Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Buffalo Jumps and Depression Era Photos: Cool Stuff I've Seen Lately

No theme this time--just info about some cool resources I've seen recently.

Buffalo Hunters

I was fascinated by this article, "The Buffalo Chasers: Vast expanses of grassland near the Rocky Mountains bear evidence of an extraordinary ancient buffalo hunting culture" published in Archaeology, about research being conducted on the Blackfeet Reservation. (For those of you who use the textbook, the article complements Chapter 2: People of the Dog Days).

According to the article, many scholars historically believed that the Blackfeet only constituted themselves into well-organized tribes after the arrival of horses and guns. This new research on buffalo jumps pushes the development of a complex political society back to 900 A.D. and better reflects the tribes' understanding of its own cultural development. “We have 11 separate, elaborate drive-line systems in just a 20-mile stretch of Two Medicine River. That took coordination and a level of planning for the future that haven’t normally been associated with nomadic people in this part of the world,” archaeologist Maria Nieves ZedeƱo explains. The article continues:
The Old Women’s Phase people did not leave behind elaborate burials or evidence of long-term storage facilities, signs that archaeologists have typically used to measure the social complexity of prehistoric societies. Scholars therefore believed that these buffalo-hunting people were essentially simple foragers, without any of the complex political arrangements that organized farmers to the east or the fishing cultures of the Northwest Coast had. “Bison hunters have been dismissed as being not as sophisticated as other cultures,” says Royal Alberta Museum archaeologist Jack Brink, who excavated at Canada’s Heads-Smashed-In, a noted buffalo jump. “There was this idea that they were opportunistic hunters skulking across the northern plains. But what we’re finding is that their way of life was complex and thought out in ways that reflected powerful social controls. http://www.archaeology.org/issues/155-1411/letter-from/2587-letter-from-montana-buffalo-jumps

Depression Era Photographs

Jumping ahead a millenia, a new resource from Yale and NEH, Photogrammar brings together 170,000 images by photographers employed by the Farm Securities Administration and Office of War Information from 1935 to 1945. The images (all owned by the Library of Congress) are searchable by keyword, and you can filter your search by state, county, city, date, and photographer.

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