Terminal Woodland


By: Caven Clark


here is no sudden change in artifact style to mark the beginning of the Terminal Woodland substage. Instead it is defined in terms of the trends that set it apart from its antecedent (Gibbon and Caine 1980). Terminal Woodland is characterized by increased localized cultural differentiation, measurable in increments of stylistic variability and raw material use. Subsistence practices became highly specialized in areas with unique resources, such as the wild rice district in northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and adjacent portions of Canada, or the fisheries at Sault Ste. Marie. There is evidence for an increase in population size in the Terminal Woodland in the form of a higher density of sites and larger site size (Fitting 1975; Mason 1981).

The Terminal Woodland substage began between A.D. 600 and A.D. 700. From this point to recorded history the Upper Great Lakes was the scene of a complex interplay of archeological cultures representing three linguistic groups that were, in turn, partitioned into what are traditionally thought of by archeologists as culturally discrete and autonomous units. Terminal Wood land sites in this region are consistently characterized by heterogeneous ceramic assemblages. At virtually any site it is possible to find a constellation of Terminal Woodland wares including Blackduck, Lakes phase, Huron, and Straits of Mackinac varieties. Brose (1978:577) refers to the general condition as "chaotic," citing widespread population movements, wholesale abandonment of areas, and decimation by disease as contributing factors. There is increasing evidence of endemic warfare in the Lower Great Lakes (Trigger 1976) and midwest riverine regions (Milner et al. 1988), primarily among the horticultural societies.

On Isle Royale the Terminal Woodland was the time of the most intensive use of the island's resources.


  1. Brose, David S. 1978. Late Prehistory of the Upper Great Lakes Area. In Northeast, edited by Bruce Trigger, pp. 569-582. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15, William G., Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  2. Clark, Caven P. Archeological Survey and Testing at Isle Royale National Park, 1987-1990 Seasons. Lincoln, Neb: U.S. National Park Service, Midwest Archeological Center, 1995. Print.
  3. Fitting, James E. 1975. The Archaeology of Michigan. 2nd ed. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
  4. Gibbon, Guy E., and Christy A. H. Caine. 1980. The Middle to Late Woodland Transition in Eastern Minnesota. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 5(1):57-72.
  5. Mason, Ronald J. 1981. Great Lakes Archaeology. Academic Press, New York.
  6. Milner, George, Virginia Smith, and Eve Anderson. 1988. Conflict, Mortality, and Community Health in an Illinois Oneota Population. Paper presented at the conference entitled: Between Bands and States: Sedentism, Subsistence, and Interaction in Small-Scale Societies. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.