Monday, March 15, 2021

 Connecting People, Past and Present:

Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI

Speakers: Heather Walder, PhD & Marvin DeFoe, THPO
March 28, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr. Heather Walder and THPO Marvin DeFoe will be the March 28 virtual lecturers.

In northern Wisconsin is a recently developed and ongoing collaborative program, Gete Anishinaabeg Izhichigewin [Ancient Anishinaabeg Lifeways] Community Archaeology Project (GAICAP). It is a shared effort between the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) and academic archaeologists.

Dr. Walder relates: “Our project began in 2018 with the return and reanalysis of pre-contact and historic artifact collections from a Beloit College 1979 field school for curation at THPO, followed by excavations in Frog Bay Tribal National Park. Work focused on a parcel of the park repatriated to Red Cliff through a purchase from a private landowner in 2017.”

Driven by shared interest in protecting and understanding the multicomponent Archaic through Late Woodland period occupations at the Frog Bay Site (47BA60) and others nearby, this project involves Red Cliff community members, students, and additional stakeholders in all stages of planning, research design, excavation, and interpretation. Young people and adults are involved in excavating, flintknapping and in cooking, for example.

Distinctive aspects of the site – such as a lithic industry based on the reduction of locally available quartz cobbles – link its inhabitants with those of other nearshore sites in the Apostle Islands and wider western Lake Superior region, while non-local lithic materials speak of more distant social and economic connections in the midcontinent.

This presentation will focus on the results of the 2018 and 2019 excavations and community-based events and outreach related to the Frog Bay site, sharing evidence of the long-term continuity of Native people going back at least 5,000 years at the site. In 2021, they hope to return for more fieldwork and public programming, as long as they can do so safely. For the upcoming season, work will be on a much more recent historic site; plans include an archaeological survey of an area known as the “Old Pageant Grounds,” which was the location of an early 20th century tourist pageant in 1924 and 1925.

Heather Walder is an anthropological archaeologist (PhD 2015, UW-Madison) interested in interregional interaction and diaspora communities of the Upper Great Lakes during the 17th century and long-term cultural continuities in the region.  She is a Lecturer at UW-La Crosse and also a Field Museum Research Associate specializing in elemental analyses of glass trade beads and other artifacts to learn about colonial-era interactions and exchange networks.  In 2018 and 2019, she co-directed GAICAP, along with Dr. John Creese of North Dakota State University, and THPO Marvin DeFoe. Collaborative, community-based research and lab-based analytical methods inform her scholarship and teaching. 

Marvin DeFoe (Anishinabe name Shingway Benase which means sounds coming from Thunderbirds’ wings) is of the Namay (Sturgeon) Clan. His current work is THPO Tribal Historical Preservation Officer for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, protecting sacred, archeological, and burial sites past, present and future. 

He writes “Our community in which I live is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, which we call Red Cliff.  I am one of 1,500 tribal members that reside here. My education is primarily attending Anishinabe school, lifelong learning of our traditions, stories and knowledge. I have been taught by private professors that we call Elders.”

Join us on Zoom (or Facebook Live) on Sunday, March 28, as we explore the fascinating work of these collaborators.  Members sign on early at 3:15pm for an informal period before we open to the public at 3:30pm.

Topic: Dr. Heather Walder & Marvin Defoe,THPO -
“Connecting People, Past and Present:  Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI”
Time: Mar 28, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 969 6286 5328
Passcode: 869949
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,96962865328#,,,,*869949# US (Chicago)
+13017158592,,96962865328#,,,,*869949# US (Washington D.C)
Dial by your location
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
Meeting ID: 969 6286 5328
Passcode: 869949

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Mike Ruggeri Reports

Keeping an Eye On 

Archaeology News & Events

Who Built Serpent Mound

The phenomenal archaeological site of Serpent Mound in Ohio has been the subject of a growing recent controversy among Midwest archaeologists as to who built Serpent Mound and when.
There are two important cultures in ancient times in the area, the Adena culture and the Fort Ancient culture. The Adena culture spanned 1000 BCE-100 CE and lived in the area of the site then, while the Fort Ancient culture lived there from 1000-1650 CE, a thousand years later.

The Adena lived in what is now Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and surrounding areas. They created elaborate earthworks, including sacred circles, as well as mounds. So they were capable of constructing this huge effigy.
The Fort Ancient people were a farming culture, and many believe they introduced maize farming to the area. They were also mound builders. They constructed low, plateau-like mounds used to defend their villages or as ceremonial places. Some are thought to have been used to record solstices and other important astronomical events. So some of the signatures of the effigy match Fort Ancient iconography and build.

Serpent Mound is the largest effigy mound in the world, stretching 1,348 feet, built from thick layers of ash and clay anchored by rocks over the top, and then a thick layer of soil over the stones so that grass and vegetation could cover it. It was built in the shape of a serpent with its head directly aligned with the setting sun on the summer solstice. It is built at the edge of a four mile wide meteor crater.

