Archaeology, WIS 57,
and the Door Peninsula

Culture History

The following section provides a brief overview of the archaeological sites and associated cultural components identified along the WIS 57 reconstruction corridor project.


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Paleoindian (11,500 - 8,000 B.C.)

Paleoindian sites are generally small and widely scatterd. Sites are typically located in upland settings, along the margins of river valleys, and along the shores of ancient lakes and marshes. Some sites that are located in the vicinity of modern wetlands may be possible ancient game overlooks. The Paleoindian period is traditionally divided into the Early Paleoindian period and the Late Paleoindian period.

Both the Fabry Creek (Boss Tavern) and Heyrman I sites produced Paleoindian components.

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Archaic (8,000 - 1,000 B.C.)

The Archaic period in Wisconsin overlaps somewhat with the latter portions of the Late Paleoindian and the beginning of the Early Woodland periods. Three defining cultural shifts occurred during the Archaic period. First, subsistence practices moved to a broader procurement strategy by humans exploiting a greater diversity of small games and gathering a wider variety of wild plant resources. Second, Archaic traditions lack pottery. Lastly, the deceased were sometimes interred in natural features on the landscape such as gravel knolls or ridges.

The Archaic period may be further subdivided into three temporal stages Early Archaic (8,000 - 6,000 B.C.), Middle Archaic (6,000 - 3,000 B.C.), and Late Archaic (3,000 - 1,000 B.C.). The Early Archaic is distinguished from Late Paleoindian groups by the development of side notched projectile points. During the Middle Archaic, people began to manufacture ground stone tools such as adzes and axes. The Late Archaic witnessed the establishment of extra regional trade. These trade networks provided a means to exchange exotic materials such as marine conch shell and native copper.

Many Late Archaic habitation sites are located near navigable waterways. Not only did the wetlands, lakes, and rivers provide a diverse wealth of subsistence resources, but they also facilitated the transport of exotic material via water routes. In the Late Archaic, subsistence strategies included a greater emphasis on whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Deer meat was supplemented by smaller mammals, some fish, and avian species, and the gathering of wild plant foods such as nuts. The Late Archaic also marks the emergence of mound building practices, the use of red ocher in funerary rites, and the deposition of grave goods in burials.

The Heyrman I site also contains an Archaic component.

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Woodland (1,000 B.C. - A.D. 1,000)

As with the Archaic period, the Woodland period may be further subdivided into three chronological subunits: Early Woodland (1,000 B.C. - 300 B.C.), Middle Woodland (300 B.C. - A.D. 400), and Late Woodland (A.D. 400 - A.D. 1,000). Overall, the Woodland period was a time of increasing sedentism, and it is during the Woodland period that pottery and the bow and arrow make their first appearance. The Woodland period was also a time of increasing reliance on plant foods and intensive mound construction. Preferred locations for Woodland sites include interior bends of rivers near stream confluences within the vicinity of wetland resources.

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Early Woodland (1,000 B.C. - 300 B.C.)

The emergence of the Early Woodland period is generally considered to be coincident with the introduction of thick-walled, grit-tempered pottery, such as Marion Thick. Early Woodland pottery sometimes exhibits cord impressions decorations on both outer and inner surfaces and is sometimes decorated with incised lines. Projectile points of the Early Woodland begin to display increasingly noticeable stylistic variations.

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Middle Woodland (300 B.C. - A.D. 400)

Changes in styles of projectile points, pottery, and the intensity of mound building mark the transition from Early to Middle Woodland. Middle Woodland settlement sites are large and suggest seasonal occupation over a number of years. Plant foods became increasingly important at this time, especially the harvesting of seed plants such as wild rice (Zizania palustris) in floodplain environments. Animal foods included various land animals, aquatic animals, and birds.

The North Bay phase is thought to represent the archaeological remains of Native Americans living in northeast Wisconsin during Middle Woodland times. The North Bay phase is primarily defined by its plain surfaced, grit-tempered pottery decorated with dentate, linear, corded, and cord-wrapped stick stamping in banded patterns.

The Beaudhuin Village site is a North Bay fall and winter camp site that also includes a transitional Middle to Late Woodland component.

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Late Woodland (A.D. 400 - A.D. 1,200)

The bow and arrow first appear in the archaeological record of northeastern Wisconsin during the Late Woodland period.

Late Woodland sites are known in a variety of ecological settings suggesting a pattern of subsistence that relied upon seasonal movement to specific and dependable resources. Some examples of such seasonal resources include trapping waterfowl in wetlands during their spring migration or gathering wild rice in the autumn. Wild rice, chenopodium, blackberry, plum, cherry, and native honeysuckle are among preferred Late Woodland plant resources. Lake trout and whitefish have been identified in archaeological remains as well suggesting the development of an inland fishery to compliment hunting of game animals.

Archaeologists have identified three main Door Peninsula types of Late Woodland sites: small campsites, villages, and mound groups. Late Woodland habitation sites were often located along small bays, near river mouths, and in sandy terrace and dune areas on both sides of the peninsula. In the past, many conical mounds were reported on the Door Peninsula, especially along the shore of Green Bay from Sturgeon Bay south. Unfortunately, most mounds were destroyed before professional archaeological investigations took place.

The Heyrman I, Christoff, Delfosse-Allard, and Holdorf sites all contained Late Woodland components, while the Beaudhuin Village Site presented evidence of a transitional Middle to Late Woodland occupation.

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Oneota (A.D. 900 - A.D. 1,400)

The Oneota practiced a mixed economy of corn horticulture, fishing, gathering, and hunting of whitetail deer. Plain surfaced, shell tempered pottery that is often decorated with incised design motifs is diagnostic of an Oneota presence. Oneota groups replaced Late Woodland people on the Door Peninsula after A.D. 1,200. Present day Ho-Chunk and/or Menominee tribes may be descendent of these peoples.

The Holdorf site contained an Oneota component and the Fabry Creek (Boss Tavern) site has a potential Oneota component.

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Historic Euro-American

Archaeological research conducted along the WIS 57 project corridor identified several historic Euro-American sites including Vandermissen Brickworks and the town of Williamsonville. The Vandermissen Brickworks site represents a cottage industry brick making facility. The Williamsonville site is the location of the town of Williamsonville that was destroyed during the Peshtigo Fire in 1871.

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Culture History











Archaeological Sites


Beaudhuin Village

Fabry Creek (Boss Tavern)



Heyrman I


Vandermissen Brickworks