University of Minnesota
Department of Anthropology


Chapter 14

Terminal (Late) Woodland Complexes in Southeastern Minnesota

The Initial, Mature, and Final Late Woodland periods, A.D. 500 to 1200

The gradual transformation of Early and Middle (Initial) Woodland cultures sometime after ca. A.D. 500 into new cultures in southeastern Minnesota and adjacent regions of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois remains poorly understood. Part of this transformation involved innovations in weaponry (the bow and arrow) and mound form (effigies), and the disappearance of Havana-Hopewell traits, such as Havana ware, elaborate mortuary ritual associated with large earthworks, an elaborate smoking-pipe complex, long-distance acquisition of exotic materials, and (possibly) the presence of socially ranked societies.

Other aspects of this period in the Upper Mississippi River valley, such as increasingly larger human populations, greater dependence on domesticated food plants, new ceramic vessel forms with thinner walls and finer temper, the appearance of greater numbers of localized cultures, greater population nucleation into larger settlements, greater numbers of sites, expansion of year-round settlement into small secondary valleys and adjacent uplands, and reduction in amounts of imported stone for chipped stone tools seem best understood as interlinked products of the acceleration in pace of trends that have their roots in the earlier Late Archaic period, especially population packing. The overriding themes in the Late Woodland in the Upper Mississippi River valley are, then, gradual change and continuity.

As evident as these trends are in some areas of southwestern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, and northwestern and central Illinois, they are difficult to document in the Upper Mississippi River valley north of La Crosse. As Theler and Boszhardt (2003:122) phrase it, “the nature of post-Hopewellian Woodland cultures along the Mississippi River north of La Crosse is virtually unknown.” One reason may be a real lack of sites, for large-scale surveys in southeastern Minnesota have failed to document a strong Late Woodland presence (Minnesota Historical Society 1981; Trow 1981; Withrow and Roddell 1984). It seems possible that the Woodland tradition in general in this part of Minnesota never had a population density as large as other areas of the state and as in some adjacent areas of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. Anfinson (1979g:76) suggests that this apparent lower level of use is “due to a more limited wild food base. It was the horticultural Mississippians that first realized the greater economic potential of southeastern Minnesota.”1

Because of the sparseness of the known Late Woodland archeological record in this region of the state, we discuss what that archaeological record and its associated lifeways might be like based on information from bordering states, where an Early-Middle-Late Woodland terminology is used (as opposed to our Initial-Terminal Woodland terminology). In particular, we borrow Stoltman and Christiansen’s (2000) Initial, Mature, and Final divisions of the Late Woodland period for the Quad-State (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) Driftless area, for all or parts of Dakota, Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona, Olmsted, Dodge, Houston, Fillmore, and Mower counties in southeastern Minnesota are in the Driftless area.2

The Initial Late Woodland Period, A.D. 500 —700

The Initial Late Woodland period is considered a transitional phase between late Middle Woodland and Mature Late Woodland lifeways in southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa, where the closely related archaeological remains of the period are called the Mill phase and the Lane Farm phase, respectively (Stoltman 1990; Stoltman and Christiansen 2000:499-501). These phases combine traits present in the region’s earlier late Middle Woodland phases (Millville and Allamakee) and the Effigy Mound culture, a Mature Late Woodland archaeological culture.

Recognizing Initial Late Woodland Components

The presence of Initial Late Woodland components in southeastern Minnesota should be most easily recognized by the presence of Lane Farm Cord-Impressed, a pottery jar with a somewhat rounded base and constricted neck (Logan 1976:99-100; Stevenson et al. 1997:170-171). Among the identifying characteristics of the pottery type are single-cord-impressed decoration on the smoothed surface of the upper rim, relatively thin and hard vessel walls, fine grit temper, and some rocker stamping on the body. Another important feature of the period was the apparent first use in the region of the bow and arrow, for small points with corner notches are fairly abundant in the region compared to larger, heavier Middle Woodland points (Stevenson et al. 1997:171; Logan 1976:41). No Lane Farm Cord-Impressed pottery has been identified in Minnesota, but it should be present in the state’s southeastern corner.

The Initial Late Woodland Archaeological Record

Lane Farm Cord-Impressed jars have cord-impressed decoration on the exterior of the rim, rocker stamping over at least some of the body below the rim, relatively thin, hard walls, and fine grit temper (Logan 1976:99-100; Stoltman 2003:17; Stoltman and Christensen 2000:499). Both the rim exterior and shoulder were smoothed before decoration was added by pressing fabric or individual cords onto the rim and rocker stamping onto the body; the rocker stamping may have been made by swinging (rocking) a clamshell back and forth to form connected, curvy Vs (Figure 14.1).

Other traits of the period are small corner notched points that may have been the first arrow points in the region, small conical mounds, and after A.D. 600 some elongated, linear mounds. The one illustrated point, which is approximately 4.5 cm long, has corner notches and a straight base (Logan 1976:41; Stoltman and Christensen 2000:500-501).

It is not clear which weapon points fall into this period, but late Middle Woodland points like Steuben Stemmed and Manker Corner Notched may be present early in the period and the first arrow points in the region, such as Scallorn, Klunk Side Notched, and Koster Corner Notched3 late in the period. The Scallorn type includes small corner-notched or expanding-stem arrowheads with barbed shoulders. The forms vary greatly and can range from broad to slender, with straight to convex blade edges. Klunk Side Notched points are small points with a convex to straight base, moderate to large side notches, and slightly convex-sided blades. Koster Corner Notched is a small, thin, corner-notched point with a short expanding stem that has a convex or straight base. See Stone Weapon Points of Minnesota: A Guide for descriptions of these weapon points.

Initial Late Woodland Lifeways

The long established hunter-gatherer lifeway in this region most likely continued, but after ca. A.D. 600 significant shifts began to occur that involved changes in technology, population distribution, and social structure that are described in the next section. For the most part, the lifeway of this poorly known period was similar to that characteristic of the region’s late Middle Woodland phases.

