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Dr. Michael Strezewski


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Department Chair

Dr. Todd Schroer
Email: tschroer

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Dr. Michael Strezewski
Office: LA3021
Phone: 464-1931
Email: mstrezewsk

I am an archaeologist with a focus on the Midwest, particularly Indiana and Illinois. My research centers on the Late Prehistoric (A.D. 1000-1500), fur trade, and pioneer-era periods.

• Ph.D. in Anthropology, Indiana University, 2003.
• M.A. in Anthropology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1995
• B.S. in Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago, 1989

Research Interests
• Late Prehistoric archaeology of the Midwest
• French colonial archaeology
• Archaeology of New Harmony
• Archaeology of religion and ritual
• Mortuary archaeology

Some of the recent research projects I have directed:

New Harmony

lenz house
View of the Lenz House, a Harmonist dwelling built ca. 1822.
Since 2008, I have been conducting archaeological research at New Harmony, in Posey County, Indiana. The town was founded in 1814 by the Harmonists, a millennial and utopian religious group that broke from the German Lutheran church in the late eighteenth century. Due to their unorthodox ideas and opposition to state-sanctioned doctrine, the Harmonists were persecuted in their homeland, and they immigrated to the United States in 1805. They first settled in Pennsylvania, but only nine years later, their leader, George Rapp, decided to look for a new town site – one with a more temperate climate and better access to river transportation. Beginning in 1814, the entire community moved to southwestern Indiana and built a new town, New Harmony, adjacent to the Wabash River. New Harmony was home to the Harmony Society from 1814 to 1825 and consisted of 180 buildings with a maximum population of about 750 resident


Portion of a Harmonist redware mug found during the kiln excavations.

From 2009-2012, USI’s excavations focused on the site of the Harmonist redware pottery kiln, which was in operation from 1815 to 1824. Redware is a type of low-fired utilitarian pottery that was locally made during the pioneer-era. The Harmonist potter, Christoph Weber, made redware pottery for the members of the society and for sale to surrounding settlers. Although there were many redware manufacturers in the pioneer-era Midwest, very little research has been conducted on the individual potters, their methods of manufacture, and types of vessels made. The USI excavations at New Harmony have shed light on this little-known industry.

setting wedges

Small clay wedges used for setting the vessels inside the kiln.

In the nineteenth century, pottery manufacture was an inexact science, and many vessels emerged from the kiln in an unusable condition; over- or under-fired, cracked, or warped. For this reason, kiln operations generated a lot of waste. Not surprisingly, our excavations recovered very large quantities of broken pottery vessels. The vast majority of these vessels were storage jars, though Weber also made vessels such as pitchers, mugs, plates, bowls, porringers, and chamber pots. In addition, a large percentage of the material recovered consisted of "kiln furniture;" items that were specifically manufactured to aid in loading the kiln and keep the vessels from sticking together during the firing process. These consist of thick clay shelves used for stacking vessels, cockspurs, and wedges. The kiln furniture has provided a lot of information on the manufacturing methods used by Weber.

Our most significant find was the remains of the kiln itself. The Harmonist kiln was a cassel-style cross-draft kiln, approximately 11 m in length. Cassel redware kilns were common in England and Germany, but have not been previously documented in the United States. The final report of USI’s work at the Harmonist kiln can be found here.

harmonist features

Harmonist-era remains identified during the excavations.

kiln outline
Probable outline of the Harmonist kiln, based upon our excavations.


Fort Ouiatenon

ouiatenon crew

2013 excavation crew at the site of Fort Ouiatenon.

In summer 2013, USI conducted excavations at the site of Fort Ouiatenon, located just west of present-day West Lafayette, Indiana. Fort Ouiatenon was established by the French in 1717 and was a center of fur-trading activities through most of the eighteenth century. Native Americans from the Wea, Kickapoo, and Mascouten tribes lived in a number of villages located in the vicinity of the fort. In 1760, the fort was occupied by the British after the capitulation of New France in the French and Indian War. The British period lasted only three years, however, as Fort Ouiatenon was one of many posts attacked and occupied by Native Americans during Pontiac’s Rebellion. After this point, Fort Ouiatenon ceased to be an official military post, though it continued to serve as a trading hub for the fur traders who resided there.

