Paleo Time Period

Native Americans hunting a Mastodon
Paleo people hunting a towering Mastodon

Photo By Pat Gully

Ten thousand years ago the first culture to inhabit Russell Cave National Monument crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into a new world. After crossing the land bridge these small bands migrated east across North America. Along the way this nomadic culture stalked the massive herds of mastodon and learned how to survive the bitter arctic temperatures. Eventually these fierce hunters that ruled the frozen tundra became known as one of the most important cultures in history; the paleo culture.

Russell Cave experienced how the paleo people evolved over time but how did this culture survive long enough for this story to be told? Most of the paleo people's story was told through the eyes of the archeologists that studied their culture. Archeologists have agreed from the artifacts studied at various sites that this culture's livelihood depended highly on stone weapons in order to hunt the towering ice age animals.

The main weapon that the paleo people depended upon at Russell Cave was the atlatl. The atlatl was a wooden stick with a hook on the end. Hunters used the atlatl as a throwing arm to increase the distance they could throw. This invention more than doubled the hunters throwing range. Using weaponry such as the atlatl helped the Paleo people develop into a strong culture that survived for over 2,000 years.

It is difficult to imagine the hardships and the triumphs that Paleo people encountered. From the frigid winters of the ice age to the dangerous mega fauna hunts of the tundra, this civilization managed to find ways to prevail over many obstacles that could have driven most cultures into extinction. The discovery of the Paleo people's culture at Russell Cave National Monument helped archeologists piece together a puzzle of the past that is important to modern day history.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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