Household Economy at Wall Ridge

A Fourteenth-Century Central Plains Farmstead in the Missouri Valley

Household Economy at Wall Ridge tells the story of a Native American household that occupied a lodge on the eastern Plains border during the early 1300s AD. Contributors use cutting-edge methods and the site’s unparalleled archaeological record to shed light on the daily technological, subsistence, and dietary aspects of the occupants’ lives. This work represents the first comprehensive study of a prehistoric Central Plains household in over half a century.

The research covers archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, dating, ceramics, lithics, bone and shell tools, diet, climate, ecology, and more. The study of plant and animal usage from the lodge stands as a tour de force of analytical methods, including stable isotope data that permit the discovery of dietary items missed by traditional studies. Many of these items have never been reported before from Central Plains sites. The book firmly sets the site’s occupancy at AD 1305, with a margin of error of only a few years. This result, based on high-precision dating methods, exceeds in accuracy all previously dated Plains lodges and provides a temporal backdrop for evaluating household activities.

Click here for a link to the supplementary electronic appendices.

Stephen C. Lensink is associate director of the Office of the State Archaeologist and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Iowa.

Shirley J. Schermer is adjunct research associate at the Office of the State Archeologist and former director of the Burials Program for the Office of the State Archaeologist, University of Iowa.

Joseph A. Tiffany is professor emeritus and former executive director of the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. 

Table of Contents:Publisher’s Note
List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Introduction
Joseph A. Tiffany, Stephen C. Lensink, and Shirley J. Schermer
2. Site Context
Shirley J. Schermer, Joseph A. Tiffany, and Stephen C. Lensink
3. Project Overview and Methods
Shirley J. Schermer, Joseph A. Tiffany, and Stephen C. Lensink
4. Excavation Results
Stephen C. Lensink, Shirley J. Schermer, and Joseph A. Tiffany
5. Radiocarbon Dating
Stephen C. Lensink
6. Ceramics
Joseph A. Tiffany
7. Lithics
Toby A. Morrow and Michael J. Perry 
8. Pipes
Joseph A. Tiffany
9. Bone and Shell Tools
Joseph A. Tiffany and James L. Theler
10. Botanical Remains
William Green
11. Zoological Remains
James L. Theler
12. Lodge Life History
Stephen C. Lensink and Joseph A. Tiffany
13. Lodge Housekeeping
Stephen C. Lensink, Joseph A. Tiffany, and Michael J. Perry
14. Interpretations and Summary
Joseph A. Tiffany, Stephen C. Lensink, James L. Theler, William Green, and Shirley J. Schermer
List of Materials in Online Appendices
List of Contributors

Praise and Reviews:

“This volume advances our understanding of subsistence and economics of a single late-prehistoric Glenwood-phase household. This household occupies a possibly novel ecological setting and agricultural niche in the loess hills bordering the Missouri River Valley of southwest Iowa.”
—Marvin Kay, professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas 

“All contributions to this work are of the highest order and the authors are particularly gifted for the subject. It is a wonderful case study of economic adaptation by low-food producers.”
—Brad Logan, research associate professor emeritus, Kansas State University

“This volume will be of great use to both professional archaeologists as well as anyone who has an interest in the late prehistoric occupation of the Plains. The thorough description and illustration of the artifacts recovered from this site provide some of the best examples to date of the types of material recovered from Nebraska variant lodge sites in western Iowa. The types of analysis employed in the chapters on the lodge life history and housekeeping should provide future graduate seminars in Plains Archaeology numerous topics of discussion as to the usefulness and effectiveness of these analytical approaches in pursuing specific information concerning lodge duration.”
Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society

“This data-rich reference is essential for comparative studies exploring variability among or between early farming societies, whether they be in the Central Plains, Midwest, or distant regions. The approaches to interpreting radiocarbon dates, length of occupation, subsistence and other aspects of economy stimulate useful critique, discussion, and fresh ideas that have utility beyond Wall Ridge. In sum, this book not only leads to understanding the Indigenous household represented at this site, but insights into different areas of research and provides a model for archaeological investigations and reporting.”
Midcontinent Journal of Archaeology