Archaic Period

Archaic Period (6500 – 3000 B.C.). The Archaic Period is the most poorly known time period in all of Delaware prehistory, even though it is not the oldest. There are no well-preserved and excavated sites from this period in the state. Nevertheless, many projectile points from this time period have been found on the surface of the ground in plowed fields. Delaware’s climate during the Archaic Period was wet and warm with oak-hemlock forests covering the landscape. The main projectile point types of this time period (Kirk Stemmed bifurcate, Stanly, and Pequea points) are found in a variety of environmental settings, but the most commonly used environments are bay/basins. (See figure C.) These circular water-filled depressions, also known as “whale-wallows” and Carolina bays, abound in Delaware and would have been excellent hunting and gathering locales. The fact that no Paleo-Indian sites are known from these locations suggests that they were not good places to live until the Archaic Period.

Etchings of Stanley points

Figure C. Stanley points

In other parts of the Middle Atlantic region, where Archaic sites have been excavated, the tool kits from this time period are very similar to those of the Paleo-Indian with a few exceptions. These similarities suggest that the lifeways of Archaic groups were not all that different from those of the ancestors. However, one important addition to Archaic tool kits includes various ground stone tools such as axes and other wood-working tools, and tools for grinding seeds and nuts. The addition of these plant food processing tools suggests that Archaic groups may have used these kinds of resources more intensively than Paleo-Indian Period cultures. However, it is important to realize that plant foods were almost certainly a part of Paleo-Indian diets as well. In sum, Archaic Period lifeways were similar to those of preceding cultures, but also showed increased use of plant food resources that were becoming increasingly abundant in the prehistoric forests of Delaware.

Some non-local lithic materials, such as rhyolite from south central Pennsylvania and western Maryland, begin to be found on the Delmarva Peninsula where they are used to manufacture projectile points during the Archaic Period. These materials may have been spread by trade, or perhaps were collected from distant locales that were visited in the course of an Archaic group’s yearly wandering cycle. Whatever the case, during the Archaic Period a wider variety of stone types are used to manufacture projectile points and other tools.

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