Early Native American Cultures (thru 1000 BCE)

Origins - The first people to come to the American continent crossed the Bering Strait fifteen to forty thousand years ago. They came from Asia to Alaska. They may have used kayaks or walked across an ice cap. Some people believe that the Pacific Ocean was much lower than it is now and these early migrants may have walked over a land bridge that connected Asia to North America. Over thousands of years these people moved across the American continent.

Paleo-Indian People - The first people in West Virginia were the Paleo-Indians or early hunters. They arrived sometime before 11,000 BCE. Excavations in the Kanawha and Ohio valleys, on Blennerhassett Island, and at Peck's Run in Upshur County have uncovered stone weapons of this period. The early hunters lived in small family units. Small nomadic groups hunted large game, such as mastodons, mammoths, and buffalo, with spears that had fluted points. Large numbers of these arrowheads have been discovered along the Ohio River between St. Marys and Parkersburg. Around 6000 BCE, most of the large game became extinct, and the early hunters either died out or adapted to a culture of hunting small game and gathering edible plants.

Archaic People - Between 7000 and 1000 BCE, several differing Archaic cultures developed in the Northern Panhandle, the Eastern Panhandle, and the Kanawha Valley. Excavations at Globe Hill in Hancock County, Buffalo in Putnam County, and St. Albans in Kanawha County have revealed simple tools, primitive pottery, and ceremonial burials. Unlike the nomadic Paleo-Indians, the Archaic people tended to settle in one place for long periods of time. An archaeological excavation in the late 1960s determined the St. Albans site to be one of the first permanent settlements in present-day West Virginia. The Archaic people chose this site in order to gather shellfish from the Kanawha River. The use of gardens, pottery, and ceremonial burial mounds around 1000 BCE marked the beginning of the Early Woodland or Adena culture.

Native Americans

West Virginia Archives and History