UW-Fox Valley Logo

Department of Anthropology

The University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley 2006 Archaeology Field School Recap

Figure 1: Field School Crew

This last summer (2006), UWFox Lecturer of Anthropology Janet Speth and UWFox Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Thomas Pleger took a group of eight students on an archaeological field school in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin (see figure 1) to work on a prehistoric habitation site (47TR163) located on a farm near the City of Whitehall, Wisconsin. The farm is owned by Dr. Pleger's in-laws. It has been farmed by the family for over 100 years. Over that time, they accumulated a small collection of stone tools, projectile points, and other artifacts that were found on the surfaces of their plowed fields. Their collection includes artifacts from a variety of prehistoric cultures including Late Paleoindian and Archaic Indian occupations (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Late Paleoindian and Archaic Indian artifactsWe started out the field school by surface-surveying the plowed fields on the farm by walking

the furrows and looking for artifacts. We identified concentrations of stone tools and lithic debris in several fields. The students then worked on setting up a grid across the site using a surveyor's transit. The grid allowed us to excavate a series of test units that were 2x2 meters in area in order to see what was below the disturbed plow zone (figure 3, excavation). The test units revealed intact archaeological deposits and associated artifacts in stratigraphic order. We recovered debitage, projectile points, other flaked-stone tools, ceramics, fire-cracked rock, and some (very minimal) animal bone. Archaeological cultures identified at the site include two Woodland occupations dating to the last 2500 years. We were able to identify the presence of these prehistoric cultures by prehistoric Indian pottery styles and projectile point styles (figure 4, Early Woodland pottery sherd). Beneath that, we recovered Archaic flaked stone tools including several projectile points that suggested an age of 3000 to 500 BC (figure 5, Late Archaic Durst projectile point). Beneath that, we found flaked stone tool debris that is probably Late Paleoindian (7000-6000 BC) based upon two projectile points recovered at the site (see figure 6, Late Paleoindian projectile point fragments).

Figure 3: Excavation siteThe students worked ten-hour days and camped in a nearby park. We were able to wash and process artifacts at a lab in the field (see figure 7). There will be plenty to analyze next summer and I hope that we will be able to set up an independent study this fall and spring to have students inventory the data recovered. We expect to return to the site for the next field season.

Click here to download a PDF newspaper article on the excavation written by the Whitehall Times, Whitehall, Wisconsin


Early Woodland pottery sherd
Figure 4: Early Woodland pottery sherd
Late Archaic Durst projectile point
Figure 5: Late Archaic Durst projectile point
Late Paleoindian projectile point fragments
Figure 6: Late Paleoindian projectile point fragments
Washing and processing artifacts
Figure 7: Washing and processing artifacts
Artifacts being processed in the field lab
Artifacts being processed in the field lab
Excavation
Excavation
Excavation
Excavation
Excavation
Excavation