A buffalo jump is a cliff formation which Native Americans historically used in order to hunt and kill plains bison in mass quantities.
Scroll down to watch the creation of Buffalo Jump.
Detail of buffed hair (pardon the pun).
...and then there was hair.
Adding definition to the cliff. Many ancient buffalo jumps are located in Montana, where the plains end abruptly in formations of rimrock.
The addition of the cliff adds dimension to the scene.
I considered bleaching the entire skull to match the whiteness of the carving, but decided against it to preserve the natural texture and patina of the skull.
To my amazement, the skull is not nearly as thick as a moose or elk skull, instead constructed of layers of bone bonded together by an intricate series of cross struts, similar to the wings of a biplane. This results in a minimal depth for relief carving.
Carving the skull removes the patina deposited by years spent in the Red River.
New design. Mounted warrior out, man waving blanket in.
After researching buffalo jumps, I realized they were used for 12,000 years, ONLY until the introduction of the horse in North America. My mounted warrior had to go.
In one of his journals, Meriwether Lewis describes how a buffalo jump was practiced during the Lewis and Clark Expedition:
"one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin... he places himself at a distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose; the other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all show themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffalo; the disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight and running before them they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the Indian (decoy) in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranny in the cliff... the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous."
15 years ago, I was in San Antonio for a conference and met this Texas cowboy right out of the movies who had dragged this skull up from the bottom of the Red River. I knew the scene I wanted to create on that skull when the time was right. The time is now.
Hunters herded the bison and drove them over the cliff, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. Tribe members waiting below closed in with spears and bows to finish the kills. The Blackfoot Indians called the buffalo jumps "pishkun", which loosely translates as "deep blood kettle". This type of hunting was a communal event which occurred as early as 12,000 years ago and lasted until at least 1500 CE, around the time of the introduction of horses.