Lincoln Boyhood
Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo

American Indian Settlement

The following chapter is a synthesis of information from various sources regarding the known prehistory of southern Indiana. A review of this literature reveals land use patterns and cultural interactions present prior to Euroamerican settlement and which may have influenced events that occurred during the contact period. Archaeological investigations undertaken in Spencer County have uncovered no evidence of prehistoric habitation in Carter Township in the vicinity of the Lincoln site. Rather, it appears that the area was used for short-term camping and hunting. Admittedly, the county archaeological survey, completed during the 1950s, concentrated its efforts along the Ohio River and future investigations in the immediate area of the Lincoln site could reveal previously unrecorded prehistoric sites.




Most of what is known about this earliest identified cultural presence in North America must be inferred from sparse surface recoveries of artifacts, particularly diagnostic fluted projectile points. [19] This information can be analyzed in conjunction with geochronological and paleoecological data to make generalized assumptions about the earliest post-Pleistocene inhabitants. Post-Pleistocene adaptive strategies were geared for coping with a harsh, but rapidly changing, environment. It has been suggested that the radical changes between about 12,000 and 10,000 years before present (B.P.) critically stressed Paleoindian cultures, forcing adaptations to new seasonal extremes of temperature and moisture. As a result, seasonal planning, including the development of more sophisticated means for seasonal storage and shelter, would have been encouraged. Greater resource specialization would have been facilitated by a relatively greater seasonal abundance of some resources (such as bison herds), along with a general decrease in resource diversity. [20]

It has been argued that the earliest subsistence strategies in the eastern United States were not typified by dependency on big game such as mammoth and mastodon, but rather were characterized by a balanced hunting economy based on the exploitation of migratory game, especially caribou, supplemented by foraged food. [21] Martin et al. suggest that patterns of hunting and gathering were influenced by differences in habitat and were specialized by regions characterized by distinct faunas and floras. [22]

Paleoindian sites generally represent areas where small groups of people performed specific tasks of short duration. This type of site maintains a very low archaeological profile on the landscape. [23] Research by Tankersley et al. documented 583 fluted projectile points from 72 counties in Indiana and found that the highest frequency of these points occurs in riparian settings or areas that overlook such settings. [24] Terraces along major streams (like the Ohio River) were the settings with the largest concentrations of fluted points. Of all the documented fluted points, greater than 50 percent were found in the unglaciated portion of the state along the Ohio River and in bedrock source areas of high-quality lithic material. Spencer County had the second highest frequency of fluted points (n=44) for counties in Indiana, due in part to the Raaf Site and the Rockport site cluster. [25] Most of the points were found to have been manufactured from high-quality lithic materials that crop out within a 155-mile radius of the artifact location.



The division between the late fluted-point hunters and their descendants in the Early Archaic (8000 to 6000 B.C.) is purely arbitrary. [26] The continuous occupation of the eastern United States is evident from such regionally diverse stratified sites as the St. Albans site in West Virginia, Modoc Rockshelter in Illinois, and Sheep Rockshelter in Pennsylvania. [27]

The transition from Paleoindian to Early Archaic lithic technologies is represented by the Dalton Complex, which dates from approximately 8500 to 7900 B.C. in the southeastern United States. [28] The lanceolate morphology characteristic of Paleoindian points is combined in Dalton points with resharpening strategies characteristic of the Early Archaic.


Early Archaic tool assemblages reflect the influence of moderating climatic conditions and the resultant increased variation in local resource availability. Lanceolate projectiles ultimately were replaced by smaller notched and stemmed points used in the pursuit of smaller game such as deer and elk. However, the presence of Kirk, LeCroy, and Thebes type points, which are ubiquitous to the eastern part of the United States, indicate the continued exploitation of large territories by small hunting bands in the Early Archaic. [29] The addition of sandstone abraders and mortars to the Early Archaic people's tool kit suggests that vegetable foods were becoming a more substantial part of their diet.

