Culminating Project Title
Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
Cultural Resources Management Archaeology: M.S.
College of Liberal Arts
Kelly Branam Macauley
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Keywords and Subject Headings
Bad Pass Trail, cairn marked route, least cost path, path of least resistance, Bighorn Canyon, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Bighorn Canyon corridor
The Bad Pass Trail is a 10,000-year-old prehistoric cairn-marked trail system, located within the naturally occurring Bighorn Canyon corridor. Its braided path marks a passable route across rugged terrain, connecting the Bighorn Basin of northcentral Wyoming and the Yellowstone River Basin of southcentral Montana. Until recently a comprehensive synthesis of locational data of all associated cairns was not available for application in spatial analyses. Using this most recent data I will test my hypothesis that the culturally created cairns of the Bad Pass Trail’s route follow a path of least resistance through the Bighorn Canyon corridor as determined by terrain slope.
Measurements of near distance between cairn locations and computer-generated paths of least resistance comprise my dataset values. The application of critical values and numeric thresholds identify statistically significant occurrences. Cairns located within numeric thresholds likely share terrain slope as a primary influencing factor. My results demonstrate that terrain slope likely serves as primary influence upon cairn locations within the Bighorn Canyon corridor.
With an additional application of predictive intervals, I provide measurements which may one day aid in determining areas of increased likelihood for containing similar cairn features as measured from paths of least resistance. However, it is imperative to acknowledge caveats of examining prehistoric activities by quantitative testing alone. The ability to fully encapsulate complete understandings of complex stimuli acting upon prehistoric people through these tests is limited. Therefore, measurements and assumptions produced from quantitative tests are best used as tools for the development of future inquiries.
Jacobs, Sarah, "The Bad Pass Trail: An Examination as a Route of Least Resistance" (2020). Culminating Projects in Cultural Resource Management. 45.