocene gravels that comprise most of the terrace fill. It consisted of the remains of ∼100 extinct bison (Bison antiquus). Associated with the bones were 60 bifacial Hell Gap projectile points (one of a number of North American Paleoindian projectile point styles), along with unifacial cutting tools, resharpening flakes, and stream-worn cobbles likely used as hammerstones in the butchering process. The site is radiocarbon dated to ∼10,000 14C years BP and is a classic example of a Paleoindian bison kill from the northern Great Plains of North America.

Based on the evidence of sedimentology, stratigraphy, and geomorphology at the site, the bison kill took place within a parabolic sand dune. Resting on the terrace is an older set of well-sorted medium sand dunes with low-angle cross bedding. This older set of sands and the upper terrace alluvium were truncated by erosion that formed a long trough that was minimally ∼100 m long, ∼25 m wide, and 2 m deep. Inset against this elongate depression was another set of medium sand dunes, similarly cross-bedded. The bone bed was in the younger sand deposit, scattered along the paleo-depression. The sedimentology and paleo-topography are essentially identical to the interior of parabolic dunes in the area, where the dune forms with its curved arms upwind and the windward face becomes concave as its surface sand is blown up and over the dune ridge. The interpretation is that bison were driven into the blowout of a parabolic dune. The steep blowout walls of the windward slope trapped or at least slowed the animals so they could be killed. The zooarchaeology combined with the microstratigraphy indicated that the site represented a single event and incorporated both a kill and a processing area.



  1. Albanese, J., 1974. Geology of the Casper archaeological site. In Frison, G. C. (ed.), The Casper Site: A Hell Gap Bison Kill on the High Plains. New York: Academic, pp. 173–190.Google Scholar
  2. Frison, G. C. (ed.), 1974. The Casper Site: A Hell Gap Bison Kill on the High Plains. New York: Academic.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology and Departments GeosciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA