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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

MVAC 2018 Public Field School

July 24, 2018

Link to photos.            Link to videos.

The Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center 2018 Field School conducted excavations within the Goose Island campground in La Crosse County, Wisconsin. The beautiful high knoll next to the Mississippi river seemed like the perfect location for a site, but had never been tested. The campground wanted to know what was there, so that they could either avoid the spot, or expand onto it. MVAC conducted shovel tests in early July 2018, found artifacts, and made arrangements for test excavations by the public field school. We found a nice Early Woodland component dating from around 500 BC to about 100 AD.  We excavated eight 2×2 meter units down between 30 and 90 cm below the ground surface, with the majority of the material coming from within the upper 50 cm. One unit went down to 90 cm to make sure that we weren’t missing any buried deposits. We found only one projectile point; unfortunately it was snapped at the haft, but could be Early Woodland.  The ceramics were more varied and included a nice series of cord impressed over cord-roughened rims and body sherds, and some fingernail impressed over cord-roughened sherds. Comparison of them with assemblages from other sites identify them as Prairie ware, dating to the Early Woodland.  At least three very thick sherds had cord roughening on the interior, with fingernail impressions over cord-roughening on the exterior have been identified as Marion Thick, the earliest ceramic type in Wisconsin. There were also lots of flakes of a wide range of raw materials, predominantly the local Prairie du Chien chert, as well as some Cochrane, orthoquartzite, and even some Knife River Flint from North Dakota, confirming the essential role of trade and travel along the Mississippi. Shovel tests documented the distribution of the site, and bifaces were recovered from two of them, suggesting interesting areas that could be explored in the future.

We would like to thank Goose Island Campground and 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 many volunteers and Open House visitors!

Media Coverage:

WKBT -TV News 8

Facebook – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District