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Oneota

(1,000 to 500 years ago)

As Late Woodland communities across Wisconsin settled into permanent villages and adopted aspects of Mississippian culture, a new culture that archaeologists call 'Oneota' was born. Some early Oneota communities continued to build mounds, while others created formal, non-mounded cemeteries near their villages. Individual flexed and bundled interments gave way to single or multiple extended and bundled burials. Arrows, stone pipes, jewelry, small pots and shell spoons were left in graves as offerings. Sometimes graves were dug underneath house floors in village areas, or empty storage or refuse pits were used to hold burials.

The residents of Diamond Bluff, opposite modern Red Wing, Minnesota, literally surrounded their villages with conical and linear mounds. They even built a few effigy mounds-perhaps some of the last to be constructed in Wisconsin. After the Diamond Bluff villages were abandoned and their residents relocated to the area of La Crosse, Wisconsin, mound construction ceased. Instead, the La Crosse Oneota built large non-mounded cemeteries and buried their dead under house floors.

The Oneota living on the banks of the Grand River and near Lake Winnebago also built conical mounds for a time. They placed burials on natural knolls at the Walker-Hooper and Pipe sites and covered them with earth, just as participants in the Red Ochre complex had done centuries earlier. The resulting accretionary mounds contained bone bundles and semi-flexed burials, accompanied by pottery, shell spoons and the remains of ceremonial fires. One mound built near the Grand River contained an internal stone ramp and platform.

The last Oneota 'mounds' in eastern Wisconsin were built at Lasley's Point on the shores of Lake Butte des Mortes. These odd earthworks were probably built to cover charnel houses or temples. The 'Feast Mound' at Lasley's Point contained a platform made of clamshell and earth. At its center was a stone-lined pit, surrounded by a patterned arrangement of stones. The skeleton of a deer had been left lying on an "altar" north of the pit. The mound also contained many other ceremonial features, including hearths, shell heaps, pits, and more "altars". Three partial human skulls were found lying on one hearth, and burned and split human long bones were found in pits.

After A.D. 1300, Late Woodland communities no longer lived in southern Wisconsin. The remaining Oneota populations had already gathered together into large villages in a few select locations. Most lived near modern La Crosse, and in the Fox River valley near Lake Winnebago. The presence of large, sedentary, farming populations led to the creation of immense cemeteries. As villages slightly shifted their location, new cemeteries were created a short distance away from old ones. Many burials were left behind under house floors and in pits in the old village areas.
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