Author: C. Clifford Boyd

professor of anthropology and co-director of the Forensic Science Institute at Radford University
ENTRY

Paleoindian Period (16,000–8000 BC)

The Paleoindian Period (16,000–8000 BC) came toward the end of the Ice Age, a time when the climate warmed and the largest mammals became extinct. Likely having originally migrated from Asia, the first people in Virginia were hunter-gatherers who left behind lithic, or stone, tools, often spearheads. At the Cactus Hill Archaeological Site in Sussex County, these date back to 16,000 BC, or well before the better-known Clovis culture. The so-called Paleoamericans likely banded together in groups of thirty to fifty and located themselves near high-quality stone resources, especially in Dinwiddie and Mecklenburg counties. While keeping a base camp, they may have established smaller settlements for more specialized tasks such as tool-making and hunting. The bands probably lacked central leadership, moved often, and traded with one another. Based on the religious practices of the later Virginia Indians, they likely were animists, investing various natural forces with spiritual power.

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