Late Woodland communities in the American Bottom: the Fish Lake Site

Andrew C. Fortier

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingTechnical report


The Fish Lake locality, in the central American Bottom floodplain, was the focus of a major concentration of Late Woodland habitation, dating to the Patrick phase, or circa cal AD 650–900. Excavations by ISAS here have yielded well over 700 pits and structures, including several large public buildings and multiple household units. This report introduces the concept of individual household space, that is, consistent areas of open terrain between houses and pits, regardless of the overall community pattern. The absence of pits inside houses also underscores the differentiation between private and communal space. The identification of so many settlement types in the same location of the same period throws a great deal of light on how socially complex this time was. Such diversity has been previously recognized at the nearby Range site but not at smaller encampments from this period. One important result of both excavations is the finding that the larger, more complex settlements such as Fish Lake and Range were not dependent on maize agriculture; that is, large population growth in the American Bottom prior to cal AD 900 was not economically based on a single crop. We now must look for other explanations for how communities like Fish Lake and Range were able to take root in this area and provide the basis for the eventual events that led to the development of Cahokia. Community harvests and hunts and social/ritual fandangos may have had as much to do with the emergence of complexity the economy and landscape stability did. One of the significant aspects of this report is the presentation of Late Woodland materiality in great detail. It is hoped that this report will provide a baseline for future research and a better understanding of the Late Woodland period in general.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationChampaign
PublisherIllinois State Archaeological Survey Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameISAS Research Report no. 28


  • ISAS


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