Paleoindians (12000 to 8000 BC)

Paleoindians were nomadic hunters who followed herds of animals across a land bridge from Asia into Alaska and down the North American continent. Archaeologists do not agree exactly when people arrived, but Paleoindian people were living throughout North and South America by at least 14,000 years ago. They are certain Paleoindians lived in North Carolina by 9200 BC. These early foragers traveled in small bands hunting animals, fishing, and gathering plants and berries. Because Paleoindians lived thousands of years ago, information about how they lived is difficult to find. Archaeologists rely on artifacts such as their distinctive fluted projectile points called Clovis, the bones of animals left over from meals, and the occasional trace of a camp fire to provide clues about everyday Paleoindian life.

The first evidence of these earliest people was recovered from an archaeological site near Clovis, New Mexico — that is where the name of the projectile point type comes from. In the oldest layers of the site, archaeologists found stone points lying next to the bones of mastodons and giant bison — animals they know were extinct by 10,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe Paleoindians lived in North Carolina between 9200 BC and 8000 BC. They made a variety of fluted and unfluted projectile points that archaeologists call Cumberland, Suwannee, Redstone, Quad, Dalton, and Hardaway. Three Clovis points made from rhyolite are preserved in the artifact collections at Fort Bragg. Archaeologists have found 10 Paleoindian sites at Fort Bragg.

The best-known site that contains the most intact evidence of early human occupation in North Carolina is the Hardaway site located in Stanly County, near the town of Badin. Herbert Doerschuk reported the site to Joffre Coe in 1937. Small archaeological excavations were undertaken in 1948 and 1951. More intense studies designed to establish a cultural sequence for the site were undertaken by Coe in 1955. Coe believed the Hardaway points found at the site were associated with Paleoindian people.