Americas, north: Eastern woodlands

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Following the arrival of the first pre-Paleo and Paleo-Indian Americans over 11000 years ago, the pre-Columbian history of eastern North America was characterized by complex localized social changes, the formation of distinctive local and regional social identities, the widespread development of plant domestication, occasional trans-regional migrations and cultural integrations, and impressive earthen monumental constructions that inscribed the pan-eastern landscape with a distinctive native history. Archaic period (6000-500 BC) forager populations grew markedly in size; some peoples intensified food production, engaged in elaborate mortuary rituals, and experienced low-order violent conflicts. The earliest monumental constructions in the New World were built about 3500 BC by Louisiana foragers at places such as Watson Brake. This was followed two thousand years later by North America's first sedentary town, at Poverty Point, Louisiana, unmatched in scale or integration even by most subsequent Woodland-period places (500 BC-AD 1050). However, by 50 BC, Middle Woodland people, particularly the "Hopewell" of Ohio, realized some sort of trans-regional political-religious integration, perhaps consisting of one or more political-religious confederations, based in great ritualized gatherings of people in embanked monumental complexes keyed, in turn, to astronomical phenomena. Within a few centuries, however, the disintegration of these complexes underwrote a general pan-eastern shift in social life. Competition and violence figured more prominently in select localities, as the bow-and-arrow was adopted rapidly across the continent. Out of this post-Hopewellian milieu emerged a city, Cahokia, and a host of lesser towns tethered to political-religious cults across the Southeast known to archaeologists as the Mississippian period (AD 1050-1600). The earliest European explorers met these Mississippians in the South, along with Woodland folks yet living in the Northeast. © 2008

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Archaeology
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780123739629
StatePublished - 2008


  • Archaic
  • Cahokia
  • Clovis
  • Dalton
  • Eastern agricultural complex
  • Hopewell
  • Mississippian
  • Mounds
  • Moundville
  • Palaeo-Indian
  • Poverty point
  • Woodland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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