Paleo-Indian Period

Excerpts taken from Sun Circles and Human Hands (1957) by Emma Lila Fundaburk and Mary Douglass Fundaburk Foreman.

The first inhabitants of the Southeast came in gradual influx over a long period of centuries; as new waves of migrants entered extreme North America, pushing down into the western plains, the older inhabitants were gradually pressed outward toward the then uninhabited areas of the continent. The first immigrants traveled in small bands probably one or a few families; they rarely came in contact with other natives, and inbred for centuries. Paleo-Indians lived a nomadic life; ate the meat of large animals they collectively killed; and supplemented their diet with berries, bark, nuts, and fruits in season. They sought convenient and natural habitation sites, as caves or overhanging rocks; in the Tennessee Valley area, their habitation sites included small knolls near springs, lakes, or springs, and sites at pass approaches to a valley or on slopes nearby.

No human skeletal remains have been found at Paleo-Indian camp sites; there is also an absence of bone tools, which were probably used. The lithic material which remains, indicates that Paleo-Indians variety of tools, including points, scrapers, gravers, knives, and choppers; these were made from lamellar flakes, struck from cores of flint or similar materials. Many of the projectile points show remarkable craftsmanship; they are expertly chipped or flaked into shape; they sometimes have concave bases; ground basal edges, to prevent cutting the thongs used in hafting; and central fluting, for blood-letting or ease in hafting. Since men were the hunters, they were doubtless responsible for the excellent craftsmanship displayed on the points. Their weapons included spears, stones and clubs, and the Late Paleo-Indian probably used the throwing stick.

Knowledge and use of fire for light, warmth, and the crudest culinary purposes, is believed to have been brought into North America by early migrants from Asia. The Paleo-Indian had to struggle constantly against the elements of his/her environment; he/she probably seldom gathered anything to store, and wandered frequently in search of food.


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