The controversy centers on the construction dates for the effigy mound. Those believing it was constructed by the Fort Ancient culture believe it was built at 1070 CE. The other group of archaeologists believe it was constructed by the Adena culture at 320 BCE. There are three burial mounds adjoining the serpent, one Adena and two Fort Ancient and a Fort Ancient village. The largest group have a large number of radio-carbon dates from the mound and surrounding areas indicating that the Fort Ancient culture built the effigy mound. They also have Mississippian related dates and iconography contemporaneous with the Fort Ancient culture showing similarities in the serpent style.

The team believing the much earlier Adena culture built Serpent Mound have recent radio-carbon dates in the mound itself dated to the Adena culture, but these findings are questioned.

The head of the giant serpent is constructed in a U-shape looking like it is ingesting an egg. The serpent has seven coils which may align with the phases of the moon. Since the head aligns with the sun on the summer solstice and the body could represent phases of the moon, this structure combines both solar and lunar alignments.

The Fort Ancient adherents base part of their proof on the art and iconography of the Mississippian Civilization to the east. They look to Picture Cave in Missouri for the Fort Ancient design styles of the serpent. Radio-carbon dates from Picture Cave match radio-carbon dates taken at Serpent Mound. Immigrants from the Mississippian Civilization were making their way into Ohio to escape severe droughts at that time. They would have brought with them Mississippian religious ideas. One of the main ideas would have been the idea of a great serpent, Lord of the Beneath World, who would help in productive harvests. The intertwining of the Great Earth Goddess with the serpent in the Mississippian world is a constant theme. And there is a cave painting at Picture Cave (which I was able to find after a lot of research) showing a serpent figure with the head shaped in a U-shape just like the head of the serpent at Serpent Mound. There is also the Mississippian chunky ball game where the round chunky stone is associated with the sun, which may have something to do with the head of the serpent swallowing a round object representing the sun.

Both cultures would have seen eclipses of the sun, so the head of the serpent swallowing a round object may be a religious depiction of those events in the iconography of the serpent swallowing the sun.

After having done extensive research for this article, I strongly believe Serpent Mound was built by the Fort Ancient culture. Finding the Picture Cave, Missouri coiled serpent cave painting with the U-shaped mouth which was contemporaneous with the Serpent Mound construction, and with Mississippians entering that area at the same time, it is pretty certain the builders are Fort Ancient – despite the serpent burials and an Adena artifact you can view in the slide show I created for this article: <>


Thursday, March 11, 2021

 Becoming “Equestrian” in the Bronze Age

Horse teeth, bones, and DNA: Our Earliest Connections

~ report by Anne Wilson-Dooley ~

 Guest speaker for the CAS last month was Dr. Kate Kanne, a major researcher on Bronze Age Hungary when tamed/domesticated horses were arriving in Europe.  Her work has required detailed analysis of archaeological excavated remains, settlement patterns, DNA of horse populations, comparative horse anatomy, and strontium isotope results for both the human and horse populations.

You can watch the entire lecture presented and recorded on Facebook Live: <> where 60 viewers took the opportunity to join a core group of 32 in our Zoom and many more have watched the recording.  

Here are some highlights:

The first documented interaction human and horse was of Neanderthals eating horse meat ca. 400,000 years ago. The importance of horses to Upper Paleolithic peoples is highlighted by the anatomically correct horses beautifully represented in cave paintings such as Chauvet and Lascaux in France and elsewhere.

 Much of the early horse taming/domestication has to be inferred and is centered in the steppes of western Asia.

When did our ancestors begin riding horses? A very important indicator is in the bones of our ancestors. When horseback riding is a usual activity, there is an elongation in the hip socket from essentially circular to more oval; this is more pronounced when individuals have begun to ride as children. Another indicator is from metal bits found in archaeological remains, and wear on the teeth of horses associated with the metal bits. The earliest bridles and bits and saddles were made of organic materials which did not survive, but habitual use of non-metal bits does cause some specific types of erosion on the horse teeth.

Dr. Kanne’s major research area is the Carpathian Basin of central Hungary and its Middle Bronze Age sites, 2000-1450 BCE. Hungary has 1000s of barrows (burial) and settlement sites. It has the richest grasslands of Europe so was a prime location for horse cultures. A very important finding is that in both male and female humans both had the elongated sockets. Citing remains for one site, Érd-Hosszúföldek, she observed ‘it looks like all of the people are riding; probably using horses for riding and traveling.’ This along with other items refutes an assumption that the Middle Bronze Age societies were very hierarchical with men having a primary position and warfare being prevalent. 

The Q + A period following the presentation on Zoom was lively.  Be sure to join us “in person” for our next lecture.