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Southwestern Wisconsin

Among the First Peoples: Archaic Peoples in Southwestern Wisconsin

Society archaeologists investigated Crow Hollow, a rare, Middle Archaic campsite located along the Kickapoo River in Crawford County. The Crow Hollow site was occupied approximately 5000 years ago. This was during the Hypsithermal Episode, a time when climatic conditions were warmer and dryer than we experience today. When the Archaic peoples lived at Crow Hollow, the landform was probably a small knoll or terrace surrounded by wetlands. As the climate changed, becoming cooler with increased rainfall, seasonal flooding and silt deposition eventually buried the site.

The plant and animal remains recovered from Crow Hollow suggest the site was used as a campsite during the autumn months. These remains included fragments of white-tailed deer bone and nutshell (hickory, walnut and acorn). Seasonal camps like Crow Hollow were often situated to take advantage of abundant local resources. Fish, aquatic mammals, and waterfowl could be found in nearby rivers and wetlands. White-tailed deer, turkeys, nuts, and firewood are available in the forested uplands. Rock suitable for use in stone tool manufacturing can be found as outcrops in the bluffs.

Over 2,000 artifacts were recovered during the recent excavations. The assemblage includes projectile points and bifaces, scrapers, graver, and chipping debris produced during the manufacture and resharpening of chipped-stone tools. The projectile points have been identified as Matanzas side-notched spear points and two of the scrapers are notched, diagnostic of the Middle Archaic period in the Eastern Woodlands. Two grinding or milling stones were also found. The archaeologists also encountered several storage or refuse pits and possible areas of special activity, reflecting the daily activities of cooking food, animal hide preparation, and making and repairing stone tools.

Little is known about Native American lifeways during the Archaic Period in Wisconsin. Many of the better-known Archaic sites are located inside rockshelters. Rockshelters can provide protection from the cold winds, snow and ice that comprise a Wisconsin winter. Archaeological sites found in rockshelters primarily represent winter habitations.

It is likely that Archaic peoples lived in open-air camps during the spring, summer, and fall. These open-air sites are less frequently found. Sites like Crow Hollow provide a glimpse into other aspects of poorly known Archaic Period societies, providing insight on settlement patterns, hunting and foraging strategies, and lithic technology.


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