It has been suggested that Early Archaic settlement patterns in the region surrounding the project area generally reflect broad-spectrum hunting and gathering subsistence strategies. Deeply stratified Early Archaic sites have been documented on point bars on the Ohio River floodplain. [30] At Patoka Lake in the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana, Early Archaic occupation of floodplains was noted, although upland settings seemed to have been preferred. [31]


The Middle Archaic period coincides approximately with the Altithermal, between 5750 and 3850 B.C. During this time an eastward expansion of the prairie resulted from a regional warming and drying trend. The material remnants of Middle Archaic culture reflect an increasingly sophisticated technology adapted to the intensive exploitation of forest and riverine biomes. Bifurcate or basally notched points present during the early stages of this period were supplanted by somewhat cruder sidenotched and heavy stemmed varieties. There is an increase in ground and polished stone tools, full-grooved axes, pendants, and winged and cylindrical bannerstones used as atlatl weights.

The Late Archaic (4000 to 1500 B.C.) witnessed the blossoming of a great diversity of cultural traditions throughout eastern North America. This cultural differentiation was based primarily on adaptations to stabilized regional and local environments, "that made maximum use of all resources within restricted areas." [32] Projectile points dating from this period tend to be large, crudely made, and of the notched and stemmed varieties.

Late Archaic sites are often large, and represent occupations over long periods of time. Occupation debris is often dense and subsurface contexts exist at many of these sites. Locational changes are reflected in the settlement system in response to resource seasonality. During the spring and summer, the exploitation of aquatic resources produced concentrations of sites along large water courses. Through the fall and winter, the harvest of nuts and the pursuit of game led to the establishment of camps situated above the valleys, in open situations and in rockshelters.

In southwestern and southcentral Indiana, a Late Archaic manifestation has been referred to as the French Lick phase. [33] This phase is best represented by Matanzas, Big Sandy II, Karnak, and stemmed projectile points, although engraved bone pins have been recovered from a number of French Lick phase sites as well. In Spencer County, this manifestation is represented by the Crib Mound Site. [34]

The Terminal Archaic period extends from about 1500 to 700 B.C. and is primarily represented in southwestern Indiana by what Winters described as the Riverton culture. This cultural manifestation is defined by a micro-tool industry observed at shell midden sites in the Wabash Valley of Illinois in the early 1960s. [35]


The Early Woodland period (700 to 100 B.C.) appears to represent a cultural expansion of the Late Archaic. It is characterized by a greater tendency toward territorial permanence and an increasing elaboration of ceremonial exchange and mortuary rituals. Some of these traits, once believed to be indicative of Early Woodland, are now known to have had their origins in the Archaic. [36]

Although the first manufacture of pottery is generally considered to mark the beginning of the Early Woodland period, it has been suggested that pottery may be simply a convenient marker for archaeologists to distinguish between cultural periods, rather than an indicator of culturally significant new subsistence and settlement patterns. [37] Alternatively, Munson argues that the first pottery represented an important technological innovation in food processing. [38] Early Woodland ceramics are thick, plain-surfaced, usually grit-tempered, with conical and flat-based vessel forms. Local variations in ceramics during early developments included Adena, Early Crab Orchard, and Marion/Fayette Thick. Diagnostic Early Woodland projectile points include large, well-made contracting stem points such as the Adena type. [39]


Horticultural technologies first seen during the Archaic characterized subsistence patterns during the Early Woodland period. Plants that occurred naturally in the environment, such as chenopodium, marsh elder, canary grass, and sunflower were cultivated for food and fiber. [40] Cultigens imported into the region, such as squash, pumpkins, and gourds, also appeared. [41] Hunting and gathering continued as both a subsistence strategy and a seasonal lifeway.

As the Woodland horticultural base improved, settlements became increasingly sedentary, supporting larger populations and more complex societies. At Patoka Lake, terrace locations were preferred during this period, although upland and bottomland locations were equally occupied farther north at Lafayette Lake. An emphasis on Adena cultural elements in the south, derived from the east and the Upper Ohio Valley, may account for the increased differentiation between northern and southern settlement patterns in Indiana. [42]

The Middle Woodland period (100 B.C. to A.D. 500) represents a time of complex sociocultural integration across regional boundaries via networks of trade. During this period, regional cultures remain distinct but are related through their common mortuary and trade complex. The period is characterized by elaborate geometric earthworks, enclosures, and mounds that are often associated with multiple burials and by a wide array of exotic ceremonial goods.

