Woodland Period

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800 B.C. to A.D. 1200

The Woodland Period -- an archaeologically-designated period -- generally marks the appearance of pottery, cultivated plants, settled village life and mound building on the North American Continent. In addition, the pace of cultural change began to quicken. Archaeologists have defined several cultures within the Woodland Period.

Tillers of the Soil

The Woodland Period marks an important change in the way of life of Ohio's pre-contact peoples. Archaeologists in other parts of the world have called these changes revolutionary. The changes included a shift to a more settled way of life and the use of more and more plant foods that are not simply gathered from Ohio's forests, but are rather planted, tended, and harvested. Archaeologists recognize this new way of life by the appearance of more permanent houses, ceramic vessels (usually found broken into bits), and burial mounds.

Eastern North America was one of the few places in the world where plant domestication began. There are only six other places in the world where the shift from hunting and gathering to farming took place without significant outside influences: the Fertile Crescent of the Near East (wheat, barley, lentils), north China (millet, sorghum), Mesoamerica (maize, beans), Africa (barley, yams), southeast Asia (yams, rice), and South America (manioc, potatoes). In the Ohio Valley, pre-contact American Indians grew a variety of local plants such as squash, sunflower, erect knotweed, lamb's quarter, and maygrass.

Ohio's earliest gardeners/farmers lived in small communities of two or three households. However, by Late Woodland times villages were larger, perhaps occupied by up to 100 people. Woodland people began to build mounds of earth to cover the graves of relatives. The Adena and particularly the Hopewell people also constructed elaborate geometric earthworks such as those at Newark (Newark Earthworks), Chillicothe (Hopewell Culture National Historical Park), Marietta, and Portsmouth, to serve as social and ceremonial centers.

See Also


  1. Woodward, Susan L., and Jerry N. McDonald. Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley: A Guide to Mounds and Earthworks of the Adena, Hopewell, Cole, and Fort Ancient People. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2002. 
  2. Blosser, Jack, and Robert C. Glotzhober. Fort Ancient: Citadel, Cemetery, Cathedral or Calendar?. Columbus: Ohio History Connection, 1995. 
  3. Earthworks Virtual Explorations of Ancient Newark, Ohio. The Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites. Cincinnati, OH: Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites, 2005.
  4. Emerson, T.E., McElrath, D.L. , and Fortier, A. C. , eds. Late Woodland Societies: Tradition and Transformation Across the Midcontinent. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  5. Emerson, T.E., McElrath, D.L., and Fortier, A.C., eds, The Late Woodland Period in Southern Ohio: Basic Issues and Prospects. In Seeman, Mark F. and Dancey, William S., Tradition and Transformation Across the Midcontinent. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, , 2000.
  6. Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.