Pictograph Cave artifacts trace hunting's evolution

2012-04-01T00:15:00Z 2012-04-02T11:25:06Z Pictograph Cave artifacts trace hunting's evolutionBy MARY PICKETT mpickett@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Pictograph Cave State Park near Billings is one of the most important archeological sites in the state, said Sara Scott, Montana State Parks heritage resources program specialist.

Although the park is named after prehistoric paintings on cave walls, a wealth of other artifacts have been found there too.

Projectile points unearthed at the caves are evidence of human presence dating back an estimated 9,000 years and show how hunting changed over time.

The deepest level of excavations produced spear points from large, hand-held thrusting weapons, which required hunters to get dangerously close to animals to kill them.

The middle layer of excavations yielded dart points from atlatls, a type of throwing board with a point attached, that allowed hunters to stand back from prey.

At the upper levels, stone and metal arrowheads that would have been shot by bows were discovered.

Even more important, the caves had everyday items, often missing from archeological sites, Scott said.

They include a carved turtle amulet, shell bracelets, hide working tools, flint-knapping implements, awls for sewing, a fire starting stick and a rare basket fragment.

The park’s visitor center has a display of replicas of a few of those original artifacts, including projectile points, ornamental items and tools.

Until Memorial Day, the visitor center is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Summer hours for the center are 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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