Settlement-Subsistence Models. At present, the Initial Late Woodland period in the Driftless area is known from a limited number of sites. The Mill phase is represented by components in excavated shell middens at Mill Pond and Mill Coulee and the Lane Farm phase from a stratified context at the FTD site and five burial mounds in Allamakee County in the northeast corner of Iowa (Benn 1978:250; Stoltman 1990; Stoltman and Christensen 2000:500; Theler 1987). The content of these components “show a continuation of local resource exploitation similar to that seen at earlier Millville phase sites” (Alex 2000:124).

Mortuary Practices. Lane Farm phase mounds are conical in shape, contain limited grave goods, and include primary flexed burials either on the floor beneath the mound or sometimes in subfloor pits (Stoltman and Christensen 2000:500). Among the rare grave goods are part of a clay elbow pipe, cylindrical copper beads, and some projectile points, including the small, corner-notched point mentioned above.

The Mature Late Woodland Period, A.D. 700 – 1000

The Mature Late Woodland period in the Upper Mississippi River valley south of Minneapolis-Saint Paul is represented by the Effigy Mound culture, which has been most extensively studied and has its widest distribution in southern Wisconsin (Rowe 1956; Hurley 1975, 1986; Stoltman 1990; Stoltman and Christensen 2000:501-514). However, smaller numbers of sites are present in northern Wisconsin and adjacent areas of Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota (Figure 14.2). Although Effigy Mound people constructed conical and linear mounds, they also built earthen mounds in the shape of animals, a practice that has given the archaeological culture its name.

In Minnesota, sites containing effigy mounds are confined with one exception to counties bordering the Mississippi River south of Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Habitation sites containing Madison ware, the pottery ware associated with the Effigy Mound culture, are more widespread throughout southeastern Minnesota to about the Blue Earth River. Since only a few of these sites have been excavated, the following review relies heavily on the research efforts of archaeologists in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.

Recognizing Mature Late Woodland Components

While effigy mounds are the most highly visible trait of the Effigy Mound culture, a diagnostic and more widespread trait of particular importance to archaeologists is Madison ware, for components in non-mound sites are identified as Effigy Mound by the presence of this ceramic ware (Figure 14.3). General characteristics of vessels of this ware grouping are thin walls (4-6 mm), fine grit tempering, cordmarking on the exterior surface of a globular body, a constricted neck and out-flaring rim, and decoration most often applied with a corded instrument (Hurley 1975:94-106; Benn 1978). Another likely diagnostic trait of some later (A.D. 900 – 1100) Mature Late Woodland components is the present of Angelo Punctated ceramics, which are jars with punctate and fine trailed line decoration over cord-roughened surfaces (Boszhardt 1996; Figure 14.4).

The Mature Late Woodland Archaeological Record

Artifacts and Features. Madison ware, the pottery ware associated with the Effigy MoundMadison Cord Impressed 1 culture, has been divided into a number of types that have somewhat different spatial and temporal distributions and regions of popularity. Among the types are Madison Fabric Impressed, Madison Cord Impressed, Hahn Cord Impressed, Madison Plain, Madison Folded Lip, Point Sauble Collared, Aztalan Collared, and Madison Punctate. On the basis of these distributions, David Benn (1980:79-80) has proposed that the southwest one-quarter of Wisconsin and northeast Iowa, in particular the Driftless area in both states, represent one, and perhaps the earliest, Effigy Mound region. The rim sherd on the right is an example of Madison Cord Impressed.

Although design motifs may differ in popularity from one sub-region to another, most Madison ware vessels share a close similarity in design treatment in that they are decorated in geometrical patterns on the exterior rim surface with a corded fabric. Since Benn believes that many if not most Madison Cord Impressed vessels are really fabric impressed, this predominant type in the Driftless zone could be called Madison Fabric/Cord Impressed.

Other types in the Madison ware grouping are present in the Driftless area, too, but are not well represented. For example, collared vessels, which date after about A.D. 1000 and are most common in south-central and northeastern Wisconsin, appear rarely, while small amounts of Madison Plain, an undecorated type except for some occasional lip notching, are present at most sites. The majority of radiocarbon dates that may date Madison Cord Impressed fall between about A.D. 700 and 1200 (Benn 1980:81). We assume here that Effigy Mound sites in Minnesota date somewhere within this period, too.

Angelo Punctated ceramics are characterized by punctate and fine trailed line decoration, occasionally in complex patterns, over a cord-roughened surface (Boszhardt 1996; Figure 14.4). Like Madison ware, temper is fine grit. The ceramic is thought to share some similarities with Great Oasis pottery, which dates between ca. A.D. 950 and 1100 (see Chapter 17).

A characteristic of the transition from Early/Middle Woodland to Late Woodland pottery vessels throughout most of northeastern North America is significant change in vessel form and technology of manufacture. Vessels change in shape from simple conoidal or subconoidal forms to globular forms with more complex rim profiles, walls become thinner and harder, and temper becomes finer (and in Mississippian-related archaeological cultures often switches from grit to shell). These changes seem to emphasize thermal and mechanical stress resistance, and may be related to basic transformations in subsistence practices (Benn 1983; Schiffer and Skibo 1987:607; Reid 1989). Just what these transformations may have been are discussed in the lifeways section below.

Although only a small amount of Madison ware and Angelo Punctated pottery has been reported to type in Minnesota, the sample does help in establishing the geographical range of the complex in the state and the stylistic regions to which it is most closely related.4 A few Madison Cord Impressed sherds with vertical cordwrapped-stick impressions on plain rim surfaces have been found at Sorg (21DK1), where they were called Nininger Cordwrapped Stick Impressed (Johnson 1959:22), and at Tudahl Rockshelter (21FL3), the Nelson site (21BE24), and at the Minnemishinona Falls site (21NL140) west of Mankato (Wilford 1937; Scullin 1981; Arzigian 2007, 2008e; Figure 14.6). Madison Punctated was first recognized in the state at the Bremer Village site (21DK6), where it was called Bremer Triangular Punctated (Jensen 1959). Decoration consists primarily of horizontal rows of triangular punctuates on the cordmarked rim and upper shoulder of these vessels, although the design motif on some vessels consists of vertical and oblique rows of punctuates (Figure 14.7). The type has also been found at Sorg (21DK1) and on Sand Point in the Mississippi River valley in Wabasha County (Anfinson 1979g:74). Madison Plain is present at Sorg (21DK1), Cherry II, a habitation site on a terrace along the Root River near the town of Houston, and at the Minnemishinona Falls site (21NL140). The outer surface of these vessels lack decoration, although they are covered with vertical cordmarking; cordwrapped-stick decoration is often present on lips and inner rim surfaces (Figure 14.8).

