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Archaic Cultures (8,000 BC to 1,000 BC)

As the glaciers retreated, sea level rose and the climate became milder. The tundra and conifer forests moved north and were replaced by mixed hardwoods containing oak and hickory. As the numbers of mega-mammals diminished, the Archaic hunters Exit EPA Disclaimer relied more on elk, woodland bison, deer, and smaller mammals. They also made fine stone spear and dart points, but varied their shape and size more than the older Clovis points. This reflected new hunting techniques adapted to the smaller animals. The atlatl, or spear thrower, also made its appearance during this period. An atlatl is a device with a handle at one end and a hook at the other. A spear is laid alongside the atlatl with its butt end in the atlatl's hook. It is used as a lever to throw the spear with greater force.

Stone awls and drills, stone axes, bone fish hooks, and a variety of other tools are also found at Archaic sites. Some tools were even made of copper. Copper is sometimes found in nature in an almost pure form, and termed a "native" copper. Native copper requires no smelting, but can be simply pounded into the desired shape. Turtle shell rattles, bone flutes, charms, and beads indicate a developing ceremonial tradition among Archaic cultures. There are also burial sites where the bodies are arranged in specific positions. Archaic archaeological sites also mark the first appearance of woven mats. Even duck decoys woven from reeds have been found.

The first evidence of camps and villages appear during the Archic period. By the end of the Archic period, there is evidence that their camps were occupied over multiple seasons, rather than days or weeks as in the early Archic. Many of these sites are near streams, suggesting that fish and shellfish may have been a significant part of their diet, supplementing their hunting and gathering. By the very end of the period some of these sites were characterized by vast mounds of debris, called middens. These middens represent sites where the inhabitants must have stayed for considerable time, or at least on a seasonal basis, over a period of years. Agriculture had not yet been developed, but bone and horn sickles indicate that the harvest of wild grains was becoming more sophisticated.


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