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Imagining Head Smashed In

Athabasca University Press


At the place known as Head-Smashed-In in southwestern Alberta, Aboriginal people practiced a form of group hunting for nearly 6,000 years before European contact. The large communal bison traps of the Plains were the single greatest food-getting method ever developed in human history. Hunters, working with their knowledge of the land and of buffalo behaviour, drove their quarry over a cliff and into wooden corrals. The rest of the group butchered the kill in the camp below. Author Jack Brink, who devoted 25 years of his career to “The Jump,” has chronicled the cunning, danger, and triumph in the mass buffalo hunts and the culture they supported. He also recounts the excavation of the site and the development of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, which has hosted 2 million visitors since it opened in 1987. Brink’s masterful blend of scholarship and public appeal is rare in any discipline, but especially in North American pre-contact archaeology.

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"Imaging Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains is an outstanding book with a unique tale to tell. Brink uses the past and eyewitness accounts described by early settlers to set the mood for his story, which includes an abundant source of ancient legends from the Elders and a host of buffalo jump stories by those who wrote down what they witnessed on the plains of southern Alberta and beyond."

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"Brink takes readers on an exploration of the site, telling its story in an irresistible personal voice into which he pours his heart and soul."

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"A writer committed to a subject that most of the world considers marginal, yet approaches it with I-will-be-heard confidence, can win the heart of even the most recalcitrant reader. Jack W. Brink, a curator at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, has that ability. He’s spent 25 years studying the way Prairie natives kept themselves alive for millennia by hunting buffalo, a subject that in his hands becomes absorbing, dramatic and almost urgent — even though many will also find it inherently appalling."

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Jack W. Brink is Archaeology Curator at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada. He received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota and his M.A. from the University of Alberta. His interests also include the study of rock art images of the northern Plains, and he enjoys working with Aboriginal communities on heritage issues.

 
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Alberta's Lower Athabasca Basin

Ronaghan, Brian M. (Hrsg.) | Athabasca University Press | Recovering the Past


Over the past two decades, the oil sands region of northeastern Alberta has been the site of unprecedented levels of development. Alberta's Lower Athabasca Basin tells a fascinating story of how a catastrophic ice age flood left behind a unique landscape in the Lower Athabasca Basin, one that made deposits of bitumen available for surface mining. Less well known is the discovery that this flood also produced an environment that supported perhaps the most intensive use of boreal forest resources by prehistoric Native people yet recognized in Canada. Studies undertaken to meet the conservation requirements of the Alberta Historical Resources Act have yielded a rich and varied record of prehistoric habitation and activity in the oil sands area. Evidence from between 9,500 and 5,000 years ago—the result of several major excavations—has confirmed extensive human use of the region's resources, while important contextual information provided by key ecological and palaeoenvironmental studies has deepened our understanding of how the region's early inhabitants interacted with the landscape.

Touching on various elements of this rich environmental and archaeological record, the contributors to this volume use the evidence gained through research and compliance studies to offer new insights into human and natural history. They also examine the challenges of managing this irreplaceable heritage resource in the face of ongoing development.

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“Numerous scholars authored more than a dozen intensely focused papers, but the volume's introduction and organization—as well as limited but effective repetition of parts of the overall narrative in individual papers—ensure that a cogent story emerges out of a wide-ranging discussion of events spanning 10,000 years. [...] An example of the excellent topical publishing tradition apparent in Canadian universities. This volume may appeal to an overwhelmingly academic audience that is mostly resident in North America, but it will certainly do so for decades to come.”

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For more than twenty years Brian Ronaghan served in a research and regulatory compliance role with the Government of Alberta and oversaw archaeological studies in Alberta.

 
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