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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history

1. Prehistoric and historic Native American occupation,   pp. 1-42

Page 25

high-status individuals. The graves of these individuals were sometimes clustered in what
were probably ceremonial centers. In southern Wisconsin, the Middle Woodland represented by
the Waukesha Phase (McKem 1942) is poorly defined. Middle Woodland sites have been
investigated in Rock County; however, none have been identified in the immediate area of
By the beginning of the Late Woodland Period, Hopewellian complexes in Wisconsin were gone.
This included many of the elaborate mortuary practices. In southern Wisconsin at this time,
the Effigy Mound Tradition had emerged. It may be that this tradition overlaps the late
Middle Woodland and extends into the very late prehistoric or early historic period. The
Effigy Mound Tradition was originally defined by the presence of geometric and animal effigy
mounds. Interestingly, both primary and secondary burials have been found in effigy mounds.
Also, some lack burials and some have been constructed over hearth-like features referred to as
As mentioned earlier, the exact function of effigy mounds is a subject of debate. It has been
suggested (Radin 1911) that they represented totem symbols of clan or other kinship groups.
Unfortunately, this hypothesis does not explain the non-animal effigy forms. Archeological
evidence (Hurley 1986) suggests a concept of regionality or territoriality in segments of the
seasonal movement of the people associated with the Effigy Mounds. In truth, our
understanding of the elaborate effigy earthworks remains speculative. Numerous effigy mounds
have been found along the Rock River in Rock County. One, a "tadpole" effigy 85 feet in length,
was once located within the City of Janesville. This mound was destroyed in the early part of
this century. Brown (1908:61) mentions the presence of additional mounds within Janesville;
however, their one-time presence cannot be positively proven.
It is possible that many of the mound sites associated with Janesville may be of Middle
Woodland origin. This is probably also true of many of the unidentified prehistoric
camp/village sites and may be true of the known prehistoric single and multiple burial sites.
Although the mounds of the Waukesha Phase sites along the Rock River are generally similar
to the Illinois Hopewell, there are some significant differences that serve to identify the fact
that these are not merely a transplant from the south (Salzer 1986:265). Middle Woodland in
Ohio and Illinois represents a period of increased population. Certainly some small-scale
agriculture was practiced by Hopewell peoples, but the archeological evidence from the Ohio
and Illinois Hopewell cultural centers indicates an economic base heavily dependent on hunting
and on the gathering of wild plant foods (Salzer 1986:263-264). Salzer (1986:268) outlines
several research questions concerning the Middle Woodland Period in southern Wisconsin,
questions that are applicable along the upper Rock River.
Middle Woodland cultures in southern Wisconsin also shared many ideas about burial
treatment with their contemporaries to the south. At this stage in Wisconsin
archaeology, it is uncertain whether the people of the Trempealeau and Waukesha
phases shared ideas about distinquishing the status of particular individuals during
their lives as well as reflecting such social distinctions when people were buried.
It is equally uncertain whether these southernWisconsin peoples shared the complex
settlement patterns and subsistence practices found among the Hopewell people in
Illinois and Ohio.
These unanswered questions point to a potential significance for intact Middle Woodland
village and mound sites in Janesville and the surrounding area. There are still many
archeological questions dealing with Late Woodland Effigy Mound complexes. The
archeological assumption that all Effigy Mound culture sites have effigy-shaped mounds and
non-effigy mounds is misleading (Hurley 1975:353-354). In truth, some Effigy Mound sites lack
Prehistoric and Historic Native American Occupation

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