Early Cultures: Pre-European Peoples of Wisconsin
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Plants and Animals
Bone tools
Bones have been made into arrow points, needles, and other tools.

blackberry seed
Photograph of a blackberry seed found charred in an archaeological site.
Archaeologists mostly find pieces of stones and pottery-materials that do not decay over the centuries. But bones, wood, and other organic material are not as likely to be preserved. Bones can survive if the soil is not too acidic. The bones that archaeologists find in Wisconsin are not fossils like dinosaur bones. They are the real bones, and are often very fragile, or have completely decayed away. But if the bones are preserved, archaeologists can tell the kinds of animals that were hunted, how bones were used for tools, and can even see the cutmarks on the bones to see how the animals were butchered.

Plants are much more fragile than bones. You might wonder how archaeologists could find evidence of squash or corn at a site. It doesn't take long for a pumpkin that's left outside to become a pile of mush. How could pumpkin remains survive for thousands of years for archaeologists to find? Archaeologists don't find whole pumpkins. What they do find are seeds or parts of rind (outside) that have been burnt. When burnt, the seeds are turned into charcoal which preserves better than just the unburnt seed. Archaeologists are very careful when they excavate to recover as much as possible, even the very small things like seeds.

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