Upper Midwest History Middle and Late Woodland Period

Middle Woodland (500BC – 200BC)

There were two main subsistence patterns during the Middle Woodland. The first is an agricultural-hunting complex in the south. The second is a fishing-hunting complex in the north Great Lakes region (Cleland 1966:62). This fishing complex reached its full stature during the Late Woodland as the indigenous peoples exploited local aquatic resources more intensively (Lovis et al. 2001:622).

In both complexes there was a decreasing nomadism and larger living groups. Fishing was an important secondary food source in the Great Lakes region for use when game animals were scarce, although the evidence for fishing decreases in later cultural horizons (Milner 2004). This change may be a result of a greater reliance upon crop foods (Cleland 1966:62-63), although agriculture was still not utilized as intensively as in the southern Mississippi and Ohio valleys (Lovis et al. 2001:616). Evidence from the Schultz site indicates that sites during the transition from Middle Woodland to Late Woodland were not utilized as intensively as in previous cultural periods (Lovis et al. 2001:620).

The Hopewell Interaction Sphere flourished at this time. As the name suggests, trade networks characterized the Hopewell Interaction Sphere, although there is some debate as to the effect this had on local societies in the Upper Midwest region (Dancey and Pacheco 1997:10).

Late Woodland (200BC – AD800)

There were several important regional adaptations in the Late Woodland period. The first large agricultural villages had both patrilineal and matrilineal organization and provided more intensive residential systems. Marginal corn agriculture supplemented fishing and hunting (Cleland 1966:65-67)). Seasonal occupations continued, with the winter subsistence organized around small hunting bands that brought meat back to the larger social group (Cleland 1966:66). Communication between groups broke down after the decline of the Hopewell Interaction Sphere, occasionally to the point of warfare (Milner 2004:117).

Important changes in the diet also occurred during the Late Woodland period. Starchy and oily seeds of several native cultigens, or crops, became essential parts of diets in many areas, although they were still supplemented by limited hunting and gathering (Milner 2004:117-119). The introduction of maize impacted the formation of hierarchical structures called chiefdoms (Milner 2004:106).

Another important development of this period was the appearance of small projectile points that fall into the arrow classification. In his article on Late Woodland hunting techniques, Michael Shott (1993) explained the development of the arrow point by proposing the stemmed-arrow-point thesis. This thesis briefly states that arrow projectile forms began with known projectile points. In order to meet the necessary shape for an arrow, the dimension and properties of known points were changed until they met the ballistic requirements for an arrow. Later, experimentation and refinement of the process led to variation and perfection of the design. The arrow was such an important tool that some believe its adoption may have hastened the decline of the Hopewell Interaction Sphere by making conflict more commonplace and more dangerous (Shott 1993:425).

-Works Cited-

Cleland, Charles.
1966 The Prehistoric Animal Ecology and Ethnozoology of the Upper Great Lakes Region. Museum of Anthropology No. 29 . University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dancey, William S. and Paul J. Pacheco.
1997 Ohio Hopewell Community Organization. The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio.

Milner, George.
2004 The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America. Thames and Hudson, London.

Shott, Michael J.
1993 Spears, Darts, and Arrows: Late Woodland Hunting Techniques in the Upper Ohio Valley. American Antiquity, Vol. 58 (3): 425-443.