Time Periods

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Archaic Period

The Archaic Period refers to the time between 9500 and 650 BC in the Native American history of Arkansas. As was the case in other regions in North America, Arkansas’s Archaic Period was a long span of cultural development and innovation that transformed small-scale Paleoindian groups into the larger and more complex societies seen during the Woodland and Mississippian periods. Within the Archaic Period, archaeologists have identified more specific regional cultures, such as the Dalton, San Patrice, Tom’s Brook, Big Creek, and Poverty Point cultures. These do not correspond directly to the tribes that lived in Arkansas during the Archaic period but do show that Native American societies were adapting to different environments and to each other across Arkansas in …

Dalton Period

The Dalton Period extends from 10,500 to 9,900 radiocarbon years ago (circa 8500 to 7900 BC), during which there existed a culture of ancient Native American hunter-gatherers (referred to as the Dalton people) who made a distinctive set of stone tools that are today found at sites across the middle of the United States. The name “Dalton” was first used in 1948 to refer to a style of chipped stone projectile point/knife. The Dalton point was named after Judge Sidna Poage Dalton, who had found numerous Dalton sites in central Missouri. Evidence of the Dalton culture has been found throughout the Mississippi River Valley. As Dalton points were found in different regions of the mid-continent, they were given different names, …

Mississippian Period

The Mississippian Period is one of several broad categories (including Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland) that archaeologists use to subdivide the American Indian past of the Southeast and Midwest. Between AD 900 and about AD 1600, Mississippian people farmed maize extensively; lived in societies known as chiefdoms led by hereditary rulers; conducted long-distance trade in copper, marine shell, and other valuables; resided in towns, villages, and farmsteads; built monumental architecture in the form of earthen, flat-topped mounds; conducted warfare, often fortifying their towns with stockades; and shared religious and iconographic traditions. When the first Europeans (the Hernando de Soto expedition) arrived in Arkansas in 1541, the people they encountered were Mississippians. The Rise of Agriculture Perhaps fueled by a climate shift …

Paleoindian Period

The term “Paleoindian” refers to a time 13,500 years ago (11,500 BC) at the end of the last ice age when the first traces of humans appeared in the archaeological record in North America. One of the first groups to enter the New World was the Clovis culture. They encountered many species of now extinct, large terrestrial animals and hunted them with spears tipped with stone points; these animals, dubbed “megafauna” because of their larger size when compared to modern forms, included the mastodon, mammoth, horse, tapir, ground sloth, giant bison, giant beaver, giant tortoise, American lion, short-faced bear, and saber-toothed tiger. The fossilized remains of many of these now extinct animals have been found in Arkansas. Early Paleoindian stone …

Woodland Period

The Woodland period is a label used by archaeologists to designate pre-Columbian Native American occupations dating between roughly 600 BC and AD 1000 in eastern North America. This time period traditionally is divided into Early, Middle, and Late subperiods, which refer to intervals characterized in very general terms by the first widespread use of pottery across the region, the rise and then decline of a vast exchange network throughout eastern North America,and finally, a period of increasing agricultural intensification and population growth in many areas. During the Woodland period, sedentism, population, and organizational complexity dramatically increased. Around 600 BC, Native Americans in Arkansas were probably living in small groups tied together by collective ritual, including burial that sometimes involved the …