Researchers seeking bison skulls on Halloween

Posted 10/15/20

Personnel from the Meeteetse Museums will visit the Homesteader Museum on Saturday, Oct. 31, to measure bison skulls and crania.

Anyone with a bison skull or crania that was found within the Big …

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Researchers seeking bison skulls on Halloween

Posted

Personnel from the Meeteetse Museums will visit the Homesteader Museum on Saturday, Oct. 31, to measure bison skulls and crania.

Anyone with a bison skull or crania that was found within the Big Horn Basin is invited to bring it to the Powell museum between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Because of the response to the program, an additional satellite event has been set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center in Worland.

And residents who cannot make it to either of these events can take their bison skulls to the Meeteetse Museums throughout October if they make an appointment by calling (307) 868-2423 or email programs@meeteetsemuseums.org.

Measuring each specimen takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes, depending on its completeness. While staff members are measuring the bison, owners will be asked to fill out a sheet providing “as much information on the bison as possible.” Skulls of all sizes and completeness are welcome.

While collecting skulls might seem to be a fitting activity for Halloween, the project is intended to be academic rather than spooky.

Bison of the Big Horn Basin is a project of the Meeteetse Museums to learn more about historic and prehistoric bison of the area. The more skulls the museum can measure, the more researchers will be able to learn.

“We’re trying to get as complete a picture of bison in the Basin as possible,” explained Amy Phillips, the director of education and programs at Meeteetse Museums. “The more samples we get the more we can learn and the more precise the location of the crania, the more we can do — from dating the petrous portion to finding out more about movements through the teeth and horn sheaths (if they exist).”

By looking at bison throughout the Basin, museum personnel can look at regional patterns, such as where the bison lived, age at their time of death, their orientation when found (horns sticking out, nasal bones, etc.), and more. Knowing the location where a bison crania was found can also allow researchers to date it, giving them an opportunity to look at bison over time in the Basin.

“We are looking at bison crania specifically because they are used as décor and more likely to be picked up than other bones of the individual,” Phillips explained in a news release. “Crania are heavy and therefore less likely to be washed away by flooding or other fluvial events. Additionally, the crania contains information on that individual’s age, size, sex, and even specifics such as its diet, when it lived, and where it grazed throughout its life.”

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