Charles Scott

Charles Scott, leader of the 1791 expedition against the Ouiatenon villages.

With the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, the lower Great Lakes were formally incorporated into the territory of the United States, and a flood of settlers soon began descending the Ohio River. Pro-British Native American peoples, who were resistant to white encroachment, began harassing the settlers, resulting in a period of tit-for-tat violence. By the early 1790s, there were increased calls by the settlers for the federal government to take care of the so-called “Indian problem.” In May/June 1791, Brigadier General Charles Scott led 900 Kentucky militia to the Ouiatenon towns, which he attacked and burned, taking a number of women and children as hostages. Later that summer, a second expedition was undertaken, led by James Wilkinson. It consisted of a force of 500 mounted Kentucky militia. This expedition attacked and burned additional villages in the Wabash River valley and revisited Ouiatenon, destroying the crops a second time. Following Scott’s and Wilkinson’s expeditions, the Ouiatenon area ceased to be a trade hub and center of Indian resistance.

magnetic anomalies

Fort Ouiatenon (dotted lines) and the probable Native American structures identified during our magnetometry survey.

In 2009 and 2013, Dr. Robert McCullough and I, with funding from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program, investigated a number of Native American village sites located outside Fort Ouiatenon proper. Our work began with an extensive magnetometry survey at site 12-T-9. Over two field seasons, a total of 12.0 acres of the site was surveyed. A number of significant anomalies were identified outside the fort. The most notable of these were fifteen anomalies that most likely represent Kickapoo or Mascouten structures. Thirteen of these were circular-to-oval in shape and two were rectangular.


View of the wigwam-like Native American structure uncovered in 2013.

In 2013, we opened up a large 30 m2 excavation block over one of the circular anomalies. During excavation, we first encountered a dense concentration of jumbled wood fragments, indicating that the structure had been destroyed by fire. The fragments were of sapling size - no more than about 5-6 cm in diameter. Continued excavation revealed a wide, shallow wall trench that encompassed an interior area of approximately 30 m2. Very few artifacts were found in the interior of the structure, suggesting that it had been cleaned out prior to its destruction. Apart from charcoal, faunal remains, and fire-cracked rock, materials from the structure interior consisted of such items as a few pieces of container glass, a brass kettle patch, a single hand-wrought nail, and a piece of pipestone. Our work suggests that the structure was built by digging a wide and shallow trench, into which small, pliable saplings were placed. These saplings were bent over and secured, creating a dome-shaped, wigwam-like structure, which was then covered in bark. After a period of use, the structure was cleaned out and burned. Various lines of evidence suggest that the structure was built circa 1780.

Selected Publications

2014    Late Prehistoric Mortuary Features in the Greater Illinois Area: A Discussion of Form, Function and Ritual Use. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 39(1):30-58.

2013    ’An Exceedingly Industrious Race of People’: Investigations at the Harmonist Redware Kiln Site, Posey County, Indiana. University of Southern Indiana Archaeology Laboratory, Reports of Investigations 13-01. Submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indianapolis, Indiana.

2012    Michael Strezewski, Kristin M. Hedman, and Thomas E. Emerson. Oakwood Mound, a Langford Mortuary Site in Will County, Illinois. Wisconsin Archeologist 93(2):3-107.

