3.1 Base Camp
Among the camp sites used by any Archaic group, the largest was probably in an area where there was much food. It was at this base camp that most, if not all, group members gathered for the longest time. Here Archaic people built fairly sturdy shelters to be lived in year after year, plus temporary lean-tos and perhaps tents. It is clear that base camps were important centers where people shared news and traded for raw materials or finished goods. Special events such as marriages, naming ceremonies for children, and funerals may also have occurred at these sites.
There have been several studies of base camps found along the Ohio River in Clermont County, Ohio. One camp, Maple Creek:, covers 5.6 acres, although Indians probably did not live on all of the site at any one time. Radiocarbon dates of 1310 B.C. and 2115 B.C. show that Maple Creek was occupied in Late Archaic times.
Image: base camp.tif
3.2 Gathering Plants
Most of the activities that took place in a base camp centered on obtaining food. Studies in Kentucky and Indiana show that many Archaic groups focused on a few food sources, including deer, nuts, plants, and fresh-water clams. Those foods provided nearly all of the nutrients needed. Meat was important in the Indians' diet, but plant foods gathered by the women were probably the major part of each meal. Plants were also used to make medicines, dyes, and drinks. The women learned at an early age when each type of plant could be harvested. Late summer and fall were the best seasons. Acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, and butternuts were found in forests. In open areas, hazelnut thickets, berry bushes, and seed-bearing plants provided important supplies of food.
Recent studies at sites in Tennessee, Missouri, and Illinois have shown that, as early as 2300 B.C., Archaic people were also growing some crops. Squash, a plant not native to eastern North America, provided oil-rich seeds. Gourds were grown to serve as containers. Native plants such as sunflowers were also grown for their nutritious seeds.
Image: Gather plants.tif
In addition to collecting plant foods, the women also did the cooking. Seeds and nuts were probably ground into meal using stone pestles on flat rocks. Nuts were cracked and boiled to extract the nutritious oil. Judging from accounts of historic Indians, soups or stews made with meat and plant foods were the most common meals eaten by the Archaic people. They probably also broiled meat or roasted it directly over a fire or on heated rocks. An earth oven (a hole filled with bundles of food layered between hot coals or hot rocks) could bake food slowly. Meat and plants that were not to be eaten soon were saved by drying and smoking over an open fire.
3.5 Canoe Making
Armed with stone axes, the Archaic people were able to fell small trees. Larger trees were probably brought down by burning the trunks and chopping away the charred wood. If a tree trunk: was not needed at once, the people might remove a band of bark all the way around the tree and wait for it to die naturally. After the men brought down a tree to be made into a canoe, they burned the portion to be hollowed out, then "dug out" the charred wood using stone axes, adzes, and scraping tools.
Three dugouts, made that way, have been found in different parts of Savannah Lake, Ashland County, Ohio. One of these, 20 feet in length, has been dated at 1600 B.C. That date and artifacts from campsites along the lake shore strongly suggest that the dugout was made and used by people during the Late Archaic period. Since Savannah Lake straddles the divide between the Lake Erie and Ohio River watersheds, it is easy to see how sites in that area would be important for trade and communication by water.
Image: Canoe making.tif
3.6 Rock Shelter
Each year, when cold weather came, the large base-camp group split into family units to move to winter quarters. It is possible that older adults, especially those who could not travel, spent the winter at the base camps, living on preserved food. Winter camps were places that protected the people from bad weather. In eastern Ohio, natural rockshelters were ready-made campsites for single families.
The best shelters were those that were dry and faced the east to provide protection from cold winds. The rock walls and generally low ceilings of these shelters reflected heat made by a small fire, thus making them warmer. Living conditions were so good in some rockshelters that they were used year after year by Archaic people as well as later Indian groups.
Recently, a rockshelter was found in the Killbuck Creek area of Holmes County, Ohio, that people lived in as early as 12,000 years ago. However, they did not live there year-round; no Indian groups in Ohio lived in rockshelters or caves all of the time.
Image: Winter camp.tif
3.7 Hunting Strategy
Fewer activities took place at winter camps due to the small group size and the harsher weather. The men hunted deer and other game. Like the Indians of historic times, prehistoric hunters may have taken advantage of the aggressive behavior of male deer during the breeding season. While stalking a buck, a hunter rubbed a decoy made from the head and antlers of a deer against trees or shrubs. Seeing this as a challenge, the hunted buck moved into the range of the hunter's spear. Later in the winter, the hunters may have shifted their efforts to finding hibernating black bears. Bears were a welcome source of meat, oil, and warm hides. They were also valuable in the ceremonial life of the Indians.
Based on records of historic Indians, ceremony was an important part of the hunt. Hunters chanted and prayed for good fortune before the hunt. When an animal was killed, the hunters prayed for the beast's spirit to forgive them. Otherwise, the angry spirit would cause the hunters to suffer from diseases.
Deer provided many products for Native Americans. Meat and marrow taken from the bones were important food sources. Deer hides, after being tanned in a solution including deer brains, were cut and sewn together with deer bone needles and deer sinew thread for clothing. Sinews could also be woven into fish nets and used to lash together the poles of a lean-to. Deer bones and antlers could be made into fishing hooks, ornaments, and tools for scraping hides and chipping flint. Deer antlers boiled in water produced glue. Deer hide stretched over a section of hollow log made a drum.
