Physical Anthropology

Upper Midwest History the Early Archaic Period



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Early Archaic (9,200BC - 6,800BC)

The Early Archaic shares many similarities with the Late Paleoindian period. Populations remained in small bands of several dozen and continued a mobile hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy (Milner 2004:31). Interregional contact was essential in order to guarantee access to food during regional shortages. This contact granted access to marriage partners between the various bands of Archaic peoples, which served to perpetuate the relationships (Milner 2004:33).

Archaic peoples also continued to adapt to forest life. The region warmed during the Atlantic Climatic Episode, which brought about the encroachment of deciduous oak to the south and pine to the north (Green et al. 1986). A corresponding shift from the larger, megafaunal animals to the smaller, less gregarious ones also occurred (Cleland 1966:55).

There is evidence for new subsistence strategies. As Early Archaic peoples adjusted to woodland environments, deer became increasingly more important as a source of nutrition. This is supported by evidence found by Kubet Luchterhand (1970), which suggests that the occurrence of high projectile point density in the regions of the Lower Illinois River Valley, where deer are most plentiful, is an indication that deer were an important seasonal game. The collection and preparation of plant foods also played an important role in subsistence, and would have a great impact on later cultural periods (Milner 2004:33).

After the Paleoindian period, the fluted spear point adapted to accommodate more forested hunting environments. In general, fluting had already begun to decrease by the end of the Early Paleoindian (Cleland 1998:49). Lanceolate points, which varied greatly in size and shape, replaced the fluted spear forms.

At this time, we see a significant diversification of projectile point types. This was due to an increasing population that set up many distinct local centers of tool production, representation of wider environmental conditions, and altered hunting strategies (Mason 1997 and Cleland 1998). For a comprehensive list of the projectile points associated with this period, see Figure 1.

The Early Archaic marked an important transition from larger spear and lanceolate shaped projectile points to stemmed and side- and corner-notched points. Both stems and notching would have facilitated hafting, with variation facilitating regional adaptations (Whittaker 2005:44), This transition indicates one of the broad trends of the prehistory of the Upper Midwest and of North America in general: that there is a tendency for lithic projectile points to go from lanceolate to side-notched to corner-notched projectile point forms (Odell 1998:555). These changes occurred in response to changing game and technology and the associated transformations in hafting.

-Works Cited-

Cleland, Charles
1982 The Inland Shore Fishery of the Northern Great Lakes: Its Development and Importance in Prehistory. American Antiquity, Vol. 47 (4): 761-784.

Green, William, and James Stoltman, and Alice Kehoe.
1986 Introduction to Wisconsin Archaeology. The Wisconsin Archaeological Society, Vol. 67 (3-4).

Luchterhand, Kubet.
1970 Early Archaic Projectile Points and Hunting Patterns in the Lower Illinois Valley. In Illinois Valley Archaeological Program, edited by Stuart Struever, Illinois Valley Archaeological Program.

Milner, George.
2004 The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America. Thames and Hudson, London.

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