The Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center Field School for 2017 conducted excavations prior to improvements at the Hunters Point boat landing, on Goose Island, Vernon County, Wisconsin. This site was first reported in 1982 and based on our recent work, dates to between about 500 BC and 1300 AD, including the Oneota and Woodland Traditions of Native American cultures, though we think we also have an Archaic occupation below the Woodland levels. We opened up seven units, most of them 2 x 2 meter squares, and dug them down to about 70 cm below the ground surface. We found many flakes from stone tool manufacture, and many potsherds from the full sequence of Oneota and Woodland ceramics, including Late Woodland Madison Cord Impressed pottery near the top, Middle Woodland Lane Farm Rocker Stamped pottery below, with some thicker sherds near the bottom that look Early Woodland. Below that, we continued to find many flakes, but no more pottery, so we think this is an Archaic occupation, but we don’t know how old. We got a nice Madison Triangular point near the top of the units, but the only point from the deeper levels was snapped at the base so we can’t identify its age. In a separate area of the site, we got early Oneota pottery, but only a few sherds and flakes. Our units were much more productive than we had hoped, with some levels having over 100 sherds and more than 180 flakes. All of this information will help us to understand the lives of people who have camped here in the past, as they enjoyed the rich resources from the Mississippi River. We found a number of exotic stone raw materials, including some that derive from southern Minnesota (Grand Meadow), central Illinois (Burlington), and further north in Wisconsin (Cochrane), as well as some other high-quality materials that we don’t recognize, so we’ll have fun tracking down their source. Our research provides new evidence for the extensive trade up and down the river. We will also have a better understanding of the age of the landforms in the area, to help with future planning.
Our work was designed to recover information prior to the installation of a vault toilet and expansion of the parking lot. We would like to thank the La Crosse County Facilities Department for working with us on this project, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District for granting us permission to excavate on federal property. Thanks also to those who provided funds for student scholarships. Thanks to everyone who helped with this year’s field school including our Open House visitors!