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Understanding Time Periods & Dating

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  • Understanding Time Periods & Dating

    Understanding Ancient American Timelines
    Reproduced from Jim Bennet’s blog:

    http://www.arrowheads.com/index.php/...-periods-.html


    Where did the Indians come from? Did the first Indians live in caves like cavemen? What is the difference between Paleo and Archaic, and Archaic and Woodland? When did bows begin and atl-atls stop? What did the land look like 10,000 years ago? Were there tribes back then? What happened to the big civilizations like Cahokia? When did metal start being used?

    The thing I love the most about prehistory is the fact that it is pre-history. It is the time before all things were written down. This allows us to ponder and theorize - to hypothesize and surmise. To seek evidence and knowledge to fill in the missing pieces of a puzzle that no one really knows what the resulting total picture may be.

    I went to bed this evening thinking about a phone conversation I had with a new artifact collector who was asking tons of questions about ancient America and the first people to arrive here. Throughout our hour long conversation, I smiled. It so reminded me of… Me. I remember me 20 some years ago after I found my first arrowhead in a field while hunting, and the bazillion questions that I tried to find answers to from that point forward about America’s ancient past. As our conversation came to a close, the collector on the other end thanked me for my time, and told me that while many of his questions were answered, each answer seemed to make him think of more questions and we could probably talk for hours more. Again, I smiled. Like most all collectors I have ever met, there is nothing more enjoyable than “talking rocks” – and while talking rocks does answer questions, it sure does seem like most times the answers do make collectors think of more questions that relate to the answers.

    I have written in more than one book that I find the ability to envision the past the key to what drives some people to collect relics, and others to have little interest. Holding a relic in the hand and thinking about those who used it is diferentiating factor. But what really did go on way back then? What did it look like? What did ancient man do all day long? Having a basic understanding of the time periods that led up to the North America that we know now sure does help one understand, and appreciate the artifact we all so love to collect.

    Time periods on all continents are somewhat different. Human occupation on each continent did have a starting point – that being the arrival of the first people to populate it. Those people left behind artifacts and other traces of their presence, and some of that evidence can be tested and dated. Those dates then become the basis for knowing how long areas have been occupied, what food were eaten, how those people lived and many times, approximately how many people there were at that time. That starting point in North America is still being investigated as new sites are excavated by Archaeologists, but the information thus far recorded puts man on North America around 17,000 years ago.

    The starting point for human occupation in North America begins during the last major glacial period known as the Wisconsin Glaciation Episode. Much of North America was covered by ice sheets during the Late Wisconsin Glaciation. During this period, around 30,000 years ago the ice sheets were building, and around 20,000 years ago the water used in these ice sheets caused a drop in the oceans levels enough to create a land bridge in the Bering sea. This land bridge is called Beringia. It is believed by many that the first humans to occupy N. America came across this land bridge.

    While this is possible, it is still just a theory. It is also believed with new evidence coming forward that man may have also traveled by light boat down the western coast. Still another theory has man coming across to the east coast by light boat.

    Whichever route was used, or possibly all the routes may have been used at different points and to some degree, the end result was that man did arrive and began populating our continent.

    This was the beginning of the Paleo Period.

    The prehistoric times in North America are divided into Periods. Those periods are then further divided into phases and complexes, but knowing the general time periods is usually enough to get a good start. What ends one period and begins another is a major change in lifeways or technology. Generally, the technology would affect the lifeway, thus really they are one in the same. Examples would be the beginning of farming, the making of pottery, permanent structures and societal evolution.

    Paleo Period – this is the oldest
    Archaic Period – this is one of the longest
    Woodland Period – This has organized societies
    Mississippian Period – The height of Pottery making and farming
    Historic – after Europeans arrived


    Paleo Period: 17,000 BC – 7,500 BC

    It is possible that the Paleo period began much earlier, and I personally think as new evidence is found in years to come the beginning date will be found to have been much earlier. However, the above date is a good reference point for the solid evidence that has been recorded thus far.

    The Paleo people came to this continent walking upright. While I am sure by today’s standards, they probably needed haircuts and a good shave, I doubt they looked like the stereotypical cavemen that are seen in the Gieco commercials. Paleo Indians were known to be nomadic, and followed the huge herds of animals that were their staple diet. With the exception of the Paleo Crossing site here in Ohio, Paleo camp sites do not have evidence of post holes, and thus their use of permanent type dwellings in a village setting has never been established. It is therefore believed that Paleo Indians traveled in small bands or clans, normally staying close to rivers and major water sources.

    Paleo Indians used thrusting spears, and at some point during the Paleo period, the atl-atl was believed to have been invented. The Atl-atl is a hand held spear thrower that acts as an extension of the arm allowing man to throw his spears with more distance and impact power.