When spring came, Archaic families moved to larger camps near streams where fish were known to migrate. In April and May, some types of fish make spawning runs in large numbers up many Ohio streams. The Archaic people caught large numbers of fish from streams in nets, with spears, with hooks on a line, and perhaps even with poison. Fragments of fiber cord, dating from about 5500 B.C., that could have been used for fishing have been found in the Squaw Run rockshelter in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Several families may have gathered to catch and process large numbers of fish. Spring fishing restored food supplies and provided a change from the winter diet. No doubt, families also welcomed spring reunions at larger camps as social events, after being away from each other for the winter.
Image: Base camp.tif
3.11 Development Of The Atlatl
The Archaic hunter's most important weapon was his spear, tipped with a sharp flint point. No matter how many decoys, traps, or nets he used, he still killed his game with a spear. Anything that improved the use of the spear was a help to the hunter. The atlatl (at-lat-ul), or spearthrower, was one such device.
The atlatl acted as an addition to the hunter's arm, giving his throws more power and range. The butt end of the spear rested in a hook (sometimes made of antler) at one end of the wooden slat of the atlatl. The hunter held the other end of the atlatl in his hand and steadied the spear shaft with the fingers of the same hand through the first part of the throw. When the spear was nearly overhead, he released it and, while still grasping the atlatl, snapped his wrist so that the spear was thrust forward. With this action, the hunter could hurl the spear farther and with more force than he could otherwise achieve.
Atlatl parts have been found with some Archaic burials in Kentucky. The way the parts were arranged shows that complete atlatls had been buried, but the wooden parts had since decayed. Some stones, carefully shaped and drilled through the middle, have been identified as weights which, when attached to the atlatl, could have made it more effective. Yet some of these objects, often called bannerstones, seem to be too large and fragile to have been used for hunting. Clearly, many of them were made by skilled craftsmen who, in addition to their technical abilities, had an eye for beauty when choosing materials.
It is quite possible that some bannerstones were used in hunting rituals during which the hunter acted out the killing of his prey to increase his luck during the real hunt. Or, perhaps, bannerstones were used solely as gifts or as special items of trade. The fact that many bannerstones have been found with the burials of females, who normally were not hunters, could mean that they were used in ways that are still unknown.
Catalog number: A 3728/000342
Image number: AL07448
3.13 Archaic Projectile Points
When flint tools of similar shapes and sizes are found in a cluster of sites dating to about the same time, scientists conclude that those tools were made by people of the same culture. Perhaps groups of Indians notched their spear points one way or chipped the stems to a certain length because those forms were best for the hunting methods used by the group. Certain shapes may have been repeated because they were customary; that is, one man chipped his points a certain way because that is how his grandfather had done it. Not all Indian flint chippers had equal skills, nor did each piece of flint chip the same. Thus, there is a range of quality within each point type.
The Archaic Indians are known for their many types of flint spear points and knives. By looking at spear points found throughout the Midwest, it is possible to suggest how groups of Archaic people, as well as other cultures, moved from place to place or traded. The many sizes and shapes of Archaic spear points in part reflect the long time period over which these cultures existed. Yet, in contrast to the Paleoindians, whose spear points remained similar over wide areas of North America, the variety of Archaic points may also mean that Archaic groups began making special point types as they adapted to their own regions.
Section 3.14 Projectile Point Names
The St. Albans site near Charleston, West Virginia, is particularly important for understanding the changes in Archaic spear point styles that occurred in the Ohio Valley from about 8000 to 6000 B.C. As groups of Archaic people camped at that spot over time, they left some of their spear points near their campfires. Thousands of years later, archaeologists found those tools and determined their age by radiocarbon dating the charcoal from the campfires.
When similarly shaped spear points are found in Ohio, it is assumed that they were made about the same time as those in West Virginia. For the sake of convenience, archaeologists have given names to particular point types. Sometimes they are named for the site where they were first found, for a nearby town or landmark, or for the landowner; the names are not those used by the Indians who made the spear points.
Image Number: Section 3-14 StAlbansPoints Composite
3.15 Groundstone Tools
The people of the Archaic culture, and those who followed them, used a broad range of rocks beyond flint to make their tools. Cobbles of granite, gabbro, diorite, gneiss, porphyry, and slate â€“ originating in the bedrock of Canada â€“ could be found in glacial outwash along most Ohio streams and rivers.
When making a tool, the stoneworker first chose a cobble of the right size and weight. He or she then shaped the tool by striking the cobble many times with a hammerstone. Finally, the tool was smoothed using objects with rough surfaces, much as a carpenter uses sandpaper. With this method the toolmaker was able to make a polished axe, adz, or chisel for woodworking, a pestle for grinding nuts, or an ornament to wear.
Image number: FOCase24
3.17 Raw Materials
People of the Archaic culture in Ohio used limestone to make smoking pipes and sandstone occasionally to make bowls. Along the east coast, bowls were made from steatite (soapstone). The Archaic people also made plummets, plumb-bob shaped objects, by grinding and polishing pieces of hematite (native iron ore). Some archaeologists believe plummets were used as weights on a bolas (a weighted rope thrown to capture small game and birds). Cherokee Indians in the 18th and 19th centuries used plummets to divine the location of a lost person or object.
Image Number: Archaic Plumets Composit for 3-16