Detroit River - Wikipedia

A bioarchaeological study of a Western Basin tradition cemetery on the Detroit River

A bioarchaeological study of a Western Basin tradition cemetery on the Detroit River


Archaeological monitoring of construction in a Windsor city park on the Detroit River led to the discovery of an isolated cemetery containing the remains of eight individuals assigned to the Late Woodland Western Basin Tradition. At the request and consent of the contemporary First Nation community, tissue samples from five individuals were subjected to radiocarbon dating, mtDNA, and stable isotope analysis to confirm cultural affiliation and further understand the subsistence practices of these people. Radiocarbon dating placed the cemetery at the transition from the Younge phase (AD 900–1200) to the Springwells phase (AD 1200 – –1400). The stable carbon and nitrogen isotope results provide an unexpected but fuller understanding of Late Woodland Western Basin Tradition subsistence. All individuals were as enriched in carbon as those found on Iroquoian horticulturalist sites to the east, suggesting a very high reliance on maize. Nitrogen isotope values indicate that the protein component of the diet was comprised largely of high trophic level food sources, likely fish. An in situ osteological analysis identified a high number of carious lesions in the visible teeth, also suggesting a diet high in carbohydrates. The mtDNA findings support the antiquity of the Western Basin presence in Northeast North America through genetic links with the Hind Site, an Archaic site in southern Ontario. These results underscore the importance of such studies for providing novel insight into the archaeological histories and lifeways of this distinct Late Woodland tradition. This study also emphazises the need to work with descendant communities to provide them with information on the past that reflects their distinct heritage in the lower Great Lakes region.


  • Dewar, G.; Ginter, J. K.; Shook, B. A. S.; Ferris, N. & Henderson, H. (2010). A bioarchaeological study of a Western Basin tradition cemetery on the Detroit River. Journal of Archaeological Science, 37(9), 2245-2254.

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Peoples: First Nation, Iroquois, and Native Americans | Places: Hind Site and Lower Great Lakes region | Topics: Late Woodland Western Basin Tradition | DNA Type: -

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