Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel site

Coordinates: 50°35′6.5569″N 112°24′37.7976″W / 50.585154694°N 112.410499333°W / 50.585154694; -112.410499333[1]
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Majorville Medicine Wheel
Iniskim Umaapi
Location in Canada
Location in Canada
Majorville Medicine Wheel
Location in Canada
Location in Canada
Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel site (Canada)
LocationAlberta, Canada
RegionNorth America
Coordinates50°35′6.5569″N 112°24′37.7976″W / 50.585154694°N 112.410499333°W / 50.585154694; -112.410499333[1]

The Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel (Iniskim Umaapi) is an archaeological site of the Blackfoot Nation located south of Bassano, Alberta. The medicine wheel has been dated to 3200 BCE (5200 years ago) by careful stratification of known artifact types.[2]

The medicine wheel sits on top of a grassy hill at an elevation of 918 m[1] overlooking a large area of undisturbed prairie around the Bow River. The structure consists of a round stone cairn, 9 m in diameter, surrounded by a 27 m wide cobble circle connected to the cairn by 28 stone spokes. This arrangement is categorized as Subgroup 6 and of the total 67 known medicine wheels only 3 belong to this category, the other two being the Jennings site in South Dakota and Bighorn in Wyoming.[3]

The southern half of the cairn has been excavated and the projectile points found indicate it was in use since the Oxbow/McKean Phase for the last 4500 years. The site was built in layers, with the earliest 14
date from the cairn determined at 3845 plus/minus 85 radiocarbon years before present.[4] Calibrated to calendar years this is 2384 plus minus 124 years before 1950,[5] although this sample doesn't come from the earliest construction period. The sequence of construction is uncertain and it is not clear that spokes and wheel were built at the same time. Rocks and arrowheads were added to it until contact with Europeans, although there was a gap in its use between 3000 and 2000 years ago. Because of its use over such a long time and the changes in its construction, archaeologists believe that its function may have changed at times.[6]

Among the stones were found offerings in the form of sweet grass, willow, cloth, and tobacco. The site further yielded iniskim stones ("buffalo calling stones"), fragments of ammonite fossils that can be found in the bedrock exposed by the Bow River to the east of the site.[4] Iniskim are small natural stones that resemble the shoulders and hump of a buffalo.[7] In this case the petrified coils of ammonite shells that broke along the septa into small figurines with four prongs on one side resembling legs. These have been used in the Blackfoot Nation folklore to secure the return of the migrating buffaloes.


  1. ^ a b "Rocky Butte Station Report". Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Calder, James M (1977). The Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel Site, Alberta. National Museum of Man Series, No. 62. Ottawa: Archaeology Survey of Canada.
  3. ^ "Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel". Heritage Resources Management Information System. Government of Alberta. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel . Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  5. ^ "Cologne Radiocarbon Calibration & Paleoclimate Research Package". Monrepos. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  6. ^ Jarzombek, Mark M. (2014). Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-42105-5. Retrieved 17 February 2020. Successive groups of people added new layers of rock, and some of their arrowheads, from that time until the coming of Europeans to Alberta. Curiously, the site does not seem to have been used between about 3,000 and 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists do not know when the spokes and surrounding circle were constructed, or even if they were constructed at the same time. The long period of use and construction of the central cairn at the Majorville Wheel suggests that such sites may have served different functions over the years.
  7. ^ Bryan, Liz (2015). Stone by Stone (2nd ed.). Canada: Heritage House Publishing Company. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-77203-050-1.