Camp, Cache, Stay Awhile: Preliminary Considerations of the Social and Economic Processes of Cache Pits Along Douglas Lake, Michigan


Cache pits are the single most prolific archaeological feature in the Upper Great Lakes, but have infrequently been the topic of research. Dr. Holman’s archaeologically, ethnohistorically, and ecologically contextualized work on these features stands as an important exception. Her work shows that in overlooking these features we miss key social and economic processes in the prehistory of the Great Lakes. In this paper we attempt to follow the path established by Dr. Holman in her research on storage in the Great Lakes region, using her work as inspiration in an investigation of storage practices during the Late Woodland on Douglas Lake in northern Michigan. We off er a specific case study of storage practices in the hope our contribution honors Dr. Holman’s pioneering work while furthering curiosity about and research on storage in northern Michigan.

Th e paper starts by exploring broad theoretical perspectives on storage in small-scale societies. We turn, then, to the Late Woodland in the Great Lakes which is, as Dr. Holman helped to show, a place where egalitarian communities practiced a seasonally arranged fisher-forager-horticulturalist subsistence system and systematically used subterranean storage “to create a stable food supply” (Holman and Krist 2001:7). Th e region is thus an ideal setting to extend theoretical appreciations of storage in non-complex societies. We look specifically at Douglas Lake, an inland lake in northern Michigan ca. 25 km south of the Straits of Mackinac, where research has documented a substantial number of cache pit clusters. Research questions we address include where and how these cache pits were built, what may have been stored in them, how people accessed them, potential association with habitation sites, and time period of use. In exploring these questions, we aim to understand the ways local communities used food storage to respond to regional social and economic changes occurring in the Great Lakes during the Late Woodland period (particularly after a.d. 1000).


Earth Systems Research Center, Anthropology

Publication Date


Journal Title

Michigan Archaeologist


Michigan Archaeological Society

Document Type