The Archaeology of North Carolina

North Carolina Archaeological Time

The Woodland and Mississippian Periods in North Carolina

Coastal Woodland || Piedmont Tradition Early/Middle Woodland   ||  Piedmont Tradition Late Woodland   ||  Southern Piedmont Late Woodland  ||  Appalachian Summit Woodland   ||  South Appalachian Mississippian

Three interrelated innovations marked the end of the Archaic period and the beginning of the Woodland period: pottery-making, semisedentary villages, and horticulture. All had their origins in the Archaic but became the norm during Woodland times.

During the Late Archaic period, people living along the south Atlantic coast from Florida to North Carolina had begun to make fiber-tempered pottery. Stalling series pottery, made by molding lumps of clay and fibrous material into simple vessel forms , was made as early as 2500 B.C. By the beginning of the Woodland period in North Caorlina, several different ceramic traditions had been established across the state.

The widespread appearance of pottery-making is viewed as going hand in hand with an increasing reliance on seed crops and more permanent settlement. Domestication of early cultigens laid the groundwork for later acceptance of tropical cultigens. Corn was not widely grown until after A.D. 700 and did not become an important food crop in many areas until after A.D. 1000. With the introduction of beans around A.D. 1200, the eastern agricultural triad of corn, beans, and squash was completed.

These three crops permitted true agricultural systems to develop over much of the East and supported the rise of large, complex societies during the Mississippian period. These societies rivaled their contemporaries in Europe and the rest of the world in political complexity and territorial control.

In North Carolina, the Woodland is divided into Early, Middle, and Late periods. Along the coast and through much of the Piedmont, the Late Woodland continues until the Contact period, while in the Appalachian Summit and in the Southern Piedmont, Mississippian and Mississippian-influenced societies developed after A.D. 1000.

©2010 UNC-RLA