Paleoindian Period

From Ohio History Central
OHS AL05221.jpg
Painting from the Ancient Ohio art series depicting a Paleoindian (14,000 BC -7,000 BC) family dressing caribou hides at their camp in western Ohio.

13000 B.C. to 7000 B.C.

Paleoindians -- an archaeological convenience designation -- were the hunting and gathering peoples who originally discovered the Americas. They lived in Ohio in the last centuries of the Ice Age. Early Paleoindians hunted now extinct species of big game animals such as mammoth and mastodon. They also hunted deer and small game, fished, and gathered nuts and fruit when available. Their distinctive spear points are found across North America.

The First Ohioans

Humans have not always lived in the Americas. Our original homeland is in Africa. We have been moving out into the rest of the world over the last 200,000 years.

In order to reach the Americas from the Old World, without crossing an ocean, people had to go through Siberia. They could have walked across the Bering Strait when winter sea ice filled the gap between Asia and North America, or walked across on dry land at the times when lowered sea levels opened up the broad continental shelf connecting these two land masses.

The earliest Paleoindian culture discovered in Ohio so far is the Clovis culture (9500 to 8000 B.C.). The hallmark of the Clovis culture is a type of spear point called a Clovis point. Clovis points have straight sides with no notches. Instead, they have grooves or "flutes" chipped into their bases. These grooves would have helped attach the points firmly to spear shafts. The point and the culture are named for the Clovis site located near the city of Clovis, New Mexico. Here archaeologists first discovered the age of such points.

Paleoindians hunted large and small game animals, fished in the lakes and streams, and gathered nuts and berries. Since they were always on the move their shelters were tents made of wooden poles covered with bark or hides.

One of their most important natural resources was flint. They got flint from several sources. In Ohio, their favorite materials were Upper Mercer flint from Coshocton County and Flint Ridge flint from Licking County. Tools made from flint supplied them with all they needed to live.

Hunting and gathering bands usually had no chiefs. Leaders were men and women who earned the respect of the group because of their abilities at hunting, healing, or providing some other needed goods or services. Men and women were free to leave the band at any time to join another or to fend for themselves. The elders would have been highly valued for their experience and knowledge.

See Also


  1. Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.