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Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic cemeteries

(12,000 to 7,000 years ago)

The oldest documented burial sites in Wisconsin were left behind by Wisconsin 's First Peoples over 9,000 years ago. Only two of these enigmatic burial places have been identified. At the Renier site, in Brown County , Wisconsin , the cremated remains of a young adult were buried with a set of burned and broken spear-points. A similar cache of heat-shattered projectile points has been found at the Pope site in Waupaca County , Wisconsin . Though no human remains were found with them, the assemblage is similar in type and condition to that at Renier, and may represent a second cremation.

The incidence of cremation in the pre-contact period is probably heavily under-reported, since burned bone and ash may degrade over time or may be mis-identified as belonging to animals. Cremations are also easier to overlook than other forms of burial when ground-disturbance takes place. There is no evidence that more than one cremation was left behind at either the Pope or Reiner sites, nor that either site was marked in any way. Wisconsin 's earliest cemeteries are thus very vulnerable to disturbance and destruction.

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