Author: Michael B. Barber

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Early Archaic Period

The Early Archaic Period (8000–6000 BC) is sometimes viewed as a transitional period from the first occupation of North America around 15,000 BC to a more settled time. In fact, some archaeologists include it as part of the Paleoindian Period (15,000–8000 BC), but the climate and ways of life in Virginia suggest important differences. As the temperatures rose and precipitation increased, deciduous forests spread, providing a greater variety of nuts, berries, and fruits for foraging. Mammoths and mastodons were by now extinct, but the Early Archaic people hunted deer, elk, and bear, banding together in larger groups but staying within smaller, resource-rich areas. (Archaeologists have proposed settlement clusters that more or less coincide with the routes of present-day Interstates 81 and 95.) Technology, meanwhile, responded to the changing environment and growing population. New, notched-point spearheads and arrowheads may have followed the invention of the spear-throwing atlatl, and the chipped-stone axe may have been a response to the newly forested areas.