In the classification of the archaeological cultures of North America, the Archaic period or "Meso-Indian period" in North America, taken to last from around 8000 to 1000 BC in the sequence of North Americanpre-Columbian cultural stages, is a period defined by the archaic stage of cultural development.
The Archaic stage is characterized by subsistence economies supported through the exploitation of nuts, seeds, and shellfish. As its ending is defined by the adoption of sedentary farming, this date can vary significantly across the Americas.
Since the 1990s, secure dating of multiple Middle Archaic sites in northern Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida has challenged traditional models of development. In these areas, hunter-gatherer societies in the Lower Mississippi Valley organized to build monumental earthwork mound complexes as early as 3500 BC (confirmed at Watson Brake), with building continuing over a period of 500 years. Such early mound sites as Frenchman's Bend and Hedgepeth were of this time period; all were constructed by localized societies. Watson Brake is now considered to be the oldest mound complex in the Americas. It precedes that built at Poverty Point by nearly 2,000 years (both are in northern Louisiana). More than 100 sites have been identified as associated with the regional Poverty Point culture of the Late Archaic period, and it was part of a regional trading network across the Southeast.
Across what is now the Southeastern United States, starting around 4000 BC, people exploited wetland resources, creating large shell middens. Middens developed where the people lived along rivers, but there is limited evidence of Archaic peoples along the coastlines prior to 3000 BC. Archaic sites on the coast may have been inundated by rising sea levels (one site in 15 to 20 feet of water off St. Lucie County, Florida, has been dated to 2800 BC). Starting around 3000 BC, evidence of large-scale exploitation of oysters appears. During the period 3000 BC to 1000 BC, shell rings, large shell middens that more or less surround open centers, were developed along the coast of the Southeastern United States. These shell rings are numerous in South Carolina and Georgia, but are also found scattered around the Florida Peninsula and along the Gulf of Mexico coast as far west as the Pearl River. In some places, such as Horr's Island in Southwest Florida, resources were rich enough to support sizable mound-building communities year-round. Four shell or sand mounds on Horr's Island have been dated to between 4,870 and 4,270 Before Present (BP).
8000 BC: The last glacial ends, causing sea levels to rise and flood the Beringia land bridge, closing the primary migration route from Siberia.
8000 BC: Sufficient rain falls on the American Southwest to support many large mammal species--mammoth, mastodon, and a bison species-—that soon go extinct.
8000 BC: Hunters in the American Southwest use the atlatl.
Shell ornaments and copper items at Indian Knoll, Kentucky evidence an extensive trade system over several millennia.
3000 BC: Cultivation of the sunflower and marsh elder begins in the American South; northeastern natives cultivate amaranth and marsh elder. After harvesting these plants, the people grind their seeds into flour.
Willey, Gordon R. (1989). "Gordon Willey". In Glyn Edmund Daniel; Christopher Chippindale (eds.). The Pastmasters: Eleven Modern Pioneers of Archaeology: V. Gordon Childe, Stuart Piggott, Charles Phillips, Christopher Hawkes, Seton Lloyd, Robert J. Braidwood, Gordon R. Willey, C.J. Becker, Sigfried J. De Laet, J. Desmond Clark, D.J. Mulvaney. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05051-1. OCLC19750309.
^ abWilley, Gordon R. (1989). "Gordon Willey". In Glyn Edmund Daniel; Christopher Chippindale (eds.). The Pastmasters: Eleven Modern Pioneers of Archaeology: V. Gordon Childe, Stuart Piggott, Charles Phillips, Christopher Hawkes, Seton Lloyd, Robert J. Braidwood, Gordon R. Willey, C.J. Becker, Sigfried J. De Laet, J. Desmond Clark, D.J. Mulvaney. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05051-1. OCLC19750309.
^Saunders, Joe W. et al. "Watson Brake, a Middle Archaic Mound Complex in Northeast Louisiana" American Antiquity . Vol. 70, No. 4: 631–668. 2005
^Clark, John E.; Gosser, Dennis (1995). Barnett, William K.; Hoopes, John W. (eds.). Reinventing Mesoamerica's First Pottery. The Emergence of Pottery. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian. p. 211. ISBN 1-56098-516-X.
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