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Early Cultures: Pre-European People of Wisconsin

The human story of Wisconsin spans 12,000 years, from the first Native Americans to today's diverse rural and urban populations. Over the past one hundred years, archaeologists have recorded and investigated thousands of sites left by western Wisconsin's earlier inhabitants. Through the study of these sites and their accompanying artifacts archaeologists are working to reconstruct the unique and changing lifeways of the region's early inhabitants. Explore this section of MVAC's web site to learn what archaeologists have discovered about how these early inhabitants lived in the region we now call western Wisconsin.

Educators: This information is available as a series of PDF files for ease of use in the classroom.


Timeline graphic


Paleo Tradition
Big Game Hunters
10,000 to 8,000 B.C.

Archaic Tradition
Hunters and Gatherers
8,000 to 500 B.C.

Woodland Tradition
Hunters, Gatherers, Fishers and Gardeners
Southern Wisconsin:500 B.C. to 1200 A.D.
Northern Wisconsin:500 B.C. to 1700 A.D.

Mississippian & Oneota Traditions
Hunters, Gatherers, Fishers and Farmers
1000 to 1650 A.D.