Materials used in the manufacture of ceremonial items were acquired from various regions of North America: copper and silver from the Upper Great Lakes; quartz crystals and mica from the Lower Allegheny region; obsidian and grizzly bear teeth from as far west as Wyoming; and shark teeth, pearls, and marine shells from the Gulf Coast area. [43] Diagnostic lithic artifacts include Snyders points, leaf-shaped blades, prismatic blades and associated polyhedral cores. Ceramics were manufactured with grit, grog, sand, and/or limestone tempering, and have plain, cord marked, and/or stamped designed surfaces.

The trade and cultural interactions that peaked during this period have been termed "The Hopewell Interaction Sphere." [44] The extent to which these interactions influenced regional cultures varied depending on the extent of the culture's participation in the trade networks. The Havana tradition of the Illinois River Valley and the Scioto tradition of the Scioto River Valley in southern Ohio were two major centers of influence. The Indiana region was peripheral to each of these areas, yet because of its centrally located position between the two spheres, it was influenced by both. The Crab Orchard tradition extends into the southwestern portion of Indiana, as does some Havana influence; however, the largest Middle Woodland site in southern Indiana is the Mann Site, located in Posey County, which exhibits influences from as far away as the gulf coast. [45]


A Terminal Middle Woodland period (ca. A.D. 200 to 600) occupation defined for portions of southwestern Indiana and adjacent portions of Illinois is referred to as Allison-LaMotte. [46] The Allison-LaMotte culture was first described as two distinctly separate cultural manifestations by Winters. [47] However, these were later redefined as a single cultural continuum. Diagnostic projectile points for this period include Lowe Flared Base and Snyders types. [48] Lamellar blades are also part of the Allison-LaMotte toolkit. Ceramics tend to be sand or grit tempered with cordmarked and simple stamped exteriors.

During the Late Woodland period (A.D. 600 to 900), there was an apparent breakdown or abandonment of mortuary ritualism and extensive trade networks, giving way to relatively isolated regional settlements. Late Woodland occupations are often small villages consisting of a number of house structures spaced around a circular plaza. Burials lack the elaborate ritualism associated with earlier cultures, seldom containing grave goods or reflecting status. Bodies were often interred in natural knolls, or placed as "intrusive" burials into existing mounds.

The bow and arrow represents the major technological innovation of the period, evidenced by small, well-made triangular and side-notched points. Ceramics from the period were generally utilitarian; well-made undecorated grit-tempered, cordmarked pottery dominates most Late Woodland ceramic assemblages.

Subsistence patterns continued to include hunting and gathering, which served an increasingly supplemental role to the dominant diet of maize and other plants. The utilization of upland and bottomland sites during the Late Woodland is suggestive of the dichotomous settlement system documented for early historical groups in the Plains and northeastern United States. [49] This system is composed of two distinct types of sites occupied on a seasonal basis. During the summer, a base camp or village (located along the terraces of toe slopes of major stream valleys) was established with habitation structures and cultivated fields reoccupied from year to year. After the harvest, these sites would be abandoned for temporary hunting camps in the nearby forests.

Within the west-central portion of Indiana, the Late Woodland is represented by the Albee Complex, named for the Albee Mound in Sullivan County. [50] This time period is represented by Jack's Reef and triangular projectile points and thin, cordmarked ceramics. [51]


Although Late Woodland cultures continued until historic contact in some areas of the Ohio Valley, they were supplanted by the Fort Ancient culture in southeastern Indiana, by the Angel phase and Caborn-Welborn phase Mississippian in southwestern Indiana, and by the Oliver Phase in southcentral Indiana. [52] In the lower White River valley extending to the Wabash valley, there is a poorly understood Mississippian period occupation known as Vincennes Culture. [53] The development of large platform mounds, shell-tempered ceramics, stockaded villages, large populations, and intensive maize agriculture are characteristic of this period. For unclear reasons, villages appear to have been abandoned around A.D. 1600, and apparent drops in population are reflected in sites over much of the state.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 19-Jan-2003