Physical Anthropology

Upper Midwest History Early Woodland Period



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Early Woodland (800BC - 500BC)

Important technological changes occurred as interregional contact increased. The characteristic signal for the Early Woodland period is the widespread use of pottery, which gained renewed attention. While containers had existed in various forms since the Middle Archaic, and possibly even earlier, the Early Woodland period is the first to have an industry arise around the creation and use of pottery (Milner 2004:54). Trade of high quality material such as obsidian, shell, and mica signaled the beginning of what would later become the Hopewell Interaction Sphere (Williamson and Watts 1999:231).

White-tailed deer and elk continue to be the principal game for peoples of the Early Woodlands. Smaller animals adapted to woodland and prairie lifestyles were often used as supplements to these larger herbivores. Fish become important as small groups of hunters made lakeshores part of their seasonal round (Green et al. 1986). Spears were used to exploit the abundant spring-spawning species (Cleland 1982:772). These adaptations come as population begins to rise at a greater rate than in any of the Archaic periods, likely due to the adaptations already used by peoples at this time (Milner 2004:54).

Excavations done at the Schultz site at Green Point, Michigan, indicate that local forest cover increased during this period. There were intermittent dry periods and a low occurrence of floods as the region experienced a cooler climate than previous periods. At the same time, the peoples of the Early Woodland were beginning to utilize the geography in a new way. Widespread use of earthen mounds for the interment of the dead began. Some mounds had complex geometric designs and could be up to several acres in size (Milner 2004:54).

Later cultural periods also show increased association between lithic projectile points and mortuary and ritualistic contexts. Several ceremonial complexes came to fruition and declined, including the Red Ochre complex in the Late Archaic and the Effigy Mound culture of the Late Woodland (Birmingham and Eisenberg 2000).

-Works Cited-

Cleland, Charles
1982 The Inland Shore Fishery of the Northern Great Lakes: Its Development and Importance in Prehistory. American Antiquity, Vol. 47 (4): 761-784.

Birmingham, Robert and Leslie Eisenberg.
2000 Indian Mounds of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

Green, William, and James Stoltman, and Alice Kehoe.
1986 Introduction to Wisconsin Archaeology. The Wisconsin Archaeological Society, Vol. 67 (3-4).

Milner, George.
2004 The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America. Thames and Hudson, London.

Williamson, Ronald and Christopher Watts.
1999 Taming the Taxonomy: Toward a New Understanding of Great Lakes Archaeology. The Ontario Archaeological Society, Toronto, Canada.

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