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Archaeology Periods

The following outline presents significant characteristics of the major periods of prehistory for the upper Kickapoo Valley and the surrounding region of southwestern Wisconsin.

Paleo-Indian Tradition
10,000 B.C. – 7,000 B.C.
◾Glaciers recede north.
◾Rapidly-changing environment with tundra and spruce-fir forests transforms to a mosaic or conifer-deciduous forest and prairie as a result of the post-glacial warming trend.
◾Mastodon in the Kickapoo Valley and regionally woolly mammoth, probably giant beaver, bear, caribou, and possibly horse and camel thrive (by 9,000 B.C. they are all extinct).
◾People are migratory hunters, moving as small bands across the landscape.
◾Hunters use spears with distinctive lance-shaped chipped stone points thought to be used for thrusting and cutting rather than throwing.

Archaic Tradition
7000 B.C. – 500 B.C.
◾The Archaic Tradition centers on the climax of the post-glacial warming trend (6000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.)
◾Generally, hunters modify spears to a form that is to be thrown using the atlatl or spear thrower. Projectile points from the District are most commonly side-notched (Raddatz) or have expanding stems (Durst).
◾People hunt mostly deer and elk, with increasing use of plant foods and early domestication of some plant types.
◾Formal cemeteries are created and individuals are buried with personal possessions indicating social ranking.
◾No Archaic cemeteries are known for this portion of the Kickapoo Valley.
◾The first period in which the Upper Kickapoo Valley is first intensively occupied. The number of sites increases, with rockshelters frequently occupied during the winter.





 Rock Outcrop along Cut-Off Trail

Woodland Tradition
500 B.C. - A.D. 1500
◾First pottery in the archeological record.
◾Less frequent use of the rockshelters in the District.
◾Hunting and gathering, still the primary methods of acquiring food, are supplemented with domesticated plants such as corn and squash.
◾About A.D. 500, the bow and arrow come into use.
◾Burial of the dead in mounds is common by A.D. 100.

Upper Mississippian Tradition
A.D. 1000 - A.D. 1650
◾Distinctive globe-shaped pottery vessels, usually shell-tempered (shell fragments mixed into the potter’s clay), with well-defined shoulders and a flaring rim.
◾Large, sprawling village complexes supported by intensive corn agriculture and supplemented by hunting.
◾Villages cluster in distinct localities (e.g., La Crosse and Pepin) separated by uninhabited lands.
◾There is very little evidence that Mississippian Tradition people used the Upper Kickapoo Valley, suggesting very brief stops during travel or resource procurement activities.


The Kickapoo Reserve Management Board acknowledges that the state and federal lands that comprise the Reserve fall within the ancestral homelands of First Nations people including the Hooçak Nation. We recognize the sovereignty of the Hooçak and other First Nations and will work towards a shared future by continuing to create collaborative opportunities to protect and preserve these lands.

Kickapoo Valley Reserve | S3661 State Highway 131 | La Farge, Wisconsin 54639 
Phone: 608-625-2960 | FAX: 608-625-2962

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