Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Robert Jeske

Committee Members

Jean Hudson, Patricia Richards, Terrance Martin, Brian Nicholls


archaeofauna, Langford, Midwest, mollusk, Oneota, Zooarchaeology





Rachel C. McTavish

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2019

Under the Supervision of Robert Jeske

The goal of this research is to investigate the nature of Upper Mississippian human-animal-environmental relationships (circa AD 1050-1450), to evaluate the role of resource management, the role of sustainability, and the multi-faceted nature of human-animal relationships, to understand how these choices are related to adaptations to structural violence. The research uses the Koshkonong Locality of southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox/Des Plaines Locality as case studies to compare divergent Upper Mississippian practices within the northern Prairie Peninsula.

This study uses zooarchaeological vertebrate and invertebrate data. Inclusive zooarchaeological datasets provided useful information about basic dietary trends, ecological management systems, environmental niche exploitation, and non-economic human-animal relationships.

The Oneota and Langford groups occupying the Lake Koshkonong and Fox/Des Plaines localities were likely responding to structural violence and the threat of potential physical violence within their daily resource choices. However, they show different cultural choices in the more nuanced manners in which they responded to systemic violence. These nuances can be connected to the divergent perspectives on placemaking and longevity on the landscape and the connections between choices in sustainability and management of local resources.

Overall, this dissertation research has called into question and provided a case for the re-evaluation of previous site typological assumptions and how groups settling within a “locality” interact in a socio-economic and political manner. While previous researchers have classified and analyzed the Robinson Reserve and Schmeling sites as villages, the inclusion of more data and a larger understanding with more village sites excavated in these localities allows for their re-interpretation as mortuary sites. In re-labeling the Robinson Reserve and Schmeling sites as having a mortuary function rather than a daily village life function, the demographic served in these specific locations on the landscape is shifted. This shift is necessary for the interpretation of the faunal assemblages, but more so it shifts the overarching ideas of what sites are located within these localities, what types of sites one can expect to find in future surveys and excavations. The intra-locality subsistence data and inter-cultural subsistence data indicates the value for a nuanced approach is necessary for testing how a group or groups’ daily choices are affected by the threat of systemic violence.

These two veins of research allows for future discussion of what is involved in Late Prehistoric groups’ decisions and concepts of placemaking- placemaking as marked by the surfaces used by the living, by the dead, and when those places are made and intertwined by both. Most importantly, the challenge to previous site typologies and the more nuanced examination of intra locality and inter-cultural subsistence data shifts the way in which we interpret the human-environmental relationship for groups in the region.