    I am sure that the Paleo people hunted smaller game such as elk, deer and turkey – but they are best known for being the only Indians to hunt the megafauna – the large extinct animals such as wooly mammoths. By the end of the Paleo period, the age of the large mammals had come to a close with their final extinction.


    Archaic period: 7,500 BC – 1,500 BC

    The archaic is a long time periods, and is often divided into Early, Middle and Late Archaic.

    The Archaic period is the era of the hunters and gatherers. So what makes it so different from the Paleo that it gets to be its own period? In a nutshell, more permanent camps. At some point as the population continued to grow and with the large mammals now extinct, man began to settle down a bit. More permanent camps were established, and along with hunting the local area around the camps, man began to gather and store food items such as nuts, seeds and roots. I believe these camps would be used until the game in the area became harder to find or the water source became tainted, at which point the village would be moved.

    The predominate weapon during this period was the atl-atl and remained so throughout the entire Archaic period.

    Often collectors will hear the term “Transitional Paleo”. This is used when describing some items that were believed to have been manufactured between 6,000 or so BC and 7,500 or so BC. As the time periods are general in nature, there was no doubt a transitional period.


    Woodland Period: 1,500 BC – 1,000 AD

    By the arrival of the Woodland Period, man was flourishing in North America. Most all of the areas of the continent show evidence of man’s presence, and he was settled down into growing villages and was beginning to learn about farming and domesticating plants, and the technology of pottery making began. At some point during this period the bow and arrow was believed to have been invented, although the Atl-atl was still a well used weapon.

    The Woodland Period was also the beginning of higher degrees of governmental societies where huge mounds were built by the Adena and the Hopewell people. Such large scale tasks would require a higher level of structured government.


    Mississippian Period: 1,000 AD – 1,500 AD

    By now America was filling quickly with people. The huge city of Cahokia which covered over 5 square miles was built and the pottery craft was at its peak. Pottery was tempered with shell and other materials to make it stronger, and farming was a huge part of the Natives diet.

    Soon, Europeans would find America, bringing with them the diseases that Natives could not fight such as smallpox and many other infectious diseases and the population of North America would see a staggering reduction that would end the Mississippian Period, and begin the Historic.

    Folks, I do not profess to be an anthropologist, and the above is meant merely to be a general outline to help collectors to be able to picture that which came long before us. I hope it is of some use to some net surfing collector.

    Jim Bennett
    10-18-10

    www.oldrelics.com



    FLINT TIME PERIODS


    Paleo: 12,000 BC - 8,000 BC

    Clovis
    Cumberland
    Folsom
    Goshen
    Midland
    Milnesand Point
    Paleo Square Knife
    Redstone

    It is possible that the Paleo period began much earlier, and I personally think as new evidence is found in years to come the beginning date will be found to have been much earlier. However, the above date is a good reference point for the solid evidence that has been recorded thus far.

    The Paleo people came to this continent walking upright. While I am sure by today’s standards, they probably needed haircuts and a good shave, I doubt they looked like the stereotypical cavemen that are seen in the Gieco commercials. Paleo Indians were known to be nomadic, and followed the huge herds of animals that were their staple diet. With the exception of the Paleo Crossing site here in Ohio, Paleo camp sites do not have evidence of post holes, and thus their use of permanent type dwellings in a village setting has never been established. It is therefore believed that Paleo Indians traveled in small bands or clans, normally staying close to rivers and major water sources.

    Paleo Indians used thrusting spears, and at some point during the Paleo period, the atl-atl was believed to have been invented. The Atl-atl is a hand held spear thrower that acts as an extension of the arm allowing man to throw his spears with more distance and impact power.

    I am sure that the Paleo people hunted smaller game such as elk, deer and turkey – but they are best known for being the only Indians to hunt the megafauna – the large extinct animals such as wooly mammoths. By the end of the Paleo period, the age of the large mammals had come to a close with their final extinction.



    Clovis


    Dalton / Transitional Paleo: 8,000 BC - 6,500 BC

    Agate Basin
    Alamance
    Allen
    Beaver Lake
    Coldwater
    Dalton
    Golondrina
    Greenbrier
    Hardaway
    Hell Gap
    Ovoid Knife
    Paint Rock Valley
    Paleo Dart
    Pelican Point
    Plainview
    Quad
    San Patrice
    Simpson


    Dalton (picture from member [gregszybala])


    Early Archaic:7,000 BC - 5,500 BC

    Alberta
    Angostura
    Big Sandy
    Bolen
    Browns Valley
    Cache River
    Calf Creek
    Cobbs
    Cossatot River
    Decatur
    Dovetail
    Early Stemmed Lanceolate
    Early Triangular
    Eden
    Firstview
    Fox Valley
    Gilchrist
    Graham Cave
    Hardin
    Harpeth River
    Heavy Duty
    Hidden Valley
    Holland
    Hoxie
    Jude
    Kirk
    Kirk Serrated
    Lake Erie
    Lecroy
    Leighton
    Lost Lake
    Maccorkle
    Northern Side Notched
    Ocala
    Palmer
    Pine Tree
    Pryor
    Pulaski Point
    Red River Knife
    Rice Lanceolate
    Rice Lobbed
    Savage Cave
    Scottsbluff
    Searcy
    Standlee
    Stanfield
    Stilwell
    Stringtown
    Thebes
    Warrick

    The archaic is a long time period, and is often divided into Early, Middle and Late Archaic.

