Alabama Archaeology: Prehistoric Alabama


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Paleoindian | Archaic | Woodland | Mississippian
Lithics | Rock Art | Pottery | Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

 

Woodland The Woodland Stage is identified throughout the Eastern United States. It is characterized by an increased dependence on cultivation, the concentration of the population into more permanent towns and villages, a widespread emphasis on ceremony, and the introduction of both pottery and the bow and arrow.
Illustration by C. B. Dupree, provided courtesy of the University of Alabama Museums.
Artist's reconstruction by Martin Pate, provided courtesy of the Southeastern Archaeological Center, National Park Service.
Artist's reconstruction by Martin Pate, provided courtesy of the Southeastern Archaeological Center, National Park Service.

About Woodland Life...

Like their Archaic predecessors, Woodland Indians hunted small game and foraged in the forests. However, unlike their Archaic forerunners, Woodland Indians placed greater emphasis on a more sedentary life by tending plants and cultivating maize, sunflower, beans, and squash. With this increased importance placed on cultivation came an increased need to settle in one place for longer periods of time. Thus, towns and villages appear to be occupied year round. In the spring, summer, and fall the Woodland Indians hunted and tended their gardens. By drying the meat and storing their crops and gathering nuts, the Woodland Indians could remain in their villages during the lean winter months.

A Woodland residence
Illustration by Roy S. Dickens, Jr. Reproduced from Frontiers in the Soil: The Archaeology of Georgia.
Sauls Mound at Pinson, Tennessee

Conical mounds

Mound building first appeared during the Archaic Stage. However, conical mounds are most often associated with the Woodland Stage. The Alabama landscape is dotted with numerous conical mounds, nearly all of which are currently on private land. However, just over the Tennessee-Alabama border is Pinson Mounds, a Tennessee state archaeological park. Fifteen mounds and many other earthworks make up the nearly 1,200 acre park. The tallest mound at that park is Sauls Mound with a height of 72 feet. Archaeologists believe this mound and, indeed this site, was used for ceremonial purposes.

Sauls Mound at Pinson Archaeological Park. Photograph provided courtesy of Chris Wilkins.

About Woodland Artifacts...

Effigy Pipe
Effigy Pipe. Photograph provided courtesy of the Office of Archaeological Research, University of Alabama Museums.

Pipes

Pipes first begin to appear in Archaic contexts. Yet, due to the large number that are found in Woodland contexts, they are most often associated with the Woodland Stage. As people began to aggregate into permanent village settings, a more elaborate ceremonial life seems to have evolved. Smoking from elaborate pipes became part of this new ritualism. The effigy pipe pictured above represent a dog and is made of greenstone. This pipe was recovered from Site 1Ms55, in Marshall County near the Tennessee River.

Copper reel

Reels

Copper reels are gorgets that were worn on the chest of, presumably, someone of importance. Reels first appear in archaeological contexts in the Ohio Valley. Archaeologists believe that through exchange and contact with Ohio Valley Indians, copper reels spread, or diffused, further south into Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. Many were uncovered during the 1930s TVA excavations that took place in Northern Alabama along the Tennessee River.

Photograph provided courtesy of the Office of Archaeological Research, University of Alabama Museums.

Grinding Stones

Equally important during the Archaic Stage, grinding stones, like nutting stones, were used to grind nuts, such as acorns, pecans, and walnuts, which were crushed into flour, or meal, with a pestle (pictured far right).

Mortar and Pestle
pestle
Illustrations by Roy S. Dickens, Jr. Reproduced from Frontiers in the Soil: The Archaeology of Georgia.
Indian hunting

Bow and Arrow

One of the hallmarks of the Woodland Stage is the invention of the bow and arrow. Just as the atlatl increased the power of a spear, the invention of the bow and arrow produced a more powerful weapon than the spear and atlatl. The bow acted as a spring that, when released, was quick and forceful. With the adoption of the bow and arrow, came the need for smaller projectile points.

Illustration by Nathan H. Glick. Reproduced from The World of the Southern Indians.

Pottery

Another defining hallmark of the Woodland Stage is the widespread adoption of pottery. The earliest pottery appears to have been made in the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia during the Late Archaic. By the beginning of the Woodland Stage, the knowledge and use of pottery had spread into Alabama and continued to spread further west into the Mississippi River Valley.

For more information about pottery, be sure to check out the Pottery page.

References

Brown, Virgina Pounds and Laurella Owens

1983 The World of the Southern Indians. Beechwood Books:Leeds, Alabama.

 

Dickens, Roy S., Jr.

1979 Frontiers in the Soil: The Archaeology of Georgia. Frontier Press: Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

 

Walthall, John A.

1990 Prehistoric Indians of the Southeast: Archaeology of Alabama and the Middle South. University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Paleoindian | Archaic | Woodland | Mississippian
Lithics | Rock Art | Pottery | Southeastern Ceremonial Complex


Home | What is Archaeology | Archaeological Methods | Prehistoric Alabama
Historic Alabama | Glossary

3">Archaeological Methods | Prehistoric Alabama
Historic Alabama | Glossary