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Ohio Early HistoryOhio Early History: Ohio Flag

First Early Inhabitants of Ohio

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

Ohio First Early Inhabitants Timeline

  • 13,000 - 7000 BC - Paleoindians were the hunting and gathering peoples who originally discovered the Americas. They lived in Ohio in the last centuries of the Ice Age. They 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 unusual spear points are found across North America.
  • 8000 - 500 BC - Archaic hunters and gatherers continued the successful way of life of their Paleoindian ancestors, but moved about in a smaller area. They found new ways to harvest the rich natural bounty of Ohio's forests. Hunting and Gathering in Ohio's Forests. The Archaic tradition appeared at the end of the Ice Age. The climate had warmed and thick forests grew across Ohio.
  • 800 BC - AD 1200 - The Woodland Tradition generally marks the appearance of pottery, cultivated plants, settled village life and mound building. In addition, the pace of cultural change began to quicken. Archaeologists have defined several cultures within the Woodland Tradition.
  • 800 BC - AD 100 - The Adena people were Ohio's first farmers. Hunting and gathering continued to play an important part in their livelihood. The Adena began to live a more settled way of life based on growing plants such as sunflower, squash, and some weedy plants. Burial mounds became the ritual focus for Adena communities.
  • 100 BC-AD 500 - The Hopewell culture grew out of the Adena culture. The mounds and enclosures built by the Hopewell were larger and more varied in design, but Hopewell farming villages still were small and scattered around the great ceremonial centers
  • AD 1000 - 1650 - During the Late Prehistoric Tradition, several cultures arose in different parts of Ohio. Late Prehistoric people lived in large villages surrounded by a stockade wall. Sometimes they built their villages on a plateau overlooking a river. Late Prehistoric people grew different plants in their gardens. Maize (or corn) and beans became the most important foods. Squash was another important plant, but ancient Ohioans had been growing squash since the Late Archaic.
  • AD 1650 - 1843 - The Iroquois drove out the native tribes of the Ohio valley during the Beaver Wars. Later, as the Iroquois tribes grew less powerful, other tribes from the east and south moved into Ohio. Shawnee, Delaware, Wyandot, and Miami are among the groups who lived in Ohio when the first European pioneers moved into this area. The Historic era ended when the United States government forced the Indians out of Ohio and onto reservations in Oklahoma.

Early History of Native Americans in Ohio

The Indigenous People of Ohio

The hunting and gathering peoples who originally discovered the Americas were called Paleo-Indians. They lived in Ohio in the last centuries of the Ice Age. They 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. The earliest Paleo-Indian culture discovered in Ohio is the Clovis culture which occupied the area from around 9500 - 8000 BC. They are known as the Clovis culture because of the distinctive shape of their spear points. The culture probably was centered in present-day New Mexico and migrated eastward. In Ohio, they found important sources of flint for their weapons and tools.

As the weather warmed toward the end of the Ice Age, the formerly nomadic groups began to settle down and build more permanent structures and store resources over the winter seasons. Their tools became more sophisticated, and they used axes to create dugout canoes. They also designed spear throwers called "atl atl"to be able to hunt more effectively.

Around 800 BC, tribes began to cultivate crops, design pottery and settle into villages. Archaeologists refer to these tribes as "Woodland"cultures. The people of these groups also built burial mounds to commemorate their dead. Two of these mounds in Ohio are called "Serpent Mound"and "Alligator Mound"because of the way they are shaped. The earliest of these Woodland cultures are called the Adena people. After these people came a group called the Hopewell people, and finally, a group called the late Woodland people. The late Woodland groups cultivated corn and sunflowers and used bows and arrows for hunting.

Beginning around 1650 AD, the powerful Iroquois tribe drove out the other native tribes from Ohio. The Iroquois had already hunted most of the beaver from areas in the East, and moved into Ohio in search of more furs to trade with Europeans. The Iroquois were in turn driven out by the Shawnee, Delaware, Wyandot, and Miami tribes, which were probably the tribes present in the Ohio area when European settlers first arrived.

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