UM Professor Reveals Native American Archaeology in Yellowstone National Park

March 01, 2018

“Before Yellowstone: Native American Archeology in the National Park” book coverMISSOULA – Visitors have flocked to Yellowstone National Park to gaze in awe at its dramatic geysers, stunning mountains and impressive wildlife since 1872. Yet archaeological research reveals more than 11,000 years of human history on the seemingly untouched landscape.

University of Montana anthropology Professor Doug MacDonald uncovers this history in his new book “Before Yellowstone: Native American Archaeology in the National Park,” published Feb. 12 by the University of Washington Press. MacDonald will discuss his book at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.

MacDonald spent the past 11 summer field seasons taking UM students into the park to survey and excavate nearly 2,000 sites. His work reveals the story of the Native American people who hunted bison and bighorn sheep, fished for cutthroat trout and gathered bitterroot and camas bulbs on the land for thousands of years.

His research describes and explains the archaeological significance of popular areas such as the easy-to-visit Obsidian Cliff, where hunters obtained volcanic rock to make tools, and Yellowstone Lake, a traditional place for gathering edible plants.

MacDonald also helps readers understand the archaeological methods used and the limits of archaeological knowledge.

“From Clovis points associated with mammoth hunting to stone circles marking the sites of tipi lodges, ‘Before Yellowstone’ brings to life a fascinating story of human occupation and use of this stunning landscape,” MacDonald said.

For more information call MacDonald at 406-274-8938 or email


Contact: Doug MacDonald, professor, UM Department of Anthropology, 406-274-8938,