Massachusetts Early History

First Early Inhabitants of Mmassachusetts

Massachusetts Early History: Massachusetts Flag

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

Massachusetts First Early Inhabitants Timeline

  • 14,000 BP - People moved into New England after deglaciation of the region concluded.. Radiocarbon dates place the first people in New England at 10,000 BP. As the ice retreated northwards, a harsh and unforgiving environment resulted. The people who subsisted in the cold tundra were hardy by necessity. Since resources were found in patches across the landscape, only small mobile groups could survive.
  • 12,000-9,000 BP - Paleoindian Period The Paleoindian Period extended from approximately 12,000 years before present (BP) until 9,000 BP. During this era, people manufactured fluted projectile points. They hunted caribou as well as smaller animals found in the sparse, tundra-like environment. In other parts of the country, Paleoindian groups hunted larger Pleistocene mammals such as mastodon or mammoth. In New England there is no evidence that these mammals were utilized by humans as a food source.
  • 9,000-3,000 BP - Archaic Period During the Archaic Period, humans adapted to an evolving temperate forest, which flourished after a warming trend in New England. These groups had access to a wide range of resources including deer, an important dietary staple. The forest was thick with mammals including otter, beaver, rabbit, squirrel, and turkey as well as other edible species. In the Archaic Period, aquatic resources were also important. The people fished in riverine, lacustrine (lake) and ocean environments. They also collected shellfish.
  • 3,000-400 BP - Woodland Period The Woodland Period dates to between 3,000 BP and contact with European emigres in the 17th century AD (400 BP). Woodland peoples lived in semi-permanent villages, where they exploited the many resources available since Archaic times. They also cultivated plants.
  • 1,000 BP - Woodland peoples practiced "slash and burn" farming. They cultivated many plant types including maize, beans, squash and other formerly wild species such as Chenopodium album (commonly called Lamb's Quarters, White Goosefoot, or Pigweed). The need to tend crops necessitated a sedentary lifestyle, at least until the plants were harvested. Subsurface storage areas were constructed as well. Stable food supplies and increased settlement permanence led to a population increase. Contemporary with farming, pottery manufacture developed around 1,000 BP in New England. These cooking and storage vessels replaced soapstone variants. Projectile point types remain variable, but streamline to triangular types by the Contact Period (17th century AD). Cultural identity is evident in artifact designs. Warfare among Woodland people was prevalent.
  • 11th century - The coast of what is now Massachusetts was probably skirted by Norsemen
  • 1498 - English explorer John Cabot sails along Massachusetts coast
  • 1675 - 1677: King Philip's War so named after Metacom (King Philip) of the Wampanoag tribe, who was called Philip by the English. The war was bloody and bitterly fought by the colonists against the Native Indians. During King Philip's War, up to one third of America's white population was wiped out. This war proved to be the final struggle by the Native Americans of Massachusetts
  • 1688 -
    • 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)
    • (1688-1699) King William's War (part of the French and Indian Wars) between France and the Wabanaki Confederacy and England and the Iroquois Confederacy. Peace Treaty made at Pemaquid. August 11,1693. and was ratified on Jan. 7. 1699
  • 1702 (1702-1713) Queen Anne's War (part of the French and Indian Wars) between the French and Spanish colonies allied with the Wabanaki Confederacy, Mohawk, Choctaw, Timucua, Apalachee and Natchez tribes against the British colonies allied with the Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw and Yamasee tribes.
  • 1744
    • (1744รข€“1748) King George's War (part of the French and Indian Wars) between the French colonies allied with the abanaki Confederacy and the British colonies allied with Iroquois Confederacy
    •  December 16: The Boston Tea Party - Massachusetts patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians protested against the British Tea Act
  • 1754; - 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 Massachusetts

The Indigenous People of Massachusetts

The names of the Massachusetts tribes included the Mohican, Nauset, Wampanoag, Pocomtuc, Pequot, Nauset, Nipmuc and the Massachuset.

The pre-European population of Massachusetts was a small number of relatively independent native American tribes. About 30,000 Indians from the Algonquian tribes lived in the area.

When European explorers first came to the coast of what is now Massachusetts, there were already tens of thousands of Native Americans living there. They were all part of the Algonkian family and lived in organized communities where they farmed, hunted, and fished. They lived in dome-shaped houses called wigwams and produced their own ceramics, textiles, leather, and basketry.

These Algonkian tribes included the Massachusetts, Mohican, Nauset, Wampanoag, Pennacook, and Pocumtuck. The pre-European population of Massachusetts was a small number of relatively independent native American tribes. About 30,000 Indians from the Algonquian tribes lived in the area. When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, many had already died of diseases brought to America from the Europeans. Only 7,000 Native Americans remained in Massachusetts at that time.

Early European Exploration and Colonization The coast of what is now Massachusetts was probably skirted by Norsemen in the 11th century, but in the late 16th century, European ships explored the New England coast, led by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 and Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602. Their explorations were based in part upon the information of Europeans on fishing voyages who had reached North America during the 16th century.

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