Viking Ribstones

RibstonesNear Viking, on the top of a hill, at the highest point for miles around, stand the only Ribstones in Alberta that have not been moved since ancient times.

Ribstones, also known as Boulder Petroglyphs, are two large stones carved in the shape of an animal's rib cage. These ancient monuments have remained in place just a few kilometers from Viking, Alberta for thousands of years. Historically, the native people of the plains were dependent on the buffalo. They revered the spirit of Old Man Buffalo, expressing their prayers and gratitude at the Ribstone shrines.

The ancient monument to Old Man Buffalo, the spiritual protector of the herd, was carved into the quartzite boulders ages ago. There are two kinds of marks on the stone. The grooves are believed to represent the ribcage of the animal, and the circular pits may represent arrow or bullet holes.

According to the historic marker located at the site, archeologists have speculated that the pock-like marks may also have been intended to imitate the pits in the Iron Creek Meteorite, which was the most sacred of the monuments to Old Man Buffalo.

Historically, it was customary for local natives to visit the Ribstones and leave offerings for luck before hunting, and in gratitude after each successful hunt. Today First Nations people continue to visit the Ribstones and leave offerings. These may take the form of braids of sweetgrass, tobacco or cigarettes, or they may be coins like pennies and quarters. As well, in the trees near the Ribstones, many colorful pieces of cloth have been tied.

Ribstones are very rare, with only 9 being found in Alberta so far. From the hilltop where the ribstones lay, one can see for miles in all directions. The view is quite impressive and on a quiet day can be very spiritual.

The ribstones form an open ended "V" pointing toward a lake, and Wolf Ears Hill 26 km away. It is believed that the stones point toward the site from which the Iron Creek Meteorite was taken in 1866. 

The Iron Creek Meteorite is among the largest ever found in Canada. Weighing 145 kilograms, it is between 50 and 60 centimeters in diameter and is mostly iron. In native legend, this rock is considered to be the ancestor of all the other ribstones. Until 1866 it rested on the nearby Strawstack Hill approximately 40 kilometers southeast of the rise where the Viking ribstones are located.

Designated a provincial historical resource, the Ribstones are still a sacred and revered symbol to Aboriginal people today.

To reach them, travel approximately 11 kilometres east of the Town of Viking on Highway 14 until you get to a sign describing them on the south side of the road. Approximately 50 metres east of the sign, take the gravel road south for 1.6 kilometres to a T-junction. Turn left, then right and follow the markers.