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Investigating Late Prehistory in the Landscapes of Douglas Lake, Michigan

With National Science Foundation support, Dr. Meghan Howey and a team of specialists, students, and citizen scientists will conduct two field seasons of research on Late Prehistoric (AD 1200-1600) Native American occupation around Douglas Lake in Northern Michigan. The Cultural Landscapes of Douglas Lake Archaeological Research Program represents the first professional archaeology at Douglas Lake and is a joint effort between the University of New Hampshire and the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS). For millennia, communities in Northern Michigan moved easily between resource zones. The adoption of maize horticulture after AD 1200 along the coasts of the Great Lakes changed this - the new farmers settled into more permanent villages and established exclusive coastal territories. Foragers, now limited to the interior, had to form new strategies for interacting with their coastal neighbors. Pilot research on Douglas Lake suggests that local Late Prehistoric hunter-gatherers developed an intensive occupation of this inland area. They generated surplus from local resources, intensified storage, developed multi-season occupations with substantial structures, and emphasized local community without engaging in extensive interaction with the coasts. This was a very different strategy than the one chosen by forager communities around other inland lakes south of Douglas. Here, foragers engaged in formal interactions with coastal communities, constructing large ceremonial monuments for inter-societal ritual and trade, thereby securing access to coastal staple goods. The research combines survey, excavation, remote sensing, radiometric dating, and material analyses to assess definitively whether the inland foragers of Douglas Lake did indeed have a distinctive interaction pattern with coastal horticulturalists. <br/><br/>The project will contribute substantially to our knowledge of the ways foragers and farmers relate, a topic of longstanding interest to anthropologists. By evaluating whether during Late Prehistory in Northern Michigan foragers made radically different choices about their interactions with horticultural neighbors, this research will provide a unique perspective on the diverse trajectories forager/farmer interaction can follow. Illuminating the ways hunter-gatherers living in similar environmental settings can chose very different strategies for negotiating changing sociopolitical conditions will challenge the generally held view that the environment was the only factor that shaped "small-scale" societies. There may, in fact, have been many reasons Late Prehistoric inland foragers made different choices -- political, social, religious, economic, and ecological. This research program opens the door for teasing apart how, when and why these multiple reasons are put to use by hunter-gatherers in dynamic regional settings. <br/><br/>The project has a real commitment to its broader impact in the world. Having grown from field schools, undergraduate education is paramount - students are involved first-hand in all aspects of the research. Public involvement also is vital to the program. As with the earlier research, findings will be shared with the public through a blog and UMBS Camp Stewards (volunteer citizen scientists) will continue to be key research participants. Collaboration with stakeholders, notably local/regional Native American communities, is key to the work's success. Avenues of collaboration include routine consultation with local tribal elders, inclusion of tribal students in field work, and plans for a seminar at UMBS about non-destructive archaeological methods for interested tribal members.

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