Sometimes you just want to dig a hole, and you end up making a monumental discovery, such as with the Hudson-Meng Bison Kill, which was found when a rancher was just trying to dig a pond.
In 1954, Nebraska cattleman Albert Meng was expanding a historic spring to provide water for his cattle in the Oglala National Grasslands when he found bones—lots and lots of them. Seriously disconcerting amounts of bones. It was this sprawling grim find that led to archaeologists unearthing the 10,000-year-old remains of up to 600 bison.
After telling his friend, and local amateur archeologist and former mayor of Chadron, Bill Hudson, about the bones, Mr. Hudson brought the find to the attention of Dr. Larry Agenbroad. Agenbroad found and developed the nearby Hot Springs Mammoth Site. Preliminary digs started in 1968 followed by more extensive excavations in 1971.
Hudson and Meng are credited with discovering what has become known as the largest cache of bison remains ever found. The excavation in 1971 initially found stone tools and the site was deemed a Native American kill site. Similar fascinating sites of mass bison death in North America—such as the Vore Buffalo Jump, a natural sinkhole used to send over 20,000 buffalo plummeting to their ends—have been found throughout the western U.S. However a series of smaller digs in the 1990s presented findings that these bison died of unknown natural causes, rather than being a “kill” and butchering site implied by its given name.
Regardless, the name of the site has stuck. It is also named after the rancher who discovered it and the amateur archeologist who called attention to it and continues to be touted by the National Parks Service as an example of the ways everyday people can make hugely important contributions to scientific discovery and progress, even if by accident.