Trails and Aboriginal Land Use In The Northern Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

Big Horn Mountains

Publication: ScholarWorks at University of Montana, Volume 333

Author: Steve Platt

Date of Publication: 1992

PDF File: Platt-Trails-and-Aboriginal-land-use-in-the-northern-Big.pdf



Trail identification is difficult and problematical. Physical evidence of trails is often limited and discontinuous. Trails are usually obscured by more recent human activity. Trail ruts, the most ubiquitous of trail features, are difficult to tell apart from ruts formed by wagon passage and more contemporary ruts formed by motor vehicles. Cairns too, are somewhat problematic. Aside from determining whether or not a stone cairn has soil built up around its base researchers are forced to rely on general impressions of how much lichen is present on the stones to determine whether the feature is of prehistoric origin or not. Four kinds of evidence are suggested for positive identification of aboriginal trails: (1) The presence of ruts and cairns can alert a researcher that he or she may be dealing with a trail; (2) site densities increase as one gets closer to the topographic feature the suspected trail follows; (3) a low density cluster of lithic debris should be found along the route; (4) when they exist, historic documents provide the most conclusive evidence of Native use of a particular trail.