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Paleoindian Period (before 8000 BC)

Paleoindians belong to the oldest known cultural period in North America. Archaeologists think they arrived in North America during the last Ice Age by crossing a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska. Called Beringia, this bridge was sometimes exposed when enough of the oceans' waters were locked into glaciers to drop sea levels.

Archaeologists aren't sure when Paleoindians first arrived from Siberia. But by 10,000 BC, they were living throughout North America. Some had made it to the southern margin of South America.

Within the Paleoindian period, North Carolina archaeologists recognize two main cultures:

Clovis culture (9500 to 8500 BC) and Hardaway-Dalton culture (8500 to 8000 BC).

Paleoindians were nomadic hunters and gatherers who moved regularly through vast territories. In western North America, Paleoindians survived, at least in part, by hunting large, now-extinct animals called megafauna. They used spears to kill the mammoth and extinct forms of bison. They probably also ate a wide variety of other foods, but little evidence remains to say just what these foods were.

Archaeologists think Paleoindians in North Carolina and in other places east of the Mississippi River probably did not eat much "big game." Although the occasional mastodon or bison may have been hunted, by 8500 BC most megafauna species were extinct or quickly dying out. The Ice Age was ending and the eastern ecosystem was changing. Deciduous nuts trees were replacing straggly stands of cold-loving boreal forests, and modern animals like deer were becoming abundant. So eastern Paleoindians apparently ate a variety of nuts, wild fruits, and smaller, modern game.

Even though the Paleoindian period ended about 8000 BC, it laid the groundwork for subsequent cultural developments.



Key Characteristics


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