Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Story of Archaic Stage

The Archaic stage was signed with the extinction of the mega fauna and other Pleistocene animals, many groups abandoned big-game hunting and became collectors. This afforded them many choices for subsistence that often led to a seasonally scheduled way of life. Perhaps the most typical way of life at the Archaic stage was that adopted in the eastern U.S. between 9000 and 4000 years ago. Here, groups often settled along rivers, developing special techniques for hunting small and big game with darts propelled by spear-throwers. They also made use of aquatic resources, frequently using gill nets with sinkers. Seeds were collected as well and ground with milling stones. Many kinds of thumbnail end scrapers were used for a variety of tasks.

Somewhat akin to these specific groups were the collectors I the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska and along the Arctic coast as far as the Bering Strait. Invaders from Asia, they represented a new way of life in northern North America. Characteristic among their implements were various micro-blade tools made from tongue-shaped cores, similar to those often found in Siberia, Mongolia, and Japan. They hunted big game with spears and darts, garnered small game in traps, and fished in the lakes. People of this “Northwest Micro-blade” tradition, who lived mostly inland, contrasted with those living on the coasts that were of the “Small Tool” tradition. The latter also used delicately made micro-blade tools, arrow points, and other implements, but adapted them both to inland caribou hunting and to harpooning of marine animals.

During this stage, throughout both North and South America, many peoples adapted themselves to life on the seacoasts, and great shell mounds were formed. Obviously, however, many regional differences existed among these coastal Archaics. Groups on the northwest Pacific coast used ground slate and developed watercraft; those in California became seed and shellfish collectors; people on the U.S. Atlantic coast used decorated bone daggers, as well as ground slate, and buried their dead with elaborate ceremonies featuring red paint. In Meso-America, some groups began making boats that may have brought them to the Antilles.

Others, such as those in Peru, exploited the inland coastal regions (lomas) in one season and the sea in another.

In general, the Archaic peoples of the U.S. southwestern desert, highland Mexico, and highland Peru contrasted sharply with the collectors described above. Although they too may be considered plant collectors, their environment contained potentially domestic-able plants, and their seasonal round of activities, exploiting different environments, and necessitated storage.

Some of these peoples, consequently, began to cultivate and domesticate plants. Eventually, such horticultural practices led to agriculture and, with it, village life and pottery, all characteristics of the next stage - the Formative stage.

In many areas, however, such as the tropical lowlands, California, the Great Basin of the U.S., and the pampas of Chile and Argentina, as well as the forests of northern Canada, people never developed the agricultural village life of the Formative but remained in an extended Archaic stage.

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