The question of when the buffalo first trod the paths of the eastern United States has been the
subject of a great deal of study. Carbon dating of specimens found at Big Bone Lick in
Kentucky has shown archaic species of buffalo as early as the ice age¹. The animal that made
the path known to Indians and pioneers of southern Indiana was the American Bison (Bison
bison), a descendant of those early visitors to the salt licks of Kentucky. Evidence of the bison’s
presence in Illinois as much as 4000 years ago was indicated by other recent studies².
One of the first recorded pieces of evidence of the bison’s presence in the eastern United States
is the 1612 statement of an Englishman. Samuell Argoll, in the area of the present District of
Columbia, which states, “And then marching into the Countrie, I found great store of Cattle as
big as Kine, of which the Indians that were my guides killed a couple, which we found to be very
good and wholesome meats…” (quoted in “Where the buffalo roam” in the Smoky Mountain
News, 10 November, 2010.)
1 Kenneth T. Barnett et al: Quaternary Chronostratigraphy and Stable Isotope Paleoecology of Big Bone Lick, August 2014)
2 Cheryl A. Munson et al. Radiocarbon Dating of DNA Identified Bison Remains from Late Mississippian
Archaeological Sites in Southwestern Indiana, 2007.