According to Arzigian (2008e:3), Angelo Punctated ceramics have been identified in collections from the Tudahl Rockshelter (21FL5) in Fillmore County and possibly at Lee Mill Cave (21DK2) in Dakota County (Figure 14.9).

Small stemmed, side-notched, and unnotched triangular arrow points, scrapers, knives, Madison Pointutilized flakes, and the by-products of the flaking process are common artifacts in Effigy Mound components in southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa (Stoltman and Christiansen 2000:511-512). There are temporal differences in the popularity of these points, with stemmed and notched points more common before about A.D. 800 and simple triangular points more common after that date. Small stemmed and notched point types most likely include Scallorn, Koster Corner Notched, and Klunk Side Notched, which are present as well in the Initial Late Woodland period. The simple unnotched, triangular points are Madison points, an arrow point type found widely throughout the eastern United States after about A.D. 800. The point on the right is a Madison point.

Pounding, grinding, and nutting stones have been found in Effigy Mound culture components, too, as well as adzes, axes, and a few polished celts (Hurley 1986:289). Other common items of Effigy Mound material culture include bone awls, needles, punches, and beamers, and probably fishnets and fabrics. Copper knives, punches, and projectile points, bone harpoons and gaming pieces, simple fired clay elbow pipes, and galena are present less frequently. The ceremonial obsidian blades, cut mica, ear spools, effigy pipes, elaborately worked bone and shell, and other exotic artifacts of the Havana culture are conspicuously absent.

The material culture of the Effigy Mound culture exhibits several traits and developmental trends whose significance is discussed more fully below. These include the near absence of non-utilitarian items intended for elites or for mortuary use alone; the growing popularity of simple unnotched triangular projectile points; new ceramic technologies, forms, and design treatments; a clustering of ceramic design motifs into smaller regional spaces; an elaboration in complexity of ceramic design treatments and motifs through time; and the persistence of a unique and shared identity over a vast territory for at least 600 years.

Site Types and Distributions. Since a systematic survey of ceramic-containing artifact collections in southeastern Minnesota has not been carried out, the distribution of sites known to contain Madison ware, Angelo Punctated, and/or effigy mounds may not be representative of the distribution of Effigy Mound culture sites in this region of the state. In addition, only general categories of site type have been identified: open air habitation site (of some kind), rockshelter, and effigy burial mound. This summary of sites has been collated from Anfinson (1979g), Dobbs and Anfinson (1990:165-166), and Arzigian (2008e).

Madison Ware distIdentified open air habitation sites (of some kind) in Minnesota that contain Madison ware and/or Angelo Punctate pottery are present in Dakota, Washington, Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona, Fillmore, Blue Earth, Nicollet, and Sibley counties. Rockshelter sites are in Dakota, Fillmore, and Washington counties.5 Effigy Mound-related mounds have been reported in Dakota, Goodhue, Houston, Scott, Wabasha, and Winona counties.6 For the most part, Effigy Mound-related sites seem clustered along the Mississippi River south of St. Paul, in the lower St. Croix Valley, near the Big Bend of the Minnesota River near Mankato, and along the valley of the Root River and its tributaries.  

Two Sites. The Sorg site (21DK1) and the Prior Lake Mound group (21SC16) represent an Effigy Mound culture-related habitation and mound site, respectively.

The Sorg site (21DK1) is one of a cluster of related sites on Spring Lake along the Mississippi River in Dakota County. Johnson (1959), who excavated the site in 1953, 1954, and 1956, identified a sequence of Middle and Late Woodland deposits, with the latter deposits stratigraphically above the former. Late Woodland ceramics included Madison Cord Impressed, Madison Punctated, and Madison Plain. Johnson named the regional Late Woodland complex the Nininger focus and suggested that it was related to Wisconsin’s Effigy Mound culture.

The Prior Lake Effigy Mound cluster (21SC16) is in an upland setting in Scott County peripheral to the Driftless area. It is the only site with effigy mounds in Minnesota that is not in a county bordering the Mississippi River. When mapped by T. H. Lewis in 1883, the cluster consisted of five bird effigies and four linear mounds between 1½ and 2 feet high (Winchell 1911:194-195). The bird effigies, which were aligned as if they were members of a flock, had straight bodies and crescent-shaped wings like those of a swallow in flight; the wings extended at right angles from the body and the birds’ rear ends were rectangular (Figure 14.10). The dimensions of the “excavated” bird give some idea of the size of these effigies. The body alone was 52 feet long and 15 feet wide, while the roughly elliptical head measured 18 by 15 feet. One wing was 69 feet long and 12 feet wide, and the other 72 feet long and 12 feet wide. A salvage operation in the area of one effigy found a sterile pit that had been exposed by a highway construction crew (Evans 1961c). This is the only effigy mound in Minnesota that has been “excavated” by an archaeologist (Arzigian and Stevenson 2003:487).

Mature Late Woodland Lifeways

Our review of the lifeway of Effigy Mound-related peoples in southeastern Minnesota concentrates on their subsistence and settlement pattern, and mortuary practices, and on the dynamic processes of cultural change that were taking place during the period .

Settlement-Subsistence Models. Information about the subsistence-settlement pattern of Effigy Mound peoples has accumulated rapidly in the last 20 years. Again, most of this new information has come from archaeological investigations in southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa. The picture that is emerging is a continuation of earlier patterns and trends until about A.D. 800, after which significant shifts in seasonal scheduling practices take place among some groups, at least in southwestern Wisconsin. We focus on these shifts in order to develop models against which Minnesota’s archaeological record can be compared.