    The Archaic period is the era of the hunters and gatherers. So what makes it so different from the Paleo that it gets to be its own period? In a nutshell, more permanent camps. At some point as the population continued to grow and with the large mammals now extinct, man began to settle down a bit. More permanent camps were established, and along with hunting the local area around the camps, man began to gather and store food items such as nuts, seeds and roots. I believe these camps would be used until the game in the area became harder to find or the water source became tainted, at which point the village would be moved.

    The predominate weapon during this period was the atl-atl and remained so throughout the entire Archaic period.

    Often collectors will hear the term “Transitional Paleo”. This is used when describing some items that were believed to have been manufactured between 6,000 or so BC and 7,500 or so BC. As the time periods are general in nature, there was no doubt a transitional period.


    Dovetail


    Graham Cave


    Thebes


    Middle Archaic: 5,500 BC - 3,000 BC

    Benton
    Big Slough
    Buzzard Roost Creek
    Carrolton
    Crescent Knife
    Cypress Creek
    Dawson
    Elk River
    Escobas
    Eva
    Godar
    Guilford
    Hamilton
    Hemphill
    Hickory Ridge
    Hillsborough
    Jackie Stem
    Johnson
    La Jita
    Lookingbill
    Marion
    Marrow Mountain
    Marshall
    Martindale
    Mckean
    Neuberger
    Newnan
    Osceola
    Pelican Lake
    Pickwick
    Putnam Point
    Raddatz
    Ramey Knife
    Robinson
    Six Mile Creek
    Stanley
    Tortugas
    Turrin
    Uvalde


    Benton


    Pickwick


    Late Archaic: 3,000 BC - 1,000 BC

    Afton
    Bakers Creek
    Base Tang Knife
    Big Creek
    Buck Creek
    Bulverde
    Castorville
    Chesterfield
    Corner Tang Knife
    Covington
    Cresap
    Culbreath
    Dallas
    Darl
    Etley
    Ferry
    Fish Spear
    Frio
    Genessee
    Hanna
    Hernando
    Kinney
    Langtry-Arenosa
    Lerma
    Levy
    Little Bear Creek
    Little River
    Matanzas
    Meadowood
    Mehlville
    Montel
    Mulberry Creek
    Nebo Hill
    Nolan
    Palmillas
    Pedernalis
    Savannah River
    Sedalia
    Sedalia Digger
    Seminole
    Shumla
    Smith
    South Prong Creek
    Spring Creek
    Stone Square Stem
    Table Rock
    Wade
    Wadlow
    Wells
    Williams


    Etley

    Click image for larger version

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    Sedalia


    Early Woodland: 1,000 BC - 500 BC

    Adena
    Carter
    Duran
    Edgewood
    Ensor
    Epps
    Evans
    Fairland
    Flint Creek
    Frazier
    Gary
    Helton
    Kampsville
    King Corner Notch
    Kramer
    Lange
    Marcos Point
    Morse Knife
    Motley
    Oauchita
    Orient
    Peisker Diamond
    Pontchartrain
    Smithsonia
    Turkey Tail

    By the arrival of the Woodland Period, man was flourishing in North America. Most all of the areas of the continent show evidence of mans presence, and he was settled down into growing villages and was beginning to learn about farming and domesticating plants, and the technology of pottery making began. At some point during this period the bow and arrow was believed to have been invented, although the Atl-atl was still a well used weapon.

    The Woodland Period was also the beginning of higher degrees of governmental societies where huge mounds were built by the Adena and the Hopewell people. Such large scale tasks would require a higher level of structured government.


    Adena


    Motley


    Middle Woodland: 500 BC - 400 AD

    Besant
    Burkett
    Copena
    Cotaco Creek
    Gibson
    Godley
    Grand
    Hopewell
    Lowe
    North
    Snyder


    Hopewell


    Late Woodland: 400 AD - 800 AD

    Apple Creek
    Jacks Reef
    Knight Island
    Pogo
    Rice Shallow Side Notch
    Scallorn
    Steuban
    Walla Knife
    Yadkin


    Apple Creek


    Mississippian: 800 AD - 1,650 AD

    Avonlea
    Bird Point
    Bonham Point
    Cahokia
    Cupp
    Harahay
    Hays
    Kays
    Madison
    Mineral Springs
    Plains Triangular
    Sallisaw
    Sequoyah
    Talco


    Cahokia

    By now America was filling quickly with people. The huge city of Cahokia which covered over 5 square miles was built and the pottery craft was at its peak. Pottery was tempered with shell and other materials to make it stronger, and farming was a huge part of the Natives diet.

