Cliff Kill Site

The Cliff Kill Site (44-MD-138) is an archaeological site in Shenandoah National Park, in Madison County, Virginia, United States. Its name derives from the discoverers' supposition that it was originally used as a buffalo jump.

Cliff Kill Site
Cliff Kill Site.jpg
Looking up from the bottom of the site
Cliff Kill Site is located in Virginia
Cliff Kill Site
Cliff Kill Site is located in the United States
Cliff Kill Site
LocationSource of Hogcamp Branch at the edge of Big Meadows, near Luray, Virginia[2]:113
Coordinates38°30′58″N 78°25′46″W / 38.51611°N 78.42944°W / 38.51611; -78.42944Coordinates: 38°30′58″N 78°25′46″W / 38.51611°N 78.42944°W / 38.51611; -78.42944
Area0.1 acres (0.040 ha)
NRHP reference No.85003153[1]
VLR No.056-0059
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 15, 1985
Designated VLRSeptember 16, 1982[3]

The site was recorded during the early 1970s as part of a comprehensive survey of the national park.[2]:135 One of several sites in the Big Meadows complex, Cliff Kill lies at the meadow's eastern side, immediately east of a 10-meter cliff; boulders mark the northern edge,[2]:112 and the headwaters of a small stream form the boundaries to the east and south.[2]:113 The surveyors test excavated the site, discovering that Cliff Kill yielded the fewest artifacts of any site so investigated (seventy-one, versus hundreds or thousands at other sites), and almost half of these items were broken pieces of stone tools whose original purpose could not be identified.[2]:191 Quartzite was the dominant material, being used for more than three-quarters of artifacts.[2]:192 Some pieces of projectile points were identifiable as to their cultural affiliation, including three dating from the middle to late Archaic period and one Woodland point, thousands of years newer than the other three.[2]:114

Given the paucity of artifacts, the appearance of flakes that had been reused for some purpose, and the total absence of evidence for on-site lithic reduction, the surveyors concluded that the site was periodically used as a specialty hunting camp, not as a base camp where daily tasks (such as repairing stone tools) would have been undertaken; if the site indeed were used as a buffalo jump, the animals would have been butchered at the cliff's base and the meat removed for consumption elsewhere.[2]:115 This supposition prompted the surveyors to choose the name "Cliff Kill" for the site.[2]:51

In 1985, Cliff Kill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its archaeological value.[1]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Foss, Robert Ward. Man and Mountain: An Archaeological Overview of the Shenandoah National Park. Thesis U of Virginia, 1977.
  3. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.