Abundant evidence now exists that the annual subsistence-settlement cycle established in the Late Archaic was still followed by Driftless area Effigy Mound peoples, at least south of La Crosse, until ca. A.D. 800 (Theler 1987; Arzigian 1993, 2008e). This cycle has a fall-winter-early spring segment and a late spring-summer segment.

In the fall, small family bands moved into the more protected areas of the Driftless area, where they concentrated on the harvesting and processing of white-tailed deer between the months of August and September. Small mammals, elk, and black bear were taken in smaller numbers, and an occasional bison was slain in prairie habitats. Both wild and domesticated plants and probably dried mussels processed during the summer were carried along to the fall-winter-early spring camps for consumption. Among the wide variety of plant foods found in archaeological sites representing this segment of the annual cycle are nut (Hickory, Butternut, and Walnut), chenopod seeds, maize, sunflower seeds, wild rice, great bulrush seeds, hackberry seeds, wild bean, and ground cherry seeds (Benn 1980). Most known sites are residential camps in rockshelters in the dissected uplands of the Driftless area. Other site types associated with this segment of the subsistence-settlement cycle are open-air, short-term, task-specific extractive camps and more intensely occupied base camps.

The late spring-summer segment of the cycle revolved around the procurement of aquatic resources and plant foods in more open riverine settings of the Mississippi and its major tributaries. Fish and freshwater mussels were the most important animal foods, although mammals were captured, too, including white-tailed deer. It was during this segment that mussels and many plant foods were gathered and processed for winter consumption. Most known site components associated with this segment of the seasonal cycle are residential camps located in the floodplain of the Mississippi River adjacent to abundant aquatic resources. These sites typically lack the hide/leather-working tool assemblage so common in fall-winter-early spring camps.

Did Late Woodland communities in southeastern Minnesota follow this proposed pre-A.D. 800 Effigy Mound settlement-subsistence pattern? The simple answer is that we do not know at the present time. Possible examples of fall residential camps in rockshelters in Minnesota are Tudahl (21FL3) and Nohre (21FL13), while the Hyland Park site on a peninsula in Hyland Lake near Prior Lake and a site on Grey Cloud Island in Cottage Grove may be examples of open-air, short-term, extractive camps. Both of these small sites contained a hearth or two, small amounts of pottery, the remains of several deer, and chipped stone artifacts appropriate for the capture and processing of these animals.

In the Prairie du Chien area, a shift away from the seasonal cycle described above is apparent by about A.D. 800, for reasons that are more fully discussed in the cultural dynamics section below. Although components in the Mill Pond site show that mussel processing stations unassociated with residential areas existed long before this date, an increase in the number of such stations and the amount of shell they contain point to an intensification of mussel harvesting between A.D. 800 and 1000. Theler (1987) suggests that this shift is related to increased population packing and scheduling conflicts induced by increased dietary dependence on maize, among other factors. Since maize matures in the fall, the seasonal movement to interior upland locations would have been delayed (Benn 1980:140-141). To hedge against a poor maize harvest, a delayed or possibly poor deer harvest, or both, Effigy Mound groups in the area seem to have harvested large amounts of shellfish that they dried for winter consumption.

The presence of maize in Effigy Mound sites after ca. A.D. 800 has been amply demonstrated in the last 30 years (Arzigian 1987, 1993, 2008e:11-12; Baerreis and Bender 1984; Stevenson et al. 1997:173). In the Prairie du Chien area, carbonized kernels have been found in dated features associated with Madison Cord Impressed and Minott’s Cord Impressed pottery. Small numbers of carbonized kernels have also been found in deposits dating to or before A.D. 800 at Hatsfield Cave in Iowa (Benn 1980) and from Mound 2 at the Poor Man’s Farrah site (47Gt366) in Grant County, Wisconsin (Zalucha 1985). More importantly, C13/C12 ratios of –18.1 and 17.7 were obtained from the jaws of two adults from the Poor Man’s Farrah mounds (Penman 1985).6 Ratios for Aztalan, a Mississippian-style agricultural community in south-central Wisconsin, range from –12.0 to 19.2, while ratios from the Archaic Reigh site range from –21.4 to –23.1 (Bender et al. 1981:349). In Minnesota, maize has been found associated with Madison Cord Impressed pottery at the Nelson site (21BE24) just south of the Minnesota River near Mankato (Scullin 1981, 1992). The type of maize present (12-rowed) suggests that this component also dates between A.D. 900-1100. Maize, then, was becoming an integral part of the diet of these Effigy Mound peoples.

The presence of maize cultivation in Effigy Mound sites is not surprising, for it appears in a few Middle Woodland sites in Illinois and is present in the form of phytolith assemblages on Initial Woodland Malmo sherds in central Minnesota (Thompson 2000). However, the use of maize seems still limited to small-scale gardening, for no substantial subsurface storage pits similar to those found in abundance at later Oneota village sites are present (Arzigian 2008e:11). Effigy Mound peoples were still hunter-gatherer-fisher folk, then, who were adding some cultigens to their diet. Other domesticates include squash at King Coulee (21WB56; Perkl 1998) in Wabasha County at A.D. 780, and sunflowers and knotweed from Effigy Mound sites in southwestern Wisconsin (Arzigian 1987:229-231, 1993).

Two Effigy Mound phases, Eastman and Lewis, have been proposed for the Driftless area of Wisconsin (Boszhardt and Goetz 2000; Stoltman 1990:252; Theler and Boszhardt 2006), and a Keyes phase for northeastern Iowa (Alex 2000:124-128; Benn and Green 2000:455-456). Arzigian (2008e:4-5) has provided a brief description of the Eastman and Lewis phases:

The Eastman phase, extending from the northwest corner of Illinois up to the Coon Creek valley on the east side of the Mississippi, and to roughly the Minnesota/Iowa border on the west side, dates to ca. A.D. 750—1050 and is distinguished by Madison ware ceramics, short- or no-tailed quadruped mounds, and side-notched or unnotched triangular arrow tips made from local cherts. The Lewis phase extends geographically from north of the Coon Creek valley to north of the Chippewa and Cannon Rivers. It is less well dated but is characterized by the presence of Angelo Punctated pottery, long-tailed quadruped mounds, and triangular arrow points made from Hixton silicified sandstone.