    Soon, Europeans would find America, bringing with them the diseases that Natives could not fight such as smallpox and many other infectious diseases and the population of North America would see a staggering reduction that would end the Mississippian Period, and begin the Historic.


    Duplicated from the “Resources” section of arrowheads.com and reproduced with permission.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

  • #2
    Terminology for Dating

    Confused about the terminology used for dating in reports and articles? Here’s the low-down.


    A.D. (Anno Domini) and B.C (Before Christ)

    These terms are based on counting the years from the reckoned date for the birth of Jesus – “Anno Domini” meaning “the year of our Lord” - for which the Gregorian calendar is generally used as the reference point (the calendar adopted in Western and Christian countries). Most scholars agree that the historical references in biblical texts suggest a more likely birth date a few years earlier than has been presumed but the reference point remains fixed to the calendar.

    Convention is that the abbreviation A.D. precedes the year, as it would in Latin (so we are in the year A.D. 2014 at the time of writing) and that the abbreviation B.C. should follow the year, as it would in plain English. There is no “year zero” in this scale, so the year 1 B.C. is followed immediately by the year A.D. 1 without any gap.

    When quoting B.C. date ranges, they are quoted using the same convention as A.D dates, with the oldest date first, so 350 – 300 B.C. rather than 300 - 350 B.C. for example.


    C.E. (Common/Current/Christian Era) and B.C.E. (Before the Common/Current/Christian Era)

    Although dates with these terms use the same numerical calendar reference point as A.D. and B.C. dates, they are regarded as more “neutral” and inclusive of people from other faiths who operate with different calendars. The Islamic, Muslim or Hijri calendar for example begins at the equivalent of the Christian year A.D. 622, commensurate with the accepted date for the emigration of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina and each year runs for 354 or 355 days. At the time of writing (January, A.D. 2014), we are in the Islamic Hijri year 1435, which will end on the evening of 23rd October.

    B.P. (Before Present)

    This is a confusing term because it may be used in two contexts. In stratigraphic contexts and older publications it may simply refer to the number of years before the time of writing. Because the “present” doesn’t represent a fixed year, that has potential to create confusion. Further confusion was created with the advent of radiocarbon dating in the 1940’s. This technique depends on a reference point of “modern carbon” (which changes as each year progresses) and is influenced by atmospheric pollution – particularly subsequent to the commencement of nuclear weapons testing which altered the proportions of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere. Such dates therefore require correction and calibration. The problem was resolved in the 1950’s with the cooperation of the U.S. National Bureau of Standards. “The present” was defined as 1st January A.D. 1950 and “radiocarbon ages” are now most properly expressed in years Before Present where “present” is defined as A.D. 1950.

    At the time of writing, adding 63 years to such a date would get you to a true age as an ordinary person would understand it.

    Radiocarbon Calibration

    Ages determined by radiocarbon dating may be uncalibrated (also called Libby or raw dates) or calibrated (also called Cambridge dates). Uncalibrated dates are not identical to calendar dates because of fluctuations in the level of atmospheric radiocarbon with time. They should be clearly noted as such by using the term “uncalibrated years B.P.”
    Such dates require a hypothetical mathematical correction using a calibration curve and/or reference to independent dating techniques such as dendrochronology (via tree growth-rings) or stratigraphy (via sediment ages) to convert them to calendar dates. They should be clearly distinguished by using the term “calibrated years B.P.” or expressed as “calendar years” before 1950.

    Since not every laboratory performing this kind of analysis operates to the same recognised level of competence and because calibration techniques are continually being refined, radiocarbon dates are frequently disputed. For those reasons, it is also usual these days for leading journals to demand that the accreditation reference code and date for the calibrating laboratory is included in published papers.

    Some archaeologists also use the lower case letters bp (also bc and ad) to refer to dates which are uncalibrated, but this is by no means universally accepted.

    Discipline in Use

    The degree of adherence to the terminology and respect for these terms by researchers varies enormously. Newspapers and news agencies are normally totally disrespectful, quoting ages derived via different terminologies interchangeably and without discrimination. It pays to read carefully and refer to original source reports where possible.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

    Comment


    • #3
      Terminus Post Quem & Terminus Ante Quem

      There is a confusing concept in archaeology used to indicate the known limits of dating for events on a relative basis compared to other events whose date is securely known.
      Wiki has a good explanation of the terms here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminus_post_quem
      I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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