Missouri Early History

First Early Inhabitants of Missouri

Missouri Early History: Missouri Flag

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

Missouri First Early Inhabitants Timeline

  • Early Man Period (?-12,000 BC) - Some archaeologists accept this period and point to the Shriver site in Daviess County as evidence for a stone tool technology that pre-dates Clovis point tool technology. Other archaeologists have questioned if the Daviess site has been correctly dated and interpreted.
  • Paleoindian Period (12,000 - 8,000 BC) - This time period is associated with a specific variety of hunting tool called a fluted point; in Missouri, Clovis fluted points and Folsom fluted points have been discovered at a variety of sites. Clovis points were found at the Kimmswick site (Mastodon State Historic site) directly associated with an extinct species of elephant called a mastodon.
  • 12,000 years ago - Nomadic hunters were present in the area
  • 10,000 to 3,000 years ago - Hunters used woven baskets and highly specialized stone tools
  • Dalton Period (8,000 - 7,000 BC) - This time period is a transition between the Paleoindian cultures and the Archaic period. During this period, changing patterns of rainfall and seasonal temperatures triggered changes in plant and animal communities. This meant that diet and hunting strategies had to adapt to the new conditions.

    An important technological marker for this period is the Dalton serrated point with beveled edges. Scientific studies of this class of artifacts suggest that they were used as knives for butchering deer. Another distinctive tool associated with this period is a woodworking tool called a Dalton adze. Plant food processing is indicated by the presence of mortars, manos, grinding slabs, cupstones, and hammerstones.
  • Early Archaic Period (7,000 BC - 5,000 BC) - This time period is marked by the introduction of many new shapes and forms of stone tools including the Graham Cave side notched, Hidden Valley stemmed, Rice lobed, Rice contracting stemmed, Rice lanceolates, and St. Charles notched.
  • Middle Archaic Period (5,000 BC - 3,000 BC) - This time period coincides with a period of warm and dry climatic conditions. Evidence indicates that the prairies expanded at the expense of the forested regions. Deer herds may have decreased, and the diet included a greater amount of birds, fish, and rabbits. Tool technologies associated with this period include the Jakie stemmed, Big Sandy, and a variety of ground stone axe called full grooved.
  • Late Archaic Period (3,000 BC - 1,000 BC) - This time period is associated with climate changes that brought the return of forest species (both plant and animal) to areas where prairie species had penetrated during the Middle Archaic period. A wide variety of new stone tool types (Nebo Hill lanceolate, Sedalia lanceolates, Smith basal notched, Table Rock stemmed, Stone square stemmed, Big Sandy notched, Etley, and Afton points) appear during this period. Groundstone axes of the three-quarter-grooved variety are another technological hallmark.

    The Late Archaic is the first time that pottery vessels were manufactured; pottery would not become commonplace for another 1000 years. This time period marks the first documented use of domesticated plants: the squash (Cucurbita pepo) and bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria).

    Social changes occurred during the Late Archaic period as reflected by the first large village sites and the first elaborate burial rituals. The Hatten mound, constructed in northeast Missouri during the Late Archaic, is the oldest documented burial mound in the state. Different burial patterns and variations in stone tools reflect three or four distinct tribes distributed across the state.
  • Early Woodland Period (1000 - 500 BC) - This time period saw a continuity of tool technology for some of the Native-American cultures, but also innovation and change for others. One of the few changes in technology occured in the northern half of the state where Black Sand incised ceramics have been identified.
  • Middle Woodland Period (500 BCm- AD 400) - This time period is associated with widespread changes that are linked to technological and social changes that also occurred in Illinois and Ohio. New stone tool types include Snyders, Mankers, Ensor, Castroville, Frio, Gary, and Dickson. Pottery produced during this period was often tempered with grit (pieces of crushed gravel) or grog (recycled pieces of pottery). Some, not all, of the pottery is decorated with designs created by stamped designs, cord-wrapped impressions, small hollow-reed impressions, incised lines, and bosses. Clay was used for both pottery and small figurines representing human and animal forms.
  • Late Woodland Period (AD 400 - AD 900) - This time period appears almost as a decline in terms of pottery decoration and design. A significant change in the tool technology is reflected by arrowpoints. Variations in pottery styles, burial practices, and stone tools may reflect eight or nine specific tribes distributed across the state.
  • Mississippian Period (AD 900-AD 1700) - This time period is marked by large permanent villages where populations relied upon corn cultivation for a major component in their diet. A handful of the villages grew in population and wealth until they became large, fortified towns with impressive temple mounds, plazas, and astronomical observatories.
  • 1300's - Mound builders: Largest mound built was Cahokia. This civilization spread over both sides of the Mississippi River.
  • AD 800 - Southeastern Missouri contains many artifacts and relics of the culture called Mississippians or Mound Builders
  • 1673 - First Europeans, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, discovered the land that would later become Missouri were were the during their voyage down the Mississippi River.
  • 1750 - St Genevieve established a trading post, the first permanent white settlement

Early History of Native Americans in Missouri

The Indigenous People of Missouri

The names of the Missouri tribes included the Caddo, Dakota, Delaware, Fox, Illinois, Iowa, Kickapoo, Missouri, Omaha, Osage (see above picture), Otoe, Sauk and Shawnee.

Nomadic hunters were present in the area we now call Missouri perhaps as early as 12,000 years ago. Divided into small bands, they ranged widely over the land, hunting many now-extinct animals. The next period, called Archaic, lasted from about 10,000 to 3,000 years ago. In this period, these hunters used woven baskets and highly specialized stone tools. Later on, the Woodland culture saw the introduction of pottery and agriculture. Southeastern Missouri contains many artifacts and relics of the culture called Mississippians or Mound Builders, a village society that started about AD 800.

The peoples who inhabited the area during the era of exploration and settlement were semi-nomads who were attracted by the forests and prairies in the lower part of the Missouri River valley, which abounded with game. They lived about half the year in villages, growing crops. Most powerful and numerous were the Osage, who lived along the Osage River. North of the Missouri lived the Oto, and a village of the Missouria people was located at the confluence of the Grand and Missouri rivers. The name of the village was applied to the people, the river, and finally the state. The Iowa and, later, the united Sac (Sauk) and Fox drove out the other groups by the early 19th century. The Spanish moved some Shawnee and Delaware to Missouri temporarily, but all of the Native Americans had been forced out of the state by 1837.

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