Should the Mature period Late Woodland archaeological record in southeastern Minnesota be considered an extension of the Lewis phase or is some part of it better placed within Johnson’s (1959) Nininger phase? In our opinion, this taxonomic decision cannot be made without extensive study of that record in Minnesota.

Mortuary Practices. The most spectacular, visible remains of the Effigy Mound culture are earthen mounds in the shape of animals (Rowe 1956; Stoltman and Christiansen 2000:501-504). Many of these shapes have been associated with particular animals, such as bears, deer, panthers, and turtles, although most are so generalized that definite identifications cannot be made. The most common forms are birds in flight and side-profiles of four-footed animals (Figure 14.11). The mounds rarely exceed 2 or 3 feet in height but may be 500 or more feet long. Fascination with these effigy forms has detracted attention from other types of mounds built by Effigy Mound peoples, for these people also built conical and linear mounds. Radiocarbon dates indicate that most of these mounds were built between A.D. 700 and 1000.

Some mound groups are very large. For example, the Harper’s Ferry Great Group inEffigy Mds Monument northeastern Iowa originally contained 895 mounds (Mallam 1976:76). Other groups consist of only one or a few mounds. Most groups, however, contain between about 6 and 80 mounds. The mounds are usually situated on ridge tops or other elevated areas bordering major rivers and have no particular directional orientation other than to local topography. Topsoil was usually carefully removed before the mounds were built. Although some mounds show multiple construction stages over hundreds of years, most seem built at one point of time. The "marching bears" effigies in the picture to the left are at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeastern Iowa.

The majority of mounds once built by Effigy Mound peoples are now destroyed. A survey in southern Wisconsin in the 1980s, for example, showed that approximately 80 percent of all Effigy Culture mounds had been destroyed (R. Peterson 1984). A similar survey in Minnesota in the 1970s found that only one and one-half effigy mounds out of an original 19 or so had survived destruction (L. Peterson 197X).

Unlike earlier Havana-related mounds in the region, the content of Effigy Mound mounds is sparse or absent altogether. This often makes the identification of the builders of the mounds difficult if not impossible, although the presence in mound fill of cultural debris from nearby camps and villages provides a terminus post quem date, that is, a date after which construction must have taken place. When grave goods are present, they are most often personal or utilitarian objects, such as ceramic vessels and projectile points.

Burials take many forms and vary in number and placement in mounds (Barrett and Hawkes 1919; McKern 1928, 1930; Rowe 1956; Stoltman and Christiansen 2000:501-502; Hurley 1986:290). Primary and secondary (bundle) burials are most common, but cremations occur and may have been a relatively common mortuary practice outside mound burial programs. Apparently, burials were added to some mounds over a span of several hundred years.

Understandably, burials have captured the attention of excavators. However, William Hurley (1986), who concentrated his research on the Effigy Mound culture for a considerable time, maintains that the purpose of most mounds was not primarily for burial. This seems demonstrated, for instance, by the complete absence of any burials in many mounds (Arzigian 2008e:13). As summarized by Theler and Boszhardt (2000:291-292):

Upon completion, an effigy probably held additional importance to the builders, the shape presumably reinforcing family or clan affiliations…. Mound group cemeteries probably were used by societies for decades if not centuries… and may have served as a method to mark territories or signal control over resource zones….

For similar or other interpretations of the meaning of the effigy shapes, see Benn et al. (1978), Hall (1993), and Mallam (1976, 1982, 1984),

The distribution of effigy mounds in Minnesota is shown in Figure 14.12. At present, there is no direct association between Madison ware ceramics and any of these mounds, but then only one mound (Mound 5 in the Prior Lake Effigy Mound cluster) has been excavated. As mentioned above, no artifacts were found in the bird effigy at Prior Lake.

Altogether, 13 to 15 sites in Minnesota contain effigy or possible effigy mounds (Winchell 1911). These include 18 to 20 bird effigies, 3 panther, 1 human, 1 possible turtle, 1 possible fish with fins, and 4 possible snakes (Table 14.1; Figure 14.13). Except for the Scott County bird effigies, the other effigy mounds in the state are south of Minneapolis-Saint Paul in Driftless area counties that border the Mississippi River (Dakota, Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona, and Houston).

Excavations in the 1950s at two non-effigy mounds (one linear and one ovoid) at the Bremer mounds site (21DK5) indicate that they may be Effigy Mound culture-related, too. The mounds were excavated as part of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Spring Lake research project (Jenson 1959). Mound 1 contained three different types of burials: a secondary bundle burial on or near the ground surface, a cremation of at least eight individuals on top of the subsoil, and a primary burial in a two-foot deep subsurface pit covered with limestone slabs. No diagnostic artifacts were reported in association with these burials, and the last burial type is more characteristic of Havana-related Initial Woodland mortuary practices. Mound 2 contained a partial human skull in a submound pit but no artifacts. Jenson (1959) thought the mounds may be associated with the Late Woodland component at the nearby Bremer village site (21DK6), which did contain Madison ware.

Cultural Dynamics During the Mature Late Woodland Period. Most archaeologists agree that after about A.D. 800 Native Americans with an Effigy Mound Late Woodland culture in the Driftless area and immediate environs lived in family-based bands that followed a yearly round within territories they considered their own. Hurley (1986:284-285) has suggested that these territories probably covered about 40 to 50 square miles, and that there were four or so of these territorial groups in the Driftless area. Mound form and distribution have also been used as a source of information about Effigy Mound social organization, as mentioned above.

