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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

With man now living in North America for over 10,000 years, he had established himself from north to south and from coast to coast. The number of people living on the continent was astonishing, as were the number of villages that had sprung up in virtually every area. they were along the major river valleys as well as the minor tributaries and streams. The Woodland Period was a prosperous time for ancient Americans, beginning with the end of the Archaic Period around 1000 BC and lasting until approximately 900 AD. Woodland people learned and utilized agricultural techniques and produced large varieties of maize and other crops as a substantial part of their food source. The Woodland Period saw cultures such as the Adena and Hopewell who would learn to build earthen burial and ceremonial mounds. The Woodland Period would become known to modern scholars as the period of the Mound Builders. Many different things were happening around the world at this time and it was amazing to see the differences both technologically and socially. For comparison, to the Far East, the bible was written and the pyramids were being built at around this time.


While the hunting, gathering, and fishing continued into the Woodland Period the same way it had been taking place for thousands of previous years in the Archaic Period, the advent of food cultivation was a huge technological breakthrough for the people in Woodland times.. This was significant as it not only reduced their dependency upon wild plants and animals, but it also gave them much more control over the amount of food they would have in store at any given time. While hunting and fishing were still major factors in their lives, the quest for food was not as critical as it was during the earlier time periods. One evidence of this fact was the time and effort that was dedicated to building projects. It is during this time period that the construction of burial mounds began.


Woodland Villages

While man banded together in smaller groups and semi-permanent villages during the previous time periods, now the population allowed, and probably demanded, that Woodland era people band together in larger groups, forming larger, more permanent villages. Along with this grouping began the development, most likely based on need, for a societal structure with leadership positions. Woodland people lived in circular huts with a domed roof made from saplings stuck into the ground with a bark or matted exterior. Also being developed were ceremonial rituals and mortuary practices. The archaeological record based on artifacts recovered from various mounds and burial sites indicate that the mortuary ceremonies during this period were complex and elaborate. The era of the Adena people had evolved, and after them the Hopewell - both leaving behind evidence of their burial rituals in the form of mounds which can still be seen across much of America's landscape today.


Woodland Pipes

Smoking continued as an important ceremonial and pastime activity, and the pipes used by the Woodland people became more ornate through time. The pipes from this period shows the Woodland Era Craftsmanship with more stylization and carvings as well as a change in overall style. 


Carved from a single block of Catlinite, the McAdam bird effigy platform pipe is an example of the Native American's skill and artistry. Known as the "McAdams Pipe", it was recovered in southern Illinois.

McAdam Effigy Pipe


Darts and Knives

While the atl-atl was still the predominant weapon used during the Woodland Period, the points that tipped the end of their darts took on new variations in style, changing first to a stemmed basal style. These stemmed Woodland darts had a uniquely styled base that differs from those of previous periods. With an elongated base, it was easier to attach the points into the dart stem. The holding power was greater with less side to side movement during use. The knives used during this time period also favored this longer style basal design. Later in the Woodland Period, the Hopewell people reverted back to their own variation of a corner notch style point

Snyder - A large Hopewell point made of Burlington chert


Celts and Axes

Another tool that ancient Native Americans continued to use into the Woodland Period was the celt, or un-grooved axe. While the basic design remains the same as Archaic Era Celts, the Woodland people changed the style of the back end, or poll end to a more elongated and tapered style, while the later Woodland people preferred a square poll end.



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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

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