Upper Iowa River

Oneota sites on the Upper Iowa River and its tributaries are the "type sites" of the Orr focus (now Orr phase) and thus the first archaeological sites that were identified as likely those of the historic period Ioway. Their artifacts and house styles are similar to those of slightly earlier Oneota sites around La Crosse, Wisconsin. Most of the Orr phase sites investigated to date have been cemeteries adjacent to Ioway village sites. The villages probably were seasonally occupied and had nearby gardens, and most were situated on stream terraces or floodplains

Backhaus Site
These sites contain glass beads, iron knives, brass ornaments, and other historic trade goods, along with traditional Oneota goods such as Allamakee Trailed pottery. 

More recent excavations at sites with Oneota materials including the Backhaus, Wild, and 'Little Desert' sites promise to provide further details of Oneota lifeways in northeast Iowa.

Backhaus Site, 13AM18, Courtesy of Colin Betts, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa


The Lane Enclosure

Lane Enclosure Site
The Lane Enclosure, situated on the Hartley Terrace of the Upper Iowa River, was built a few hundred years before the Oneota culture. It features a 72-meter (236-foot) diameter earthwork approximately four feet in height with an interior ditch. Oneota people resided at the site around AD 1400-1500 and again in greater numbers and probably on a year-round basis around 1650. Archaeologists found European trade goods, bones of deer, elk, and fish, and maize in the Oneota storage pits.


Lane Enclosure Site, 13AM200, Courtesy of Colin Betts, 
Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

The Wild Site

Little Desert Site
The Wild Site was a small Oneota village in the river floodplain near the Hartley Terrace. Its Oneota occupation dates to AD 1400-1500. The site was probably a summer farming village, with occupation possibly extending into late fall or early winter.

Oneota people at the site built large oblong structures with central hearths and many storage pits. Some of these pits contained corn. The Wild site was discovered buried beneath 1 meter of alluvial deposits, suggesting that the Upper Iowa River floodplain may hide more Oneota villages.

'Little Desert Site', 13AM24, Courtesy of Colin Betts,
Luther College, Decorah, Iowa



Benn, David W. (editor). 2005 draft The Hartley Bridge Project Excavations at the Wild Sites 13AM403, 13AM404 and 13AM405, Allamakee County, Iowa. BCA 956. Bear Creek Archeology, Inc., Cresco. 

Wedel, Mildred Mott. 1959. Oneota sites on the upper Iowa river. The Missouri Archaeologist 21(2-4).