Archaic People (8000 to 1000 BC)

As the Ice Age glaciers retreated northward, the climate warmed and new animal and plant resources became available. A new culture gradually developed out of the old Paleoindian way of life as people adapted to these changes. Archaic people continued to rely on hunting as their primary source of meat and added fish and shellfish to their diet. Archaeologists think Archaic people adopted a more seasonal pattern of food collection within a specific territory. They may have set up small base camps at well-known locations to collect and/or process resources such as stone for making tools, grass for making baskets, a particular kind of fish, favorite nuts and berries, deer, and other animals. Archaic camps were usually located near rivers and streams where freshwater and a variety of resources were available.

Since deer and small mammals replaced larger game animals, people developed new tools to hunt, catch, and prepare these news kinds of foods. Early Archaic projectile points, probably used on darts and spears, include Kirk, Palmer, Big Sandy, and LeCroy. People living in the Early Archaic also made a variety of scraping and cutting tools that they used to butcher animals, prepare animal skins, make clothes, and for many other everyday tasks. Middle Archaic projectile point types include Stanly, Morrow Mountain, and Guilford. Most of these points were used on darts and spears. Some may have been mounted in wooden or bone handles to serve as knives.

Another important tool, the atlatl — pronounced AT-LAT-L — helped hunters throw their darts or spears farther, faster, and with more force. Atlatls or spear throwers were usually made from wood or bone. While atlatls may have been used by Paleoindians, archaeologists find evidence of the first use of bannerstones in the Archaic. A bannerstone or atlatl weight is a wide, flat, polished stone with a drilled hole in the center. The weight was attached to the middle of the thrower to increase force and stability.

In the Late Archaic, when climate conditions stabilized and food resources became more predictable, life became more settled and populations rose. When it was no longer necessary to be as mobile, people developed a wider variety of tools and other equipment. They fashioned bowls and containers from soft steatite stone brought from the area around the Savannah and Pacolet rivers in South Carolina or the Blue Rock Quarry in Yancey County, North Carolina. They also used steatite to fashion cooking slabs or griddles. Steatite vessels have been found on at least five sites at Fort Bragg.

Late Archaic people may have cultivated plants. Archaeologists find flat stones with hollowed out centers that they call nutting stones; people used these stones to grind acorns and other nuts. Archaic people made beautiful ground stone axes, smoking pipes, and ornamental pendants. Late Archaic projectile points include Savannah River and Halifax. Savannah River points were probably multipurpose tools used as spear points and as cutting tools. There must have been extensive trade networks by this time as well, since archaeologists find shells from the Gulf Coast and copper from the Great Lakes in North Carolina sites.

Here at Fort Bragg, archaeologists have found evidence of Archaic occupations at over 600 sites. Most of these sites are small hunting camps that contain only a few artifacts. At site 31HK221, archaeologists found evidence of several Archaic occupations. They believe people made and sharpened an array of tools here because of the thousands of small chips of rhyolite and quartz they found. They also recovered several Kirk, Palmer, and Big Sandy projectile points, all typical of the Archaic Period.