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