Central Iowa Oneota

The Moingona Phase

About 25 Oneota archaeological sites are clustered in the central Des Moines River valley near the city of Des Moines. These sites constitute the Moingona phase. The name Moingona was an early French name for the Des Moines River, probably derived from the name Moingwena, a poorly known group of the Illinois Indians. Moingona phase sites are the earliest Oneota sites in Iowa, with radiocarbon dates ranging between about AD 1250 and 1410. They are situated on river terraces, on the prairie-forest margins in the uplands, and along marshy, abandoned river channels in the wooded bottoms.

Portion of ceramic vessel, Dawson Site

Portion of ceramic vessel, Dawson Site, Marion County
Photo courtesy of John Cordell, OSA

People of the Moingona phase lived in semi-permanent villages (for example, Cribb's Crib) on hill tops and at prairie-forest edges during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. In the summers, small groups also set up hunting and fishing camps along the river edges. During the winters, they left the large villages and moved into camps located in the woods closer to the rivers (for example, Christenson). Moingona phase Oneota people tended gardens of corn, beans, and squash, and hunted white tailed deer, elk, and bison. 

Portion of ceramic vessel, Cribb's Crib Site
Cribb's Crib is a large, seasonally-occupied village site from the early-mid 13th century that covered 8-12 hectares. It is situated on a high stream terrace above the Middle River, a tributary of the Des Moines in Warren County, Iowa. The inhabitants of Cribb's Crib hunted white-tailed deer using arrows tipped with triangular stone-points. Gardeners at Cribb's Crib grew corn, chenopodium, and amaranth.

Portion of ceramic vessel, Cribb's Crib Site,
Warren County
Drawing from De Vore 1990

Christenson Site

The Christenson site is a small winter habitation, dated to about AD 1250, located on a low terrace above the Des Moines River. When it was occupied, a narrow strip of forest grew along the river's edge, with open prairie a couple of kilometers away. The site contained hearths, storage pits, midden deposits, and at least three bark or reed covered houses identified by oval-shaped stains. The site was occupied by Oneota people at least twice. 


Alex, Lynn.
2000. Iowa's Archaeological Past. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City. 

Benn, David W.
1991 The Christenson Oneota site, 13PK407. Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society38:16-55. 

De Vore, Steven L.
1990 The Cribb's Crib Site (13WA105): The Archaeology and Ecology of an Oneota Village in the Central Des Moines Valley. Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society 37:46-87. 

Theler, James L., and Robert F. Boszhardt. 2003. Twelve Millennia: Archaeology of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City.