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Prehistory: First Inhabitants
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Tennessee Early History
First Early Inhabitants of Tennessee
Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of Tennessee. Learn about the history and culture of the first inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of Tennessee.
Tennessee First Early Inhabitants Timeline
Early History of Native Americans in Tennessee
The Indigenous People of Tennessee
The story of man in Tennessee begins with the last retreat of the Ice Age glaciers, when a colder climate and forests of spruce and fir prevailed in the region. Late Ice Age hunters probably followed animal herds into this area some 12,000-15,000 years ago. These nomadic Paleo-Indians camped in caves and rock shelters and left behind their distinctive arrowheads and spear points. They may have used such stone age tools to hunt the mastodon and caribou that ranged across eastern Tennessee. About 12,000 years ago, the region's climate began to warm and the predominant vegetation changed from conifer to our modern deciduous forest. Abundant acorns, hickory, chestnut and beech mast attracted large numbers of deer and elk. Warmer climate, the extinction of the large Ice Age mammals, and the spread of deciduous forests worked together to transform Indian society. During what is known as the Archaic period, descendants of the Paleo-Indians began to settle on river terraces, where they gathered wild plant food and shellfish in addition to hunting game.
Sometime between 3,000 and 900 B.C., natives took the crucial step of cultivating edible plants such as squash and gourds—the first glimmerings of agriculture. Archaic Indians thereby ensured a dependable food supply and freed themselves from seasonal shortages of wild plant foods and game. With a more secure food supply, populations expanded rapidly and scattered bands combined to form larger villages.
The next major stage of Tennessee pre-history, lasting almost 2,000 years, is known as the Woodland period. This era saw the introduction of pottery, the beginnings of settled farming communities, the construction of burial mounds and the growing stratification of Indian society. Native Americans in Tennessee made the transition from societies of hunters and gatherers to well-organized tribal, agricul- Early man hunted mastodon that roamed during the last Ice Age.
The peak of prehistoric cultural development in Tennessee occurred during the Mississippian period (900-1,600 A.D.). Cultivation of new and improved strains of corn and beans fueled another large jump in population. An increase in territorial warfare and the erection of ceremonial temples and public structures attest to the growing role of chieftains and tribalism in Indian life. Elaborate pottery styles and an array of personal artifacts such as combs, pipes, and jewelry marked the complex society of these last prehistoric inhabitants of Tennessee
Sometime between 3,000 and 900 BC, natives began to cultivate plants such as squash and gourds, and could therefore depend upon a regular food supply.
This caused the native population to increase, and groups of nomadic hunters began to settle into larger villages.
A HISTORY OF TENNESSEE - TENNESSEE BLUE BOOK
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