Archaeological records

The question of when the buffalo first trod the paths of the eastern United States has been the subject of a great deal of study. Carbon dating of specimens found at Big Bone Lick in Kentucky has shown archaic species of buffalo as early as the ice age¹. The animal that made the path known to Native Americans and pioneers of southern Indiana was the American Bison (Bison bison), a descendant of those early visitors to the salt licks of Kentucky. Evidence of the bison’s presence in Illinois as much as 4000 years ago was indicated by other recent studies².

One of the first recorded pieces of evidence of the bison’s presence in the eastern United States is the 1612 statement of an Englishman. Samuell Argoll, in the area of the present District of Columbia, which states, “And then marching into the Countrie, I found great store of Cattle as big as Kine, of which the Indians that were my guides killed a couple, which we found to be very good and wholesome meats…” (quoted in “Where the buffalo roam” in the Smoky Mountain News, 10 November, 2010.)

The Buffalo Trace and a mud hole “wallow” as it was mapped and described in the original land survey of Dubois County, IN. Eastern bison bones were occasionally found in the marshes nearby (from Wilson 1919: Plate 5).


1 Kenneth T. Barnett et al: Quaternary Chronostratigraphy and Stable Isotope Paleoecology of Big Bone Lick, August 2014)
2 Cheryl A. Munson et al. Radiocarbon Dating of DNA Identified Bison Remains from Late Mississippian
Archaeological Sites in Southwestern Indiana, 2007.