The Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center 2019 Field School conducted excavations within the Goose Island campground in La Crosse County, Wisconsin. Eighteen high school students and adults participated along with 14 middle schoolers and 7 UWL student volunteers. The beautiful high knoll next to the Mississippi river seemed like the perfect location for a site, but had never been tested before the 2018 field school. Last year, we found a nice Early Woodland component dating from around 500 BC to about 100 AD, and several later Middle Woodland and early Late Woodland occupations. In 2019 we opened nine additional 2×2 meter units, including several units near where we had found a biface during 2018 shovel testing. We excavated down to about 70 cm below the ground surface, into the loose subsoil sand, but the majority of the material came from the upper 50 cm. We found two small concentrations of burned and fire-cracked rocks that appear to represent hearths. We took all of the soil from around these rocks, and will process it in the lab using flotation so that hopefully we can recover some seeds or wood from the campfire. We can date these features from the abundance of small pottery sherds that were recovered nearby. Most of the sherds have a cord-roughened surface, with dentate stamped impressions as decoration, marking this as a Middle Woodland occupation, around 200-400 AD.
We also found a number of bifaces and lots of flakes of a wide range of raw materials. They included mostly the local Prairie du Chien chert, but there were also flakes of Grand Meadow chert from southern Minnesota, and silicified sandstone that might be from Hixton, Jackson County, Wisconsin. Last year we also found a few flakes of Knife River Flint from North Dakota, confirming the essential role of trade and travel along the Mississippi.
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!