2010    “‘These Indians Appear to be Wealthy’: Kethtippecanunk and the Late Fur Trade Period in the Lower Great Lakes.” In American Indians and the Market Economy, 1775 - 1850, edited by Lance Greene and Mark R. Plane, pp. 19-32. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

2010    Michael Strezewski and Robert G. McCullough “Report of the 2009 Archaeological Investigations at Three Fur Trade-Era Sites in Tippecanoe County, Indiana: Kethtippecanunk (12-T-59), Fort Ouiatenon (12-T-9), and a Kickapoo-Mascouten Village (12-T-335).” Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Archaeological Survey, Reports of Investigations 903. Submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indianapolis, Indiana.

2009    “The Concept of Personhood in a Mississippian Society.” Illinois Archaeology 21:166-190.

2008    “Archaeological Investigations at Kethtippecanunk, a French and Native Trading Town on the Wabash River.” Le Journal 24(2):1-10.

2008    Christopher R. Andres, Dorothea McCullough, Michael Strezewski, and Robert G. McCullough  Archaeological Investigations of Fort St. Philippe des Miamis (1722) and the First American Fort (1794) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Indiana Archaeology 4(1):108-130.

2008    Christopher R. Andres, Michael Strezewski, Dorothea McCullough, and Robert G. McCullough  “Intensive Survey of the Forts of Fort Wayne.” Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Archaeological Survey, Reports of Investigations 801. Submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indianapolis, Indiana.

2007    Michael Strezewski, Robert G. McCullough, Dorothea McCullough, Craig Arnold, and Josh Wells. Report of the 2006 Archaeological Investigations at Kethtippecanunk (12-T-59), Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Archaeological Survey, Reports of Investigations 703. Submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indianapolis, Indiana.

2006    Patterns of Interpersonal Violence at the Fisher Site.” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 31(2):249-279.

2006    Michael Strezewski, James R. Jones III, and Dorothea McCullough. Archaeological Investigations at Site 12-T-59 and Two Other Locations in Prophetstown State Park, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Archaeological Survey, Reports of Investigations 513. Submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Recent Conference Papers

2014    Outside the Fort: Investigations at a Kickapoo Village Adjacent to Fort Ouiatenon, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Poster presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Canada, January 8-12, 2014.

2013    Redware Pottery Production in New Harmony, Indiana: 1815-1824. Paper presented at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 3-7, 2013.

2012    Mississippian Origins in the Middle Ohio River Valley: A View from the Kuester Site. Paper presented at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Memphis, Tennessee, April 18-22, 2012.

2011    Prelude to Prophetstown: The Scott-Wilkinson Raids of 1791. Paper presented at the symposium, Wiping Away the Tears: The Battle of Tippecanoe in History and Memory, Purdue University, November 3-5, 2011.

2010    Recent Investigations at Eighteenth Century Fur Trade Sites in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Paper presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference, Bloomington, Indiana, October 21-24, 2010.

2010    Redware Pottery Production in New Harmony, Indiana, 1814-1824. Paper presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference, Bloomington, Indiana, October 21-24, 2010.

2010    Harmonist Redware Pottery Manufacture in New Harmony. Paper Presented at the Communal Studies Association Conference, New Harmony Indiana, September 30 - October 3, 2010.

2010    Prelude to Prophetstown: The Late 18th Century Occupation of the Central Wabash. Paper presented at the Historic Southern Indiana 1st annual War of 1812 Bicentennial Symposium entitled “The Gathering Storm: The Rise of Tecumseh,” Vincennes University, June 26, 2010.

2010    Michael Strezewski and Robert G. McCullough, Investigations at Fort Ouiatenon and Kethtippecanunk, Two Fur-Trade Era Sites in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Paper presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, St. Louis, Missouri, April 14-18, 2010.

2010    Harmonist Redware Pottery: Archaeology at the Harmonist Kiln Site. Paper presented at Preserving Historic Places, Indiana’s Statewide Preservation Conference, New Harmony, Indiana, April 7, 2010.

2010    USI’s Excavations at the Harmonist Redware Kiln Site. Talk presented at the Indiana Archaeological Council Spring Workshop, Strawtown, Indiana, March 20, 2010.