Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:1 (Spring 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


Understanding how bison behaved in the past can provide key insights for today's managers, ecologists, and anthropologists. However, the direct application of both historic documentation and modern field observations may not provide the necessary insights for understanding bison behaviors in archeological and paleontological contexts. In order to develop a better understanding of possible behavior within these contexts, we have developed individual foraging histories for 22 Bison bison from the Glenrock Buffalo Jump assemblage of the Plains Late Prehistoric period in Wyoming and four Pleistocene B. priscus from the Ukraine. Incremental stable carbon isotopic values of dental enamel were used to determine foraging histories. The progressive development of enamel allows for samples to be selected that represent distinct periods of an individual's life. Comparison of these dietary patterns among members of a herd can demonstrate foraging behaviors of cohorts and, in turn, the entire assemblage. Application of this high resolution paleodietary technique provides new information on bison behaviors in a paleontological and archaeological context.