Besides being organized in territorial bands, Effigy Mound societies are also thought to have lived an egalitarian life-style. There is growing evidence, however, that regional differences in local group size and social complexity were developing in conjunction with an increasingly differential reliance on cultivated plant foods. Theler and Boszhardt (2006:460) have suggested that population increases led to a more sedentary, circumscribed way of life, increasing dependence on maize horticulture, disruption of the earlier pattern of seasonal dispersal of family bands, larger aggregations of people organized in a nuclear pattern of household residence and cooperation, tribal social organization, and stronger intraregional and interregional economic ties, since it was no longer efficient, necessary or even possible for each household to be a self-sufficient unit (also see Benn 1983:83). According to this interpretation, the eventual collapse of two crucial resources (deer and firewood) caused the interior of the Driftless area to be abandoned at about A.D. 1050 ─ 1100.

The Final Late Woodland Period, A.D. 1000 – 1200

Although a highly dynamic period of socio-religious, economic, and political change, the Final Late Woodland period per se has received slight attention by Minnesota archaeologists. During the period in the broader Driftless area, “pure” Late Woodland sites become rare, stockaded sites with an admixture of Late Woodland and Middle Mississippian traits appear in areas of southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa, the construction of effigy mounds ceases (by ca. A.D. 1050), and large areas of the Driftless area are apparently abandoned. By the end of the period, mound construction of any kind and the Late Woodland tradition itself come to an end in the Upper Mississippi Valley (Stoltman and Christiansen 2000:514-519).

This section concentrates on the archaeological record of the period and on alternative explanations of what happened to Late Woodland peoples in the region.

Recognizing Final Late Woodland Components

The most easily recognized diagnostic of Final Late Woodland period components in southeastern Minnesota is the presence (we propose) of Grant series ceramics. Grant ware vessels are grit-tempered, cord-roughened, globular jars that may have prominent castellations, collars, squared-orifice, or other special lip/rim treatment that raise the height of the rim (Figure 14.14). Decoration when present consists most generally of single-cord impressions over plain or cord-roughened rim surfaces. Bowls are present in some assemblages. Grant ware is regularly found in assemblages intermixed with Middle Mississippian, early Oneota, and/or other Final Late Woodland wares.

The Final Late Woodland Archaeological Record

The Final Late Woodland period marks a profound change in the archaeological record of southeastern Minnesota and the Upper Mississippi Valley in general. Large areas of the Driftless area seem abandoned by Late Woodland communities of any kind. More specifically, the area does not contain stockaded villages occupied by corn-growing Late Woodland peoples who made only grit-tempered collared pottery, a community type found throughout the Great Lakes area and eastward. Instead, stockaded villages with an admixture of Late Woodland and Middle Mississippian traits, including pottery, appear in southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa, and perhaps in the Red Wing locality.

In the Quad-State area of the Upper Mississippi River valley Final Late Woodland ceramics belong to the Grant series. Grant series ceramics are a regional variant of Canton ware (Finney and Stoltman 1991:240-243) and of what Benn and Green (2000:469-472) refer to as the High Rim horizon. Grant ware vessels are grit-tempered, cord-roughened, globular jars that may have prominent castellations, collars, squared-orifice, or other special lip/rim treatment that raise the height of the rim (Figure 14.14). Rims tend to be slightly curved. Compared to Madison ware, Grant ware vessels have somewhat higher, more flaring rims, a broader vessel shoulder, thicker cord impressions made by less complicated cord types, fewer combinations of decorative bands, and a more careful smoothing of the exterior surface before decoration was applied. Lips may be bent or beveled outward. Decoration when present consists most generally of single-cord impressions over plain or cord-roughened rim surfaces. Bowls are present in some assemblages.

The Grant series has been divided into four types: Grant Cord Impressed, Grant Collared, Grant Plain, and Grant Cordmarked. Benn and Green (2000:471) provide a succinct description of decoration on Grant Cord Impressed (Grant CI) pottery:

Grant CI is the most elaborately decorated type in the series. Vertical or horizontal single-cord impressions occur on the interior upper rims of half of the rim specimens, and two-thirds of these rims also have cord impressions on the lip surface. Exterior design motifs on Grant CI vessels resemble some of the Madison ware motifs in the use of horizontal cords, zigzags, chevrons, and bands of different elements, but it appears that the tripartite design has been simplified by leaving out one of the motifs on the Grant type. Compared to Madison ware (Baerreis 1953; Benn 1980) the Grant decorations are composed of thicker cords, fewer combinations of decorative bands, and the composition of cord types is less complicated. In Grant CI, there seem to be fewer paired cords, mixed (countered) cord twists, or fringes of knots, cord loops, or reed punctates around the central decorative zone. Many of the Grant cord impressions reveal gaps and overlaps typical of the single-cord impressing process, and unlike Madison ware fabrics, most design elements were impressed separately on the interior rim, over the lip, on the exterior upper rim, and on the central motif.

About 25 percent of Grant Cord Impressed rims at the Fred Edwards site in southwestern Wisconsin have large, flaring peaks or castellations that are not thickened (Finney 1993:115).

The rims of Grant Collared vessels are cord-roughened and have narrow cord-impressed collars on the exterior upper rim. Compared to the rims of Aztalan Collared, a collared type more common east of the Quad-State area, the collars on Grant Collared are relatively thin, for they were formed by either simply folding the lip over or by adding a thin strip of paste to the rim. Bold lip peaks are present on some vessels. Vertical cord impressions are occasionally present on the interior upper rim or exterior lower rim below the collar. Lips may be decorated with single cord, knot, or cordwrapped-stick impressions. Grant Plain and Grant Cordmarked vessels are morphologically similar to other Grant ware ceramics but have plain or cordmarked undecorated exterior surfaces, respectively (Figure 14.15). Some lip crests are decorated with single cord, knot, or cordwrapped-stick impressions.

