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New Jersey Early History

First Early Inhabitants of New Jersey

New Jersey Early History: New Jersey Flag

Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of New Jersey. Learn about the prehistory and culture of the first early inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of New Jersey.

New Jersey First Early Inhabitants Timeline

  • 200Mil BC -A fossil of the winged Icarosaurus siefkeri reptile, dating to about this time, was found in a black shale New Jersey quarry in 1961. It was sold at auction in 2000 for $167,500 and donated to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. (SFC, 7/17/00, p.A1)(SFC, 8/28/00, p.A1)
  • 7000 BC - Archaic Period in which people built basic shelters and made stone weapons and stone tools
  • 5000 BC - Native Americans had occupied New Jersey for thousands of years before European colonization. Explorers in the 1500s found a peaceful people with an economy of hunting, gathering and small-scale agriculture. They collectively came to be known as the Lenape (which roughly translates as "people") Their descendants today are known as Delaware and Munsee Indians and are dispersed over North America with the largest group living near Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
  • 1000 AD - Woodland Period: homes were established along rivers and trade exchange systems and burial systems were established
    1500s - 1600's - New Jersey explored by Europeans from Great Britain, Sweden, Holland and France
  • 1688 - 1763 - The French and Indian Wars between France and Great Britain for lands in North America consisting of King William's War (1688-1699), Queen Anne's War (1702-1713), King George's War (1744 - 1748) and the French and Indian War aka the Seven Years War (1754-1763)
  • 1754 - 1763 - The French Indian War is won by Great Britain against the French so ending the series of conflicts known as the French and Indian Wars

Early History of Native Americans in New Jersey

The Indigenous People of New Jersey

The names of the New Jersey tribes included the Abenaki, Malecite, Passamaquoddy and Pennacook.

For approximately 10,000 years New York Harbor has played a part in human life in North America. The abundant natural resources of this area have made it appealing from earliest times.

The New York Harbor was formed as a result of the last ice age, which ended around 10,000 years ago. A series of glaciers and ice sheets covered much of North America; the last covered the entire New York Harbor with a sheet of ice approximately 1 mile thick. As the ice melted, a fresh water lake (Glacial Lake Hackensack) formed. In time, sea levels rose and salt water flowed into the lake changing the environment into an estuary.

During this series of events, humans first appeared in the region (10,000 to 12,000 years ago). These first inhabitants, known as the Paleo-Indians, have been characterized traditionally as nomadic bands of big game hunters, following the herds of Mammoths and other ice age animals across the continent.

The climate continued to change, temperatures warmed and the glaciers receded, tundra-like environment gave way to more modern conditions. The prehistoric "mega-fauna"was replaced by modern species such as white-tailed deer, raccoon, and bear.

Around 8,000 years ago a more sedentary culture better adapted to this new environment developed. Known as the Archaic Period, the people of this time made advances that allowed them to exploit the new conditions. Not simply hunting, they developed the technology needed to harvest the resources found both in New York Harbor such as fish and shellfish, as well as along its shores such as acorns and other new plant species.

Approximately 2,000 years ago, things changed again, this time, however, the changes were in human technology rather then the environment. During the Eastern Woodland Period, major technological advances such as pottery, bow and arrows, and agriculture were developed. These advances allow for even greater utilization of the land and resources leading to the growth of larger settlements such as villages. This tradition persisted up to the time of European Contact in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Native Americans from the Delaware tribe of Algonkian Indians lived in New Jersey when Europeans explorers first arrived. They built villages along the Delaware River, spending most of their time hunting and planting corn, beans, and other crops for food. The first inhabitants of New Jersey. They called themselves the Leni Lenape, which means "original people."

Ten thousand years before the first European settlers set foot in New Jersey, the Leni Lenape were hunting and raising crops such as corn, beans, and squash.

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