The transition zone between the Plains and Woodlands in Southern Minnesota is not homogenous, neither in terms of ecology or culture. The deciduous forests and oak barrens of the Eastern Woodlands present an ecological environment with a resource base much different than the tallgrass prairies of the Northeastern Plains, and the material remains left behind by peoples inhabiting both areas reflected this. Subjects such as the exchange of technology, such as one culture adopting select tools or traits from populations living on the other side of the ecotone, as well as the movement of people in general across this particular ecotone, have been the subject of study to many archeologists in the state.
In order to answer inquiries such as how much technology did cross the ecotone, which environments certain populations preferred, how heavily subsistence strategies changed with the environment, whether or not specific tools were created specifically for crossing the ecotone, whether or not certain groups regularly crossed the ecotone, and the intensity of tool use between populations, the material record may hold valuable information regarding these questions. Materials recovered by archeologists from a number of counties in Southern Minnesota from a transect crossing from the Prairie region east, across the ecotone to the western banks of the Mississippi River were examined for traits such as function, style, and intensity of re-use and curation. The sites in question reflected a variety of cultures, including Late Woodland, Oneota, Plains Village, and Middle Missouri. Artifacts diagnostic of a time period and populations according to geographical areas, such as projectile points and distinctive pottery, were especially useful in determining exactly which populations were present in each section of the study area, and at what time the area was occupied.
While sample sizes were too small to perform most types of statistical analysis, some general trends were apparent. Overall, the mixture of artifacts studied reflected evidence that in Late Prehistory, both Woodlands and Plains populations crossed the boundary into the ecotone, as well as into the "opposite" biome. However, lingering issues such as the implications of the presence of an unnamed type of High Rim pottery found in the Prairie Lakes region, whether or not specific tools were created specifically for crossing the ecotone, the disparity between the high intensity of lithic tool curation in the western counties versus less intense tool curation observed in the eastern portion of Minnesota, may still be addressed by future research.
Date of Degree
Master of Science (MS)
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Jordan, J. M. (2018). Across an Ecotone: An Analysis of Late Prehistoric Artifacts from Southern Minnesota [Master’s thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/844/
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