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October 18, 2011 06:59 AM

Found Buffalo Skulls Could Be 10,000 Years Old

sioux falls, sd


One thing you might not think of from all the flooding on the Missouri River is an archeological hot spot. But, that's exactly what happened.

As levels decreased, they revealed dozens of buffalo skulls that might have been buried under 20 to 30 feet of sediment.

Director of Augustana's Archeology Lab and anthropology professor Adrien Hannus says skulls, being a different density and weight other than bone, were carried to and piled up on separate twists and turns of the river.

"The oxbow itself becomes a collecting point for different materials. Over the last thousands of years going back to the ice age, every year as animals crossed any of these bodies of water, many of them would fall through the ice and so on and drown," Hannus said.

He says it's a lot like finding piles of driftwood in the same areas along the shore line. They believe the oldest of the buffalo skulls goes back around 10,000 years.

"The water pouring out, in the volumes it was pouring out, would have had a scouring effect that would, I mean, it would have really have cut deeply into the sediments that had not been disturbed for hundreds, in some cases thousands of years," Hannus said.

Hannus believes the skulls were churned up and then re-deposited on the sand bar where officials from the Army Corps of Engineers found them. He says it's not a rare occurrence, but you usually don't have the amount of water flowing like this summer, and if it wasn't for that, these skulls might have never been found.

"As far as science goes, these skulls will have a great worth to us, the potential for them to be exhibited, you know, eventually here in the state, I hope they will be, it would really be a valuable thing to show, you know, students," Hannus said.

The skulls have been taken to the state Archeological Research Center in Rapid City. Archeologists there and from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology will also research the site where the skulls were found.

 
  • Pierre, SD

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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