Final Late Woodland archaeological cultures in the western Great Lakes-Upper Mississippi River valley region are associated with a widespread intensification of maize cultivation and the waning of the mound-building tradition, trends that Robert Hall (1993:51-52) suggests signify a shift of World Renewal ceremonialism from mortuary ritual and mound building to green corn ceremonialism. In this regard, Benn and Green (2000:481-482) believe that high rim vessels of the Grant, Minotts, and Great Oasis wares appear to be designed specifically as vessels for simmer ing large quantities of seed foods into a gruel, because the pots have globular bodies for large volume  and heat distribution as well as constricted necks for heat retention. The rims on these vessels are far larger than required to affix a cover, yet the high rim provides space to display elaborate chevron motifs, castellations, and various types of bracing (e.g., collars). The chevron motif (“tall” isosceles, equilateral, scalene triangles) probably depicts the breast and wings of the falcon/thunderbird that are displayed on the rims of some Illinois Valley Canton vessels (Sampson 1988) and are prevalent later during the Mississippian period (Benn 1989; Hall 1991:29).

Braun (1983) suggests, too, that trends in the refinement of vessel form and paste technology, whose origin can be traced back to Weaver ware, had transformed these vessels into effective boiling containers for seed foods by the Final Late Woodland period. 

Grant ware is often found intermixed with Middle Mississippian, early Oneota, and/or other Final Late Woodland wares in assemblages, as at Fred Edwards in southwestern Wisconsin and Hartley Fort in northeastern Iowa. Admixtures of pottery traits from as many as three cultural traditions have also been found in sites in the Red Wing locality. The most extensive excavations of a culturally mixed component has taken place at the Mero I site in the Diamond Bluff area of Wisconsin, first by Moreau Maxwell (1950) in 1948 and later by Robert Alex in 1974 (Rodell 1991, 1997).

T. H. Lewis recorded the presence of 308 conical mounds, 77 linear mounds, 8 ovoid mounds, and 3 effigy mounds in the Diamond Bluff area (Svec 1987). Maxwell excavated six of these mounds, including three conicals, two ovals, and one panther effigy. Mound-fill artifacts from two of the conicals and one oval contained shell- and grit-tempered pottery that had vessel forms and some trailed decoration resembling the angular-shouldered Powell/Ramey jars that are characteristic of Cahokia (Rodell 1991:258-264). The four jars found in the panther mound are of particular interest. Stoltman and Christiansen (2000:518) provide a brief description of these vessels and their placement within the mound:

Four ceramic vessels, all shell tempered, were recovered from this mound (Maxwell 1950:441-442; Rodell 1991:263-265). One, found on the mound floor, is described as having an angular shoulder. A second, from the mound fill, has a rounded shape and two loop handles. A third was associated directly with a juvenile burial encountered within the mound fill 2 ft beneath the surface. This vessel, too, is described as having angular shoulders but with pronounced lobes above which was concentric-arc incising and below which were smoothed-over-cordmarked surfaces. The fourth vessel, found adjacent to the orifice of a subfloor pit containing two burials, is described as having a rolled lip and Ramey Incised-like decoration on the shoulder. As for the burials, there is no evidence of overlying intrusive pits or other signs of disturbances to support the view that the associated vessels were later intrusions into the mound (Maxwell 1950:441; Rodell 1991:263-265).

These mounds contain, then, an apparent admixture of Late Woodland, Middle Mississippian, and probable Oneota traits (Dobbs and Anfinson 1990:165). Alex’s 1974 excavations in a residential area of the site encountered a similar mixture of traits.

In this component, Ramey Incised scroll motifs (check), which are an Upper Mississippi Valley marker of presumed interaction with Middle Mississippian peoples, is present on grit-tempered “Woodland” jars with some cordmarked surfaces (Grant ware?), on rounded, high-rim, “Oneota” jars, and on shell-tempered, angular shouldered jars. Five radiocarbon dates for the component range from A.D. 1040 ± 55 to A.D. 1195 ± 55 (Rodell 1991:270), which makes the component contemporary with Fred Edwards, Aztalan, and presumably Hartley Fort.

In Minnesota, some conical burial mounds in the Birch Lake cluster on Prairie Island near Red Wing may have been constructed by Mississippian-influenced Native Americans with a late Effigy Mound culture, too, for a small number of cord-marked, grit-tempered sherds were present along with a small, non-diagnostic, cord-marked, grit-tempered mortuary vessel and a few artifacts with Mississippian cultural associations (Johnson et al. 1969). It is also possible that the hundreds of mounds that cluster around major Silvernale phase villages in the Red Wing locality, such as Silvernale and Bryan, were build at least in part by acculturating Final Late Woodland period peoples and represent a persistence for a while at least of the worldview that led to the construction of thousands of earthen mounds in the Upper Mississippi River valley (see Chapter 16).

Grant ware has not been identified among the Final Late Woodland ceramics at Diamond Bluff and Birch lake, although we believe it is most likely present but unidentified. Grant ware has been tentatively identified at the nearby Bryan site (21GD4) in the Red Wing locality and at the King Coulee site (21WB56) in Wabasha County (Gibbon and Dobbs 1991:293; Yourd and Gragg 1987; see Benn and Green 2000:472).

Weapon points during this period include simple, unnotched Madison triangular arrow points and Cahokia Side Notched cluster arrow points (Cahokia, Reed, Harrell, and/or Des Moines). Cahokia Side Notched cluster points resemble Late Woodland/Mississippian Triangular cluster points except they have notches on the side and occasionally on the base.

Models of Late Woodland Dissolution. By ca. A.D. 1200 or somewhat earlier, the tradition of mound building and the Late Woodland tradition itself came to an end in the Upper Mississippi Valley. After that date, Oneota peoples seem the only cultural group present to historic contact in the seventeenth century (see Chapter 18). What happened? Did Late Woodland peoples die out, move away, or become part of other emergent cultural traditions in the region? This section briefly reviews two interpretations of the processes involved.

