Late Woodland (A.D. 800 1650)
Within the Bothwell and surrounding areas,
The Late Woodland sub-period in the Western Basin Tradition has been divided into four sequential phases: the Rivière au Vase Phase (ca. 500-900 A.D.); Younge Phase (ca. 900-1300 A.D.); the Springwells Phase (ca. 1300-1400 A.D.); and the Wolf Phase (ca. 1400-1550 A.D.).
The Rivière au Vase Phase is best known from sites on Point Pelee. Sites of this phase include small camps as well as longer term occupations by larger populations exploiting the rich marsh and lakeshore environment. These sites were occupied during the warm seasons. During the winter it is believed the population dispersed into a number of small groups to hunt elsewhere within their territory.
Our knowledge of the Rivière au Vase Phase is limited, as sites of that phase are generally rare. In contrast, the succeeding Younge Phase is represented by numerous well documented sites. Subsistence during that phase represented a continuation of the Rivière au Vase Phase, with a seasonal round that included the exploitation of seasonally abundant resources. Corn was grown by Younge Phase peoples, but it only occurs in small quantities on sites of this phase and it is evident that it only represented a supplementary food source. That is in sharp contrast to contemporary Iroquoian sites, where cultigens represented an ever increasingly important part of the diet. It has been hypothesized that the larger number of Younge Phase sites reflects an increase in population during the period ca. 900-1300 A.D; it has further been hypothesized that the people of this region expanded into previously uninhabited areas during this period (Murphy and Ferris 1990:262). The Younge Phase settlements included villages on the Thames River east of Thamesville.
Settlement and subsistence during the succeeding Springwells Phase represented a continuation of earlier patterns, but with an increased emphasis on warm season village sites located in areas with a diversity of natural resources. That pattern evidently reflects an increased reliance of agriculture to supplement the diet of Springwells Phase peoples. Winter camps occur on the Thames River during this period, but not village sites. At the same time, Springwells Phase peoples expanded into the Dover Plain on the east side of Lake St. Clair. These moves may have been in response to a westward expansion of contemporary Iroquoian peoples into the Western Basin Tradition territory of the Bothwell Sand Plain during the 13th century.
The transition between the Springwells and Wolf Phases and the Wolf Phase itself are both marked by the use of village sites surrounded by protective earthworks. Contemporary villages of the prehistoric Neutral Iroquoians are also protected by earthworks with palisades, providing evidence of continued warfare and tension between the Iroquoians and Western Basin peoples of southwestern Ontario.
The present day Municipality of Chatham-Kent was the frontier during the Late Woodland period that separated the Western Basin peoples in the extreme southwestern Ontario from the contemporary Iroquoian peoples of the Neutral tribal confederacy in the central and eastern parts of the southwestern Ontario. In the late 15th century, during the Wolf Phase of the Western Basin Tradition, there was a westward expansion of the Neutral (or Attawandaron) peoples into the Bothwell sand plains and a small number of Iroquoian villages were established in what is now Kent County, as far west as Chatham.
The westward expansion reflects warfare between the Iroquoian Neutral peoples and their Algonquian-speaking Western Basin contemporaries. It was a conflict that extended back into the 15th century and that eventually led to the withdrawal of the Neutral to east of the Grand River by the late 16th century. By the time of the European fur trade in the first half of the 17th century, the conflict between the Neutral and the Algonquian Fire Nation who lived around the west end of Lake Erie was still ongoing. The Neutral and the other Ontario Iroquoian tribal confederacies all met the same fate in the mid 17th century: first devastated by a series of plaques accidentally introduced by the Europeans; and finally dispersed and driven from their homelands by raids from the Iroquoians of New York State in 1649-1651 A.D.
Each of the Iroquoian villages in the Bothwell sand plain had a population of up to several hundred individuals and was protected by earthworks. The Iroquoian way of life was largely based on a subsistence pattern that involved the cultivation of corn, beans and squash, supplemented by hunting, fishing and the gathering of wild plant foods. Iroquoian villages were typically occupied year-round for some 12-20 years. They moved when the local supply of firewood had been exhausted and the soils in the surrounding agricultural fields were no longer fertile. Villages may cover from one to several hectares in size and included numerous dwellings known as longhouses. In addition to villages, satellite settlements consisting of smaller, more temporary habitations such as agricultural cabin sites and fishing and hunting camps may occur in the area surrounding the village.
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