Early photos often carry an eerie quality, a sensation heightened when depicting the lawless American Old West with its diverse inhabitants. This unsettled atmosphere is accentuated through the grainy lens of late 19th- and early 20th-century photography, adding a layer of fascination. The most unsettling images are those without an easy explanation or context.

Bison Skulls, 1892

The pile of bison skulls in 1892, like many similar piles of bison skulls during the late 19th century, was a result of the mass slaughter of bison that occurred in North America.

This period is often referred to as the “Great Bison Slaughter.”

The bison population in North America was once vast, with estimates ranging from 30 to 60 million animals.

However, in the late 19th century, a combination of factors, including overhunting, habitat loss due to westward expansion, and the construction of railways, led to a catastrophic decline in the bison population.

Bison were hunted for their hides, which were in high demand, and also as a means of controlling indigenous populations who depended on the bison for their sustenance.