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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 10

based on hunting, gathering, and horticulture. Triangular projectile points are also found on
Oneota sites. The way in which Oneota people made and decorated their pottery is their most
distinctive attribute, with the pottery jars of each of the main settlement areas in Wisconsin
being decorated in ways slightly different from each other (Gibbon 1986:320).
Oneota in Wisconsin has been divided into several phases, with the settlement clusters being
interpreted by archeologists as regional adaptations to different environmental settings
(Gibbon 1986:314). However, there are still several long-standing research questions concerning
Oneota cultural manifestations-how Oneota should be conceived of and defined, what the
relationships, if any, are between the various manifestations (Staeck 1995). Centered just north
of Rock County, the Koshkonong Phase has been identified in the area of Koshkonong Lake and
may represent the early Oneota Tradition (Hall 1962; Overstreet 1995). Oneota villages were
large and contained as many as 70-90 people (Gibbon 1986:330). They were stockaded with corn,
squash, and beans growing in nearby fields. The Oneota people constructed oval wigwams,
either rectangular structures with uprights set into rectangular trenches or rectangular
structures with posts set individually into the ground (Gibbon 1986:331). While variations in
burial practices occur, Oneota dead were almost always buried on their backs in an extended
position. Pottery vessels, projectile points, shell spoons, pipes, and other items were placed in
the graves of the dead. Occasionally, infants are found next to adults in the same grave. Some
Oneota cemeteries are large, containing as many as 50 graves (Gibbon 1986:332). Rock County
has no Oneota sites reported. Shell-tempered ceramic sherds have been reported, however, and
these are probably representative of this tradition. No Oneota Tradition cultural materials are
associated with Janesville and the immediate area.
A summary of the known prehistoric occupation of Janesville and the immediate area is
outlined in Table 1. The majority of the known sites cannot be classified into an identifiable
time period. These sites include single and multiple burials, village or camp sites, and
workshop sites. One datable prehistoric site is a Late Archaic village or camp site.
Additional datable prehistoric sites located within or very near Janesville include Woodland
period mound and village or camp sites. When considering all the recorded archeological sites,
those of the Woodland period are the most numerous diagnostic types located in the Janesville
vicinity. For further discussion of the known and potential Woodland sites, see the "Newly
Developed Themes" portion of this chapter.
Historic American Indian Occupation of Rock County
The historic American Indian tribes of Wisconsin developed from Late Woodland and Oneota
cultural bases. Various tribes were living in the area at the time of initial European contact.
The early European explorations in the area coincided with disruptions caused by European
influences in the eastern and southeastern portions of North America, as well as the expansion
of the Iroquois Confederacy. As the Iroquois expanded their territory in the 1640s and 1650s,
they pushed neighboring tribes into the western Great Lakes (Abler 1992:161-163). The effects
of the European influence on Native Americans included the intensification of tribal warfare as
groups competed to obtain furs for trade (Ferguson 1992). The Rock River, the major drainage of
Rock County, was a major transportation channel in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest for both
aboriginals and Europeans alike. Tribal groups associated with the upper Rock River include
the Sauk, Winnebago, Potawatomi, and Kickapoo. Other groups most likely frequented the
area on hunting, trading, and militaristic expeditions.
As early as 1632, Europeans had heard, through vague American Indian reports, of a tribal
group to the west and southwest of Lake Huron. It is believed that this group was the Illinois.
They occupied the area that is now northern Illinois and probably extended their occupation
Prehistoric and Historic Native American Occupation
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