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Friday, September 30, 2011

Anthropology 101: Environmental Changes and Technology During the Woodland and Archaic Period

What were the major environmental changes that took place in North America from the Paleo-Indian through the Woodland period?

During the Pleistocene glacial (20,000-16,000BC) most of the world’s water was locked in ice. The climate was windier and dryer even nearest to the ice sheets. Hunter-gatherers saw the first flora and fauna communities with the climatic shift.

As glaciers started to retreat in 16,000 BC, the temperatures started to rise and water levels changed. Consequently, there was a shift in ocean currents, wind patterns, and rainfall. Forests and plant resources started to expand and rivers formed terraces due to the changing sea level. Migrations took place north of southern forest types and the post - glacial temperatures peaked about 3000 BC when weather was warmer and drier than today.

What were the major technological developments during the archaic and the major technological developments during woodland periods?

During the Archaic period advances were made in polished stonework which gave way to new tools and assemblages including celts, axes, spear thrower weights, ornaments such as beads, effigies, pendants and plummets. The stone tools also allowed for a new technology called the atlatl, a spear thrower. Consequently, during the Archaic we see the emergence of fired clay -the first pottery- which was used as storage containers.

During the Woodland Period we see the emergence of ceramics and the bow and arrow, distinguished by smaller projectile points. One of the more important technological advances during the Woodland phase was the manufacture of pottery vessels which allowed direct-heat cooking and food storage, replacing the older practice of hot rock cooking. Mound building was also a major advancement during the Woodland Period because it represented a “switch from the scattered individual burials of earlier periods to a system of formal, periodic and planned periodic burials in mounds”.


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