OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – Menominee Park’s Pratt Trail was getting a makeover until a Native American site dating back to AD 900 was discovered.
“We had known there were some possibilities that we were going to run into delays during construction due to the location of the site and the potential for archaeological finds,” Oshkosh Director of Public Works James Rabe said. “We’ve had other projects over the years that have come across things, but none as significant as this.”
The site is estimated to have been inhabited until AD 1600 and is believed not to have come into contact with European colonizers, according to Jennifer Haas, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Archaeological Research Laboratory Center director.
She said that ceramic and stone tools were found, and the imprint of at least one house is seen in the soil.
“It happens that organic material decomposes, so you don’t have the above-ground evidence. It leaves stains in the soil that tells archaeologists there were houses,” she said. “It’s very preliminary. The cultural items are typical of what we see in this area. Ceramic vessels for cooking or storage, stone tools, preserved organic material, animal remains.”
It is not yet known whether the site was part of an existing nation or tribe, as the Ho-Chunk, Menominee, and Potawatomi are others native to the area, according to Haas. While she is not certain about that, she is confident in the time period estimation.
“The timeframes come from the type of artifacts we’re seeing, like stylistic elements in the pottery,” she said.
Haas and her team members have been involved in the construction since construction began in the spring, given the long history of Native Americans in the area.
“We knew there would be a chance that there would be intact sites beneath the road,” she said.
Because of that, Haas and Rabe said that there was no damage done to the site by the construction that had taken place.
“We try to have as much of that upfront work and the plans in place just in case. In this particular case with Pratt Trail, the just in case, it occurred,” Rabe said. “If we can not disturb something, that’s going to be our first and foremost goal.”
Both archaeological and construction work will become near impossible once the ground freezes, and Rabe anticipates the remainder of the construction will have to wait until springtime.
“I don’t believe the archaeology team will be able to do their work if the ground becomes frozen, and certainly, our contractors won’t be able to do their work,” he said. “Certainly, with the discovery and the work that UW Milwaukee’s team is doing out there, we know that we’re not going to get the project done (before winter arrives).”
Rabe said that the discovery may alter the project as his team will avoid disturbing the discovery site as much as possible.
“We’re looking at it from a design standpoint to see if there are some things that maybe we can alter the plans that we had in place for the road project to reduce or minimize or eliminate some of those impacts,” he said.
Rabe stressed that the public needs to do their part and not go into the construction and archaeological work site.
“We need to let this team from UW-Milwaukee do their job, do their job uninterrupted and without a lot of people interfering.”