Archaeologist probing the history of mega fauna


Archaeologist Christine (Chrissy) Foreman (BA ’08) is used to digging up bison bones and artifacts from more than 2,500 years of human habitation on the prairies. The big picture story she’s trying to write is just what happened to the ancestors of the plains bison, and other so-called ‘mega fauna’, which included mammoths and, among other species, camels.

“At the end of the last Ice Age, some 15,000 years ago, the Great Plains of North America was home to herds of mega fauna including the mammoth, steppe bison, wild horse and camel,” Foreman says.

“The ancient people of the Plains hunted these animals for thousands of years until their eventual extinction. There exists a debate on whether many species died out because of human agency or environmental factors.”

In presenting evidence from various angles, Foreman and other archaeologists believe human hunters were able to take down these large animals and that the human species may have altered the ecosystem of the entire continent.

Foreman recently presented her work at a community event hosted by the Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives, where she reviewed the archaeological, paleontological and geological evidence for both the human and environmental sides of the argument in “Mega Extinction: factors that lead to the disappearance of the Ice Age Mega Fauna”.

Foreman is presently on campus working on her Master of Arts (Archaeology) degree. Her thesis work relates to the 2,500-year old Fincastle Bison Kill Site located near Purple Springs, Alta.

Originally from Calgary, Foreman has lived in southern Alberta all her life. Her interests are in Plains history and archaeology, as well as the geography, geology and paleontology of the region. She is a long-time volunteer with the Galt Museum & Archives.