SunWatch
 

SunWatch

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Ohio Prehistory - Archaic 8000 - 1000 BC

Archaic 8000 - 1000 BC
Ax head This period is the longest of the prehistoric periods defined by archaeologists, lasting over 7000 years. This time period encompasses many changes in human behavior and the surrounding environment, including climate change, population growth, and technological innovation. Archaic people practiced the same hunting and gathering economy as their Paleoindian predecessors, though in an environment that roughly resembled that of Ohio in modern times. Megafauna that became extinct were no longer available to hunt, but the expansion of deciduous trees into the region allowed them to exploit other resources such as hazelnuts, acorns, hickory, black walnuts, and chestnuts. The Archaic Period is subdivided into three small periods – Early, Middle, and Late Archaic.

Archaic people were highly mobile, but probably spent most of their time living within a loosely defined home territory. Their tool kit included many of the same tools found in the Paleoindian period, but without the distinctive fluted points used by the earlier hunters. Spear points were typically long and broad and they used atlatls to throw their spears. Towards the end of the Archaic period, mysterious ground stone objects were manufactured from slate. Many archaeologists suspect that some of these objects, often called “bannerstones,” “pendants,” or “gorgets,” are counterweights that were attached to atlatls.

In the Middle and Late Archaic, other new tools were introduced. These include the earliest axes, which are suggestive of the increasing importance of trees and nuts in the Archaic economy. Plummets and “net-sinkers” may represent a similar growing emphasis on aquatic resources such as fish and shellfish. Heavy stone bowls are rarely found, but show evidence for the processing of seeds or nuts. In general, the Archaic economy is remarkable for its diversity on a wide range of natural resources, which was an effective long-term adaptation to a changing environment. Archaic people were the first to experiment with growing food sources, including squash, sunflower, and marsh elder.

Small Archaic campsites are common, especially in the Early and Late Archaic. Most represent brief, single-use campsites, but there are a few larger settlements with hearths, earth ovens, deep storage pits and middens. The Archaic people typically buried their dead in the vicinity of large camp sites to which they regularly returned each year. Burials indicate a division of labor and social status. Some men were buried with stone spear points and hunting equipment while women were buried with bone awls, needles, and stone scrapers. Goods from distance regions appear in burials as well – flint from Indiana, copper from Lake Superior region, and shells from the Atlantic and Gulf Coast. Not all people were treated equally in death, indicating that status was achieved by personal accomplishments, not by heredity.