According to the emergent-state hypothesis, the admixture of ceramic traits in the Mero I Final Late Woodland component at Diamond Bluff represents “an episode in the evolutionary trajectory leading to mature Oneota culture that came to dominate the upper Mississippi Valley region after A.D. 1200” (Stoltman and Christiansen 2000:519). Stoltman and Christiansen (2000:519) describe this trajectory in the final paragraph of their summary of the Late Woodland stage in the Driftless area of the Upper Mississippi Valley:

Under the emergent-state hypothesis, we visualize the following scenario. During the late tenth century A.D., Effigy Mound culture was in its mature stages throughout most of southern Wisconsin. Practicing a cultivating ecosystem type of subsistence (Stoltman and Baerreis 1983), Effigy Mound peoples led a highly mobile lifestyle that involved periodic congregation at mound groups where burial rites and mound construction served to affirm corporate social bonds while simultaneously demarcating and sanctifying territorial boundaries. Between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1050, profound cultural influences, ultimately derived from the great American Bottom center of Cahokia, began to permeate the upper Mississippi Valley (Stoltman 1991[c]). These influences almost certainly were multidimensional, having social, economic, religious, and possibly even political overtones. Within this context, enhanced by the success with which maize could be grown in volume and stored for long periods, it can be imagined that the Effigy Mound peoples abandoned much of their traditional domain within the heart of the Driftless Area to congregate at such key locations as the Red Wing locality, where the valued goods, services, and information emanating from the Cahokia world could be readily accessed. Mound construction was not immediately abandoned, as is documented by the enormous concentrations of mounds in the Red Wing locality ─ T. H. Lewis reported over 2,000 there (Gibbon and Dobbs 1991:281). Eventually, however, mound building waned and was seemingly no longer practiced in the region after ca. A.D. 1200. Perhaps the adoption of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and, along with it, new forms of communal ceremonies (like planting and harvesting rites) provided a new social milieu within which the old practice of periodic congregation at dispersed Effigy Mound sites no longer was viable. It was in this overall setting, we postulate, that the indigenous Late Woodland peoples of the Driftless Area and its environs “evolved” into Oneota culture, which we see at Diamond Bluff as ‘a work in progress.’”

Although different in detail, Theler and Boszhardt (2000, 2003, 2006) also propose a Late Woodland to Oneota transition in the region, with Oneota culture emerging in its “pure” form by ca. A.D. 1200. 

An alternative cultural interaction hypothesis suggests a more multifaceted, if also ultimately linear, scenario (Gibbon and Dobbs 1991; Gibbon 1972). According to this perspective, the cultural innovations that were transforming the heartland of the Mississippi Valley between A.D. 800 and 1000 also strongly influenced Woodland peoples in the Upper Mississippi Valley and elsewhere. These innovations led, by A.D. 1050, to the emergence of Cahokia in the American Bottom, of Oneota communities in eastern Wisconsin (Overstreet 1997), and of Plains Village communities along the Minnesota and Missouri rivers (see Chapter 17), among the shift of many other communities to a more settled, maize-growing lifeway (xxxx). Importantly, the turmoil that Theler and Boszhardt (2006) believe was caused by purely internal developments, such as population packing and loss of critical resources, was caused as much, if not more so, we believe by tensions sent throughout the Upper Midwest by cultural developments at Cahokia and elsewhere in the American Bottom. 

It was within this context that some late Effigy Mound and Oneota peoples were drawn to the Red Wing locality by ca. A.D. 1050, perhaps by a contingent of Middle Mississippians, where they formed an intertwined assemblage of peoples. Chapter 16 describes the Silvernale phase that developed from these (or other) origins. Both the construction of effigy mounds and of Woodland ceramic vessels soon ceased as new worldviews and socio-political alliances emerged.

By A.D. 1200, Middle Mississippian influences had retreated from the Upper Mississippi Valley, Late Woodland peoples had become fully integrated into new lifeways, and Oneota culture now spread widely throughout the northern section of the Prairie Peninsula. Although short on detail here, this interpretation suggests that the region was strongly influenced by southern cultural tensions much earlier than Cahokia stimulus models suggest and that Oneota communities were part of the Silvernale phase mix, rather than an end product of its demise. Like the emergent-state hypothesis, this interpretation agrees that Late Woodland peoples transformed into Oneota peoples, although some Oneota groups likely entered the Red Wing locality from elsewhere in Wisconsin, where the culture had emerged by A.D. 1000, if not earlier.

The Red Wing locality is at present an active area of research and rethinking by Minnesota-based archaeologists, including Clark Dobbs, Ed Fleming, George Holley, and Ron Schirmer. We look forward to new insights into the cultural dynamics of the Final Late Woodland period in the near future.

Research Questions and Information Needs

As mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, the Late Woodland period in southeastern Minnesota may be the most poorly known period in a region in Minnesota. Consequently, we need the most basic of information for the period. The following questions are general in nature, and in their generality demonstrate this lack of information. 

  • A fundamental information need is basic information (any information) about the Initial Late Woodland period (A.D. 500 – 700) in southeastern Minnesota. Are Lane Farm Cord-Impressed jars present in the state? Did the bow and arrow first appear in this region of the state during this period? More generally, did the major shifts in technology, population distribution, and social structure that began about A.D. 600 in southwestern Wisconsin take place at the same time in Minnesota, too?
  • We assume that Madison ware and Angelo Punctated ceramics are much more widespread in southeastern Minnesota than reported in the literature. A survey of ceramics in artifact collections (both private and institutional) from this region of the state is long overdue. The survey will help plot the distribution of Mature Late Woodland sites in the region
  • What mounds besides effigy shapes did Effigy Mound-related peoples in southeastern Minnesota build? This question may be difficult to answer without further mound excavation.
  • Did effigy shaped mounds in southeastern Minnesota delimit band territories?
  • Given the widespread presence of linear mounds in Minnesota, can we assume that Effigy Mound-related people necessarily built the linear mounds in the Southeast resource zone?
  • Does the settlement-subsistence model of the growth and collapse of Effigy Mound culture in southwestern Wisconsin apply to southeastern Minnesota?
  • What was the nature of the Final Late Woodland period in southeastern Minnesota? At present, there is practically no information on this vital period, from a Late Woodland perspective, in the Red Wing locality or elsewhere in southeastern Minnesota. Is Grant ware, as proposed here, the dominant Final late Woodland ware during this period in southeastern Minnesota?

Contributors to this chapter: Guy Gibbon

Date of last contribution: December 2008