by Mark L. Anderson
Illustrations by Mary Slattery and Rick Friday
© Copyright 1998 The University of Iowa. All rights reserved.
Site locations are typically on the first or second terraces along rivers and streams, and in Minnesota can be found on shores, peninsulas, and islands of shallow lakes. Sites contain hearths, storage/trash pits, and large semi-subterranean house structures as evidenced by excavations at the Broken Kettle West site (13PM25) and the Maxwell site (13DA264). The Great Oasis settlement system may represent a seasonal pattern characterized by concentrated winter occupations of semi-subterranean earth lodges and dispersed summer occupations of both flood plain farming stations and mobile hunting camps. Great Oasis cemeteries appear to be located on hill or bluff tops away from the living areas, although human skeletal remains are sometimes recovered within settlement sites.
Lithic assemblages are usually comprised of chert, chalcedony, and quartzite. Projectile points are typically triangular unnotched and side notched. Other lithic tools are similar to those of other Late Woodland and early Plains Village cultures. Some of the lithic raw material derives from distant sources such as Knife River Flint from western North Dakota and Burlington chert from southeastern Iowa suggesting developed trade networks. This conclusion is supported by discovery at Great Oasis sites of Lithasia and Leptoxis (formerly Anculosa) shells from the Ohio River valley. Bone tools also occur and include needles, awls, spatulas, quill flateners, and scapula hoes made from large mammal bones.
Great Oasis High Rim (left) and Wedge Lip (right).
Probably the most distinctive Great Oasis artifacts are the ceramics. They are divided into two main wares: Great Oasis High Rim and Great Oasis Wedge Lip. Both forms are typically well made, globular jars with rounded bottoms and shoulders, constricted necks, and outflaring rims. High Rims are generally parallel sided with flattened lips. Wedge Lip rims are short and thickened with flat lips that are steeply beveled toward the exterior. Decorative motifs are typically restricted to the rims and include fine trailed lines, oblique lines, elongated punctate impressions, tool impressions, or cross-hatched trailing. Additional motifs typically found on High Rim vessels include triangles, diamonds, pendant triangles, trapezoids, pendant chevrons, and occasionally upright or inverted turkey tracks, stylized maize and tree motifs, and stylized deer motifs. Great Oasis vessels are typically 4-6 mm thick, smoothed to smoothed over cord marked, grit and sand tempered, and manufactured with paddle and anvil modeling with subsequent smoothing. The end of Great Oasis in northwest Iowa coincides with the appearance of Mill Creek culture.In central Iowa, sites were apparently abandoned, and there is no subsequent occupation until the appearance of Oneota.
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