Cody Field Office

Cultural Resources in the Bighorn Basin

The Prehistoric Period (ca. 12,000 - 100 BP)

Juniper Cave.
Juniper Cave was used by the Paleo Indians
to historic time as a dwelling.
Research in this area began in the early 1900s; however, the Bighorn Basin's prehistoric cultural background is still not well known. There have been few major excavations within the area, few reliable radiocarbon dates, as well as a lack of specific studies of soils, pollen and ceramics. Lack of detailed research can impede the correlation of the cultural resource information.

For prehistoric studies, the State Historic Preservation Plan identifies many concerns that need to be addressed. Research into structure building, prehistoric horticulture, river valley and lake adaptations, subsistence and settlement patterns and European-Native American contact would benefit the scientific knowledge needed. For the historic researcher, evidence of European-Indian contact, historic Indian activities; European exploration and colonization; military history; settlement and town development; subsistence and settlement patterns; ranch and farm culture; Civil and Indian War activities, river craft; the lumber industry; the oil and gas industry; are all pertinent topics.

Available data from and surrounding the Cody Field Office suggests that humans occupied the area from before 10,000 BP (Before Present). The Bighorn Basin contains identified archaeological locations that represent a variety of subsistence activities.

The prehistoric and historic cultural resources in the Bighorn Basin are distributed across all landforms and contain a diversity of artifacts and features. Overall, more prehistoric sites than historic sites have been recorded. While there is a diversity of cultural resources in the Bighorn Basin, it is also important to note that many gaps in knowledge remain concerning these resources. Most sites remain undated and cultural affiliation is unknown. Therefore, putting sites into a chronology is an important data need.