Late Woodland settlement and subsistence in eastern Connecticut

Date of Completion

January 1993


Anthropology, Archaeology|History, United States




This thesis is the result of a six year regional investigation into the diversity of Late Woodland lifeways in eastern Connecticut. A number of data sources are used to assess the variability of Late Woodland settlement and subsistence patterns in five environmentally distinct areas of eastern Connecticut. Information from previous excavations in the North-Central Lowlands, Northeastern Hills, Southeastern Hills, Eastern Coastal, and Maritime (Block Island) Ecoregions was collected, analyzed, and interpreted within a regional comparative framework. When available, ethnographic analogy was used to interpret the archaeological data. Finally, the results of four years of primary archaeological fieldwork conducted at three Late Woodland components in the North-Central Lowlands are presented.^ Surveys and excavations at the Burnham-Shepard, Butternut Knoll, and Kasheta sites provide important settlement and subsistence data on Late Woodland occupations in the North-Central Lowlands. Macrobotanical, faunal, ceramic, and lithic analyses facilitated a regional synthesis and interpretation of Late Woodland subsistence strategies. Further, the analysis of storage features and associated cultigens contributed to our understanding of early horticulture in southern New England. In addition, sites with evidence of Late Woodland horticulture are compiled and the role of horticulture in the subsistence systems of eastern Connecticut is explored. Finally, the identification and examination of warm weather occupations at the Burnham-Shepard and Kasheta sites, and a cold weather occupation at the Butternut Knoll site, provides insight into Late Woodland settlement systems in the North-Central Lowlands.^ This investigation also identifies five contemporaneous Late Woodland settlement and subsistence systems throughout eastern Connecticut. These systems are not confined to a single ecoregion, but usually span two or more environmental zones. These settlement and subsistence systems are described, compared, and changes over time noted. Finally, it is suggested that intensification of maize horticulture, rather than European contact alone, may explain changes in the settlement system observed during the Final Woodland Period in the Lower Connecticut River Valley and Eastern Coastal Ecoregion. ^