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Quick Study

Woodland Period (1000 BC to AD 1000)

Woodland can be a confusing term. Some archaeologists avoid it because people unfamiliar with the peculiar usages of archaeology think it refers to the "Eastern Woodlands," which denotes those billions of acres of river-laced forests in the eastern half of North America.

So a clarification is in order. Like with the terms Paleoindian and Archaic, most archaeologists use Woodland in a specific way. They use it to refer to characteristics of a cultural tradition and the period in which that tradition was dominant.

In North Carolina and much of the East, the Woodland period is marked by the presence of three key traits:

These traits began during the late Archaic, but were not widespread in the Southeast until later. While the Woodland's time frame varies considerably throughout eastern North America, it follows on the heels of the Archaic.

In North Carolina, Woodland characteristics appear by 1000 BC. Archaeologists disagree about when it ended. Some, emphasizing continuity, prefer to see it last until the arrival of the Europeans around AD 1600. But other archaeologists see enough social and political changes occurring to end the period at AD 1000. The latter approach is the one adopted here.

Another caution is in order about archaeological terminology. Just because tribes followed a Woodland lifeway, this doesn't mean they were identical. Individual tribal customs and beliefs varied greatly. Also, tribes differed ethnically and linguistically. What tied everybody together were the general cultural traits defining how they lived.



Key Characteristics


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