THE SHIELD BEARING WARRIORS OF BEAR GULCH: A LOOK AT PREHISTORIC WARRIOR IDENTITY IN ROCK ART AND PLACES OF POWER
Centuries ago prehistoric warriors carved and painted their identities on the sandstone
cliffs of Bear Gulch 24FR002. Bear Gulch is the premier shield bearing warrior site on
the Northern Plains; in fact it holds the most shield bearing warriors known on the
Northern Plains at a single site. Shield bearing warrior consists of an anthropomorph with
a shield for a body, a head, feet, and weapons or flags protruding out from behind the
shield. At Bear Gulch there are elaborate headdresses, flags, shields, weapons, bustles,
and wolf tail moccasins. Many of these elements are only found in the ethnographic
literature and rarely occur in rock art. We know ethnographically these elements made
up either the personal medicine bundle or were used as associated regalia suggestive of
which secret military society one belonged. This is how the historic warrior identified
himself and others within their society. Assuming these aspects of historic Indian life
have ancient origins, perhaps these identities are reproduced in the warrior rock art
though forms of relationships between elements that make up the shield bearing warrior.
Also if these relationships are found in abundance at a single site, we can assume this site
held socio-cultural meaning and was a place of power on the landscape.
Through statistical testing I am seeking the underlying pattern or relationships
inherent in the warrior rock art of Bear Gulch. With my database of 759 shield bearing
warriors with 50 variables coded in SPSS (statistical package for social sciences) I use
Pearsons chi square tests to seek relationships between the shields, headdresses, flags,
weapons, bustles and wolf tail moccasins. Cramers V is utilized to assess the strength of
these potential relationships.
The sheer number of shield bearing warriors at Bear Gulch suggests it is a place
of power. Though contextualizing the rock art with the ethnographic record and utilizing
statistical methods, these warriors can hint at warrior identity and what role Bear Gulch
played on the cultural landscape.
Advisor:Dr. Anna Prentiss; Dr. Randall Skelton; Dr. Linda Gillison
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:07/11/2007