The Pine Ridge of Nebraska holds one of the most important Paleoindian (the first documented Americans) archaeological sites yet discovered anywhere on the Great Plains, the Hudson-Meng site, located in a small sheltered valley that served as an occasional home to several of the earliest cultures to live in this part of North America between about 10,200 and 11,200 years ago. The natural resources of the valley—a flowing spring, wooded groves, and vast surrounding grasslands—attracted both herds of bison and groups of hunter-gatherers to the place for thousands of years. And the ways that people and bison interacted at the site has created an archaeological mystery about how people lived after the Ice Age.

Discovered in 1954 during the construction of a stockpond, the site was originally excavated in the 1970’s and interpreted as the largest Paleoindian-age bison kill site ever discovered, with as many as 600 animals having been taken in one hunt. Subsequent research during the 1990's led to differing interpretations as archaeologists then suggested that the bison died from multiple events. Some theorized that the main portion of the bonebed may not represent a hunting site at all but that the animals may have died during a natural event such as a raging prairie grass fire. Current researchers at the site, through the use of modern scientific techniques, are still attempting to solve the mystery!

A visit to the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center will allow you to view a contemporary archaeological excavation in progress. In 1997, a climate controlled enclosure was completed over the central portion of the bonebed, and the site is open to the public each summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. When you visit, you’ll find interpretive displays, guided tours, and interactive science activities to help you understand why this is such an important discovery, and you are even encouraged to develop your own theories about what might have happened to the bison.

The site is located in Nebraska's Oglala National Grassland administered by the Nebraska National Forest, on the shoulder of the picturesque Pine Ridge, overlooking the Black Hills of South Dakota. As an added bonus, it's only a few miles (or a short hike) to the moonscape of Toadstool Geologic Park.

USDA Forest Service
Nebraska National Forest
125 North Main Street
Chadron, NE 69337
(308) 432-0300
Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center

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