Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Laidlaw Antelope Trap archaeological site is situated on roughly 64 hectares of land near the town of Bow Island, Alberta. It is located in shortgrass prairie on a terrace 2.5 kilometres long and one kilometre wide which is located on the slope of the South Saskatchewan River valley. The main feature of the site consists of a rectangular-shaped pit with a surrounding stone wall. Linear stone alignments interpreted as "drive lanes" extend in a "V-shape" from two adjacent corners of the rectangle. Associated features include two stone circles ("tipi rings") and a 2.5 metre circular pile of stones that may have served as another wall. Within two kilometres of the site, numerous additional stone circle, cairn and stone alignment sites have also been identified. Artifacts excavated from the Laidlaw Antelope Trap site are housed in the collections of the Royal Alberta Museum.
The heritage value of the Laidlaw Antelope Trap lies in the fact that it is a well preserved example of a site type rarely identified in the Plains of North America.
The Laidlaw Antelope Trap site has been interpreted as an example of the methods used for communal pronghorn antelope hunting by Alberta's prehistoric Aboriginal people. Though the use of enclosures with drive lanes was commonly used to trap and kill bison during the Middle and Late Prehistoric period in the Plains, capture of pronghorn antelope using such methods is unique. To date, this site is only one of two known examples of prehistoric communal pronghorn antelope hunting in Alberta, and is one of only a few such sites in North America.
Based on archaeological excavations conducted in 1983, researchers have recovered bone fragments, including specimens identified as pronghorn antelope, from beneath and between stones in the enclosure, drive lanes and circular stone pile. Researchers surmise that the pronghorn would have been herded into and down the drive lanes, funnelling them into the enclosure at the narrow apex of the drive lanes. Once contained within the enclosure, the captured animals would be quickly killed. In addition to antelope bone, artifacts recovered from the site include four chipped stone artifacts representing waste flakes from stone tool manufacturing and a flake briefly retouched for use as a tool. Radiocarbon dating of the bone fragments indicates that the site was used by prehistoric hunters during the Late Middle Prehistoric Period, roughly 3,000 to 3,500 years ago.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historica Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1383). Brumley, John H. 1984. "The Laidlaw Site: An Aboriginal Antelope Trap from Southeastern Alberta" in Archaeology in Alberta 1983 (Archaeological Survey of Alberta Occasional Paper No. 23), compiled by David Burley pp 96-126. Brumley, John H. 1986. "A Radiocarbon Date from the Laidlaw Site, DlOu-9" in Research Notes, Archaeology in Alberta 1985 (Archaeological Survey of Alberta Occasional Paper No. 29), compiled by John W. Ives pg 205.
The character-defining elements of the Laidlaw Antelope Trap site include:
- its location in native short grass prairie on a upper terrace of the South Saskatchewan River;
- the unique stone configuration used to create the trap, including a roughly square excavated pit up to 80 centimetres deep, with slightly sloping walls, that has been enclosed by a wall built to at least 80 to 100 centimetres above the ground; the two drive lanes, which are 29 and 35 metres long, extending from adjacent corners of the square enclosure and forming a "V-shape" funnel whose apex terminates at the enclosure; and the associated stone pile formed of a collapsed circular structure 2.5 metres in diameter that may have been a wall as tall as 20 to 50 centimetres in height, constructed of rocks as heavy as 50 kilograms;
- the potential relationship of the trap to other surface stone features in the surrounding landscape, including the stone circles immediately adjacent to the feature and the other stone circle, cairn and stone alignment sites within 2 kilometres of the site;
- the potential for the site to provide information about a prehistoric hunting method that is only rarely represented in the North American Plains archaeological record.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- People and the Environment
- Developing Economies
- Hunting and Gathering
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Function - Category and Type
- Food Supply
- Hunting or Resource Harvesting Site
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1383)
Cross-Reference to Collection