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Paleo Period 12000B.C - 8500B.C.
Archaic Period 8500B.C. - 1000B.C.
Woodland Period 1000B.C. - 900A.D.
Mississippian Period 900A.D. - 1650A.D.
Historic Period 1650A.D. - 1900A.D.
Pre-Columbian Period
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Museum of Native American History

 202 SW 'O' Street  Bentonville, AR 72712  (479) 273-2456


Archaic History
Around 10,000 years ago, with the large herd animals now extinct, the climate warming and the human population growing rapidly, it was the beginning of the Archaic Period. The Archaic period is also known as the time of the "hunters and gatherers". People were now living in small semi-permanent villages and gather local nuts, roots and berries for their diet. They also had to develop new tools to adapt to these changes.

The Atl-atl, or spear thrower, was a technological breakthrough as important to ancient man as the invention of the gun was to our more recent ancestors. The image is a depiction of a hunter using an atl-atl. The Atl-atl is a repeating spear and the handle acts as a lever that allows the user to throw a lighter spear at a great distance with far more accuracy.


The long shaft that is propelled from the atlatl handle is called the dart. River cane was used frequently in making these darts and they often attained a length of 6 or 7 feet long. The flint points are attached to a hard wood or bone smaller shaft called a foreshaft, which in turn is inserted into a hollow socket on the river cane dart. These foreshafts were not attached permanently and would detach from the main atlatl spear shaft and stay in the animal or target they struck. The atlatl dart could then be picked up and another foreshaft quickly inserted for another shot. By using a two-piece spear, the Native Americans could carry many of the small foreshafts while hunting and only need to carry one of the long dart shafts. This gave the convenience of multiple shots in an easy to carry package. The atlatl was in essence a repeating spear and is a classic example of early mans ingenuity.


Food Processing
While hunting for meat was a main source of protein and nourishment, other foodstuffs were also necessary for a healthy diet. Much of the food was gathered in the wild, like nuts and berries, while others were gained through the cultivation of crops. The items in this display are all implements that were used by the Indians to help process their food that they had grown or otherwise acquired.


Not all artifacts and tools that the Native Americans used were made out of flint and created by knapping. Some tools, ornaments and other necessities were fashioned in other ways. One such method is called pecked and grinding. To create with the pecking a grinding method, a round rock, called a hammerstone, was held in one hand and used to strike the surface of the rock being shaped into the tool. Each time the hammerstone struck the rock, it would remove small portions of it. This process, called pecking, would shape the tool into its desired form. Once the tool was close to the desired shape, it was then ground or sanded with the use of sandstone until it was completed. A cutting edge was then ground or sanded along the bit edge.


Woodworking Tools
Wood was just as important to early man as it is to us today. Methods of acquiring and working the wood haven't changed that much over the years. Axes, celts, gouges, chisels and tools of many different configurations were used to chop down and shape wood.


Banenrstones are very unique itmes, and come in many different forms such as wing, saddleback and pick. Bannerstones can be found over most of North America, but are far more common east of the Mississippi River. Like axes and other hardstone items, they are fashioned by using the peck and grinding technique.


Bannerstones have been found associated with atlatls at a place called Indian knoll in Kentucky. While we know that at least some of them were used as atlatl components, different styles of bannerstones could have served for different functions. They are often made of very colorful and high-grade material, like many of them on display in the museum.



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Learning the Facts
Whether the first Americans originally entered the continent by land or by sea, evidence of their existence on the continent is found in the tools, weapons, and ornaments they left behind. Learn More

Your Personal Tour
Your personal tour starts with individual Audio Wands provided at the front door!
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  • Free Admission
  • Handicap Accessible

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