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NWC News Desk

Bad Pass tipi rings discussed Thursday, March 31, at NWC

Posted March 18, 2011

POWELL, Wyo. - Tennessee anthropologist Judson Finley returns to Wyoming to present “Traveling the Bad Pass: The Archaeology of Tipi Rings in Bighorn Canyon” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 31, in Room 70 of the Fagerberg Building at Northwest College.

Finley directs NWC’s summer archaeological field school in northwest Wyoming. For the past six years, he’s spent his summers working with faculty and students from NWC and Indiana University, investigating tipi ring sites along the Bad Pass Trail and throughout the Big Horn Canyon.

Generations of native communities traveled the Bad Pass Trail between hunting grounds of the northern Bighorn Basin and Montana High Plains. 

The tipi sites are key to better understanding the changing material culture of Crow and Shoshone Indians during the transition from pre-contact period nomadic hunting and gathering societies to a contemporary reservation-based ranching culture.

According to Finley, tipi rings are one of the most common archaeological features found throughout the High Plains and Rocky Mountains yet remain relatively enigmatic in archaeological research. 

“Using a combined approach of detailed surface mapping, remote sensing, and excavations,” Finley said, “archaeologists are learning a great deal about what many consider to be a mundane aspect of past life in the Bighorn Basin.”

He calls the Bighorn Canyon tipi rings “rich data sources made even richer through understandings of regional ethnography and ethnohistory.”

An assistant professor of earth sciences at the University of Memphis, Finley has spent over 15 years of field and research experience working on the Northern Plains and Middle Rocky Mountains. He holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Wyoming and master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington State University.

Finley’s program in Powell is sponsored by the NWC Anthropology Department and Office of Extended Studies. Admission is free.

Bad Pass tipi rings discussed Thursday, March 31, at NWC