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UMMA Brown Bag Series: Late Woodland Settlement and Subsistence in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Thursday, October 25, 2012
12:00 AM
2009 Ruthven Museum

This presentation outlines my current research into the Late Woodland period (AD 600 to AD 1600) in the eastern Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.  The Late Woodland period in the Upper Great Lakes region is often characterized through models emphasizing the intensive use of a single, key resource, particularly maize, fall spawning fish, or wild rice. For example, the primary Late Woodland subsistence model for northern Michigan focuses on the intensive harvest of fall, deep water spawning fish (whitefish and lake trout) as the cornerstone of the settlement and subsistence strategy (Cleland’s Inland Shore Fishery). My study revisits Late Woodland subsistence practices in the UP and suggests that this settlement and subsistence model is incomplete and requires revision. 


Archaeological evidence, ethnographic data, and pilot study results reveal that a more dynamic and flexible set of strategies was likely employed by Late Woodland peoples in the eastern UP.  These sources have also shown that certain environments were more extensively used than others and have raised the possibility that Late Woodland people also modified the landscape through their activities.  The reconsideration of Late Woodland subsistence in the eastern UP will explore strategies for subsistence risk buffering and decision making by Late Woodland people and should provide new perspectives on resource scheduling and patterns of mobility as well as their interaction with and role in shaping the physical landscape.

Sean Dunham, Michigan State University