Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of Louisiana. Learn about the history and culture of the first inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of Louisiana.
The Louisiana region was settled by Indians in prehistoric times, at least as early as 6,000 years ago. Tribes of the Muskhogean language family occupied the east-central and south-east region, Tunican tribes lived along the coast and in the northeast, and tribes of the Caddoan group inhabited the north and northwest.
The earliest inhabitants of the area we now call Louisiana were probably nomads who hunted big game as early as 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists
tell us that farming in the area began around 2,000 years ago with the cultivation of crops such as squash, sunflowers, beans and maize. Excavation
at Poverty Point reveals that a highly organized society lived there from around 700 B.C.
Groups of indigenous peoples lived and farmed in the area up until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. At the time of European exploration in the 16th century, there were more than 10,000 Indians in Louisiana. By about 1700, there were probably as many as 15,000 Indians living in the area, representing six different linguistic groups: the Caddo, the Natchez, the Atakapa, the Chitimachan, the Muskogean and the Tunican. Most tribes survived on a combination of agriculture, hunting, and fishing. Usually, the men were responsible for ruling and defending the tribal community. They also constructed the community's buildings and canoes, and hunted. Women cared for children and the elderly, planted crops and made clothes and utensils.
Clothing was often made of bark, hides, and feathers. Both men and women wore body ornaments like necklaces, armbands, rings, and ear and nose plugs made from shells, pearls, and copper. Although religious practices differed from tribe to tribe, most Louisiana Indians believed that humans needed to be in harmony with nature, and honored their dead with burial mounds, and celebrations of dance, song, and food. Natives lived and worshipped in houses thatched with palmetto branches, or made of grass or traditional wattle and daub.
Native people also enjoyed themselves with various games and sporting events like wrestling, foot races, archery, dice, dancing and music.
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