The Neville Public Museum

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Excavating into the Neville Public Museum’s Archaeological Past

Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Put simply, archaeology is the study of the “stuff” (material culture) people in the past made, used and left behind. By studying this material, through careful excavation and documentation, archaeologists are able to paint a picture of how different cultures lived and survived in their unique environments throughout time. As an archaeologist myself and a new curator here at the Neville Public Museum, I was quite pleased to learn that the museum holds one of the largest North American archaeological collections in the State of Wisconsin. This collection primarily includes artifacts made by prehistoric cultures that once lived throughout Wisconsin over the past 10,000 years. These artifacts include stone and copper tools, pottery fragments, faunal remains, etc. Such a collection is invaluable for research in answering the questions of when and where people lived, what they made, and why they may have settled where they did.
Renier Site in the town of Scott
Sometimes, digging back into an archaeological assemblage can spur new questions and remind us that museums are important keepers of our cultural heritage. This was the case in a recent article published in the Green Bay Press Gazette’s “Glimpses of the Past” section (June 30th 2014). The newspaper recounted an article it published on the same date 55 years earlier, in 1959, describing the Neville Public Museum’s excavation of a very important and very old American Indian site located along the southeastern shore of Green Bay in the town of Scott, Brown Co. Known as the Renier Site, (named after the landowner) it dated to the Late Paleoindian Period (ca. 8,500 years ago) and exhibited evidence of belonging to a prehistoric culture known as Eden-Scottsbluff. This culture was first identified on the western Great Plains, so it was significant and surprising when then curator, Ron Mason and Carol Irwin, found remains of these ancient nomadic hunters here in Wisconsin. The site included fragments of projectile points (spear points), of Eden and Scottsbluff types, stone chippage, fire-cracked rock, etc. 

In the 55 years since the Renier Site was excavated, the interpretation of the site and artifacts have helped to narrate the earliest chapter in Wisconsin’s human story. Other Paleoindian sites dating to the end of the last Ice Age in Wisconsin have since been discovered, yet they remain exceptionally rare and difficult to find. Therefore, the Neville Public Museum is privileged to be the caretakers of this collection and indeed of its more than 100,000 three-dimensional objects. It is exciting to know that there are likely to be many more surprises waiting to be “re-excavated” in the years to come.


Kevin Cullen joined the staff of the Neville Public Museum in October 2013.  He is responsible for curating and designing exhibits, researching artifacts, as well as public advocacy for the museum.  His training and experience covers a range of disciplines including: Anthropology, Fermentation, Museum Curation and Design, Terrestrial and Underwater Archaeology, etc.



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