University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

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


Page 8

included the rise of village horticultural societies. Also, the bow and arrow was introduced
during this time. With the decline of the Hopewellian cultures and mortuary complexes, the
major integrating force of the Hopewellian Interaction Sphere was lost. Many of the Late
Woodland cultures exhibited a more isolated, regional nature. In Wisconsin, Late Woodland is
primarily represented by the Effigy Mound Tradition. The Effigy Mound Tradition was
originally defined by the presence of geometric and animal effigy mounds. This tradition may
overlap the late Middle Woodland and extend into the very late prehistoric or early historic
periods in Wisconsin. While no historic groups in Wisconsin were building mounds when the
Europeans arrived, attempts have been made to identify the Effigy Mound peoples as the
ancestors of the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) or Menominee; however, Effigy Mound people have yet
to be firmly identified (Hurley 1986:291). The effigy mounds, primarily located in southern
and central Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and northern Illinois, are
frequently found along watercourses and lakes. Geometric forms include conical, oval, and
linear. Effigy forms include various mammals and birds as well as turtles. Human effigy forms
are known but very rare. While many mounds represent specific species, others are more
difficult to define. Also identified with the Effigy Mound Tradition are effigy-shaped
excavated depressions referred to as intaglios. The interior features of the mounds vary; both
primary and secondary burials have been found. Some mounds lack burials, and some have been
constructed over hearth-like features referred to as altars.
The exact function of effigy mounds is a subject of debate. Radin (1911) suggests that they
represented totem symbols of clan or other kinship groups; however, this does not explain the
non-effigy forms. The archeological evidence suggests a concept of regionality or territoriality
in the seasonal movement of the people associated with the Effigy Mounds (Hurley 1986:283-
284). Hurley (1986:285) has suggested that the population was around 3,000 for the whole of
the territory occupied by these people in Wisconsin. Several occupation sites associated with
the Wisconsin Effigy Mound Tradition have been excavated (Hurley 1975; Salkin 1982),
including small seasonal camps, larger base camps, villages, and rockshelters. Many occupation
sites are near or include mounds. The material culture of these people was simple compared to
the earlier Hopewell cultures. Lithic tools included knives, drills, and scrapers. Projectile
points include stemmed and notched forms, and small triangular points indicate the use of the
bow and arrow. Ceramics were relatively simple jars, cord-marked and/or cord-impressed.
Articles of personal adornment are rare, as are trade items. The marked absence of highly
decorated ceramics and exotic trade items suggests a society using utilitarian objects, in contrast
to a society containing a social, military, or religious elite for whom a specialist class of traders
and artisans must be sustained (Hurley 1986:286). The subsistence base of the Effigy Mound
Tradition was based on hunting and gathering, supplemented by maize horticulture.
The presence of effigy mounds has been documented in Rock County. One such mound was once
located within the City of Janesville on a high bluff overlooking Spring Brook. This was a
tapering linear earthwork located within the SW1/4, NW1/4 of Section 1, Township 2, Range
12. The mound measured 85 feet long and up to 24 feet wide and 6.5 feet high. This "tadpole"
effigy was accompanied by a circular mound. During the first decade of this century, the effigy
mound was destroyed by borrowing activities associated with the Janesville Cement Post
Company (Brown 1908:60; "Indian Villages" 1929:66). Other early reports were made of mounds
within the City of Janesville (Brown 1908:61); however, these are unconfirmed.
The Mississippian Tradition was characterized by Mesoamerican influence as demonstrated in
settlement pattern, subsistence base, ceramic technology, architecture, and religious symbolism.
These people developed major centers of occupation. At Cahokia in eastern Missouri, tens of
thousands of people lived in what may be considered an incipient urban center. The larger
Mississippian sites were centered around large platform mounds that served as the foundations
Prehistoric and Historic Native American Occupation
8


Go up to Top of Page