A group of area residents had a glimpse of the past over two days this fall as they learned to make stone tools and then use those to butcher a bison.
On the first day, the group gathered at the back parking lot of the Meeteetse Museum to learn “Experimental Archaeology,” which is a field of study to help collect information to record an archaeological record, used mainly to test or fill in the gaps about the past.
Meeteetse resident Larry Todd conducted a knapping workshop on how to fashion tools made from rock such as obsidian.
Early residents of North America, such as the Clovis people, used such tools to hunt and butcher bison thousands of years ago.
The group not only had the chance how to learn how to make the tools. The following day the group of 11, set to travel to Antlers Ranch to learn how to properly butcher a bison. The class was taught by Todd, who studied anthropology at the University of Wyoming.
First, the group had to learn to make the tools.
Todd then grabbed a small piece of obsidian and shaved the hairs off of his arm to demonstrate how sharp the obsidian was. The rock was so sharp it even drew blood from his arm. He then took a piece of leather and cut right through it like a hot knife through butter with the obsidian rock.
“Look how sharp that is, and that’s from a rock,” he said. “Many rocks were used to create small knives used for fleshing or skinning” says Todd.
“Anyone can sharpen or make a tool, and in those days you had too. They didn’t have an Ace Hardware back then.”
After the butchering, every part of the bison was used. Parts of the bison were given to the Eastern Shoshone bison education project, the bones were added to the Museums’ comparative collection, and finally, the hide was tanned to be auctioned.
This event was part of the Museums’ much larger Bison of the Bighorn Basin Project.
By butchering the bison with stone tools, participants gained an understanding and deeper appreciation for Indigenous technology and subsistence practices.