Early Archaic Period (8000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.)

William A. Ritchie (1932) first used the term "Archaic" in American archeological literature to describe the cultural material, primarily chipped stone tools, from the Lamoka Lake Site in New York. During the Works Progress Administration (WPA) excavations of the 1930s and 1940s, southeastern sites that were recognized as producing lithic materials similar to Lamoka Lake were also classified as Archaic. Today, archeologists use the term to describe a temporal and cultural period, differentiated from the earlier Paleoindian period and more recent periods on the basis of stylistic differences in stone point types, the appearance of other artifacts, and changes in economic orientation.

Before 1960, the major goal of Archaic period research was to develop a relative chronology. Information derived from excavations at deeply stratified quarry, habitation, and cave sites in the Southeastsuch as Russell Cave in Alabama, Indian Knoll in Kentucky, and the Hardaway and Doerschuk sites in North Carolina, was used to develop the chronology for the Archaic period.

The Early Archaic period was defined on the basis of chipped stone projectile point technology and styles. This time period is associated with the final glacial retreat on the North American continent and an environment similar to that found in the Southeast today.

Excavations at stratified Early Archaic sites near permanent water sources or along rivers have produced corner, basal, and some side-notched points, such as the Taylor, Big Sandy, and Bolen points.  Palmer, Kirk, and LeCroy points, which are found throughout the south-eastern United States, demonstrate the experimentation with basal structures that dominated this period. Other points, such as St. Albans, Kessell, and Kanawah, have a limited southeastern geographical distribution. It is this introduction of new point types that differentiates the Early Archaic period from the preceding Late Paleoindian subperiod.

This map of recorded Palmer point distribution offers a glimpse of Early Archaic site distribution in Georgia.

Like the Late Paleoindian subperiod, it was presumed that the Early Archaic culture consisted of small mobile bands exploiting defined territories, but the increase in the number of sites and the recovery of nonlocal cherts tend to support an increase in population resulting in larger numbers of bands that traded resources with each other. The proliferation in point types appeared to also represent the ongoing regional specialization first apparent in the Late Paleoindian subperiod.

The range of lithic tools included knives, perforators, drills, choppers, flake knives and scrapers, gouges, and hammerstones. In addition, wet sites, such as the Windover Site near present-day Titusville, Florida, which produced exceptionally well preserved organic materials, have enlarged this inventory to include: bone points, atlatl hooks, barbed points, fish hooks, and pins; shell adzes; wooden stakes and canoes; and fragments of cloth and woven bags. This new information on the Early Archaic has contributed to a view of a residentially stable hunting and gathering band society that seasonally occupied base camps along major water courses and exploited lithic and food resources within individual stream drainages.



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