Delaware Early History

First Early Inhabitants of Delaware

Delaware Early History: Delaware Flag

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

Delaware First Early Inhabitants Timeline

  • 11,000 - 8,500 years ago - Paleo-Indian Culture These earliest Paleo-Indian people were hunter-gatherers who used the finely-finished "fluted" points.
  • 8,500 - 1,600 years ago - Archaic Culture After the Paleo period ended, about 8,500 years ago, Delaware's residents became more sedentary and more densely settled. Hardwood forests advanced, supplying smaller game animals, nuts, and berries. This period, known as the Archaic, is characterized by stone tools that exhibit variety of workmanship and diversity of purpose. Grinding stones, mortars, and pestles appear for the first time on sites of this period, indicating increased reliance upon vegetable foods.
  • 3,000 BC - 1,000 AD Period characterized by more sedentary lifestyles, larger populations, and the beginnings of horticulture.
  • 1,600 - 1,000 years ago - Early Woodland Period From about  During the Woodland periods, local people began to make pottery vessels
  • 1,400 - The Lenni Lenape, Native Americans of the Algonkians, settled along the Delaware.
  • 1000 AD - Woodland period with permanent houses and farming
  • 1,000-400 years ago - Middle Woodland Period of Delaware Agricultural development marked the Woodland II period, which ended with European conquest in the seventeenth century
  • 1541 - The Wichita were the people reached by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado made first contact with the Narwahro, aka Wichita tribe
  • 1593 - Spanish expedition to Delaware

Early History of Native Americans in Delaware

The Indigenous People of Delaware

The names of the Delaware tribes included the Lenape (Delaware) and Powhatan tribe.

Delaware was inhabited nearly 10,000 years ago, and a succession of various cultures occupied the area until the first European contact. At that time, the Leni-Lenape (Delaware) Indians occupied northern Delaware, while several tribes, including the Nanticoke and Assateague, inhabited southern Delaware.

Two groups of Native Americans lived in the Delaware region when European explorers first visited the area. The Lenape lived along the Delaware River; English settlers later called them the "Delaware." The Nanticoke lived along the Nanticoke River in the southwestern part of the state.

European explorers reached the coast of what is now our nation's first state during the 16th and early 17th centuries. They found the region already populated by tribes of Algonkian Indians. These groups of Native Americans were among the first to come into contact with early settlers. The Leni-Lenape tribe lived along the Delaware River to the north. The Nanticoke tribe occupied the area along the Nanticoke River in the southwestern part of the region. Because they lived close to the Delaware River and Bay, these Native Americans became known as the Delaware.

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