The prehistoric archaeological record can be divided into distinct cultural stages: Paleoindian (13,000-7900 BC), Archaic (7900-1000 BC),
Each of the prehistoric stages is again subdivided into early, middle, and late periods. These periods are delineated by
cultural changes such as technological improvements, settlement patterns, and socio-political organization.
Dates established for artifacts from South America and the Western United States are beginning to challenge long-held beliefs
that the earliest Americans were present between 11,000-11,500 BC. New dates thousands of years earlier are forcing archaeologists
to accept the possibility of "pre-Clovis" occupations and much earlier colonization of the New World. The Paleoindian time period
(13,000-7900 BC) constitutes the first well-documented cultural stage in North America. It began with the migration of people from
the Asian land mass across the Bering Strait into modern-day Alaska and then southward into North America, traveling either overland
or by watercraft. These humans are believed to have lived in mobile hunting-gathering groups, exploiting large land mammals such as
mammoth, mastodon, and Geochelone (giant land tortoise). This is evidenced by the widespread use of Clovis stone projectile points.
The Archaic stage (7900-1000 BC) is characterized by a rise in population and shift towards a less nomadic way of life. Archaic period
advances in technology include the introduction of the atlatl (weighted spearthrower), corner notched projectile points, and ground
and polished stone artifacts, which include soapstone used for atlatl weights, cooking disks, and bowls. This time period sees the
emergence of fired clay (ceramics) and intensification of both marine and freshwater resource exploitation. The socio-political
structure is thought to have consisted of an egalitarian society in which certain individuals may have achieved higher status.
The early Archaic stage (7900-6000 BC) is marked by the introduction of chipped and ground stone implements as human groups adapted
to the changing Holocene environment and climate. The middle Archaic period is noted for the introduction of stemmed projectile points. The
archaeological record from the late Archaic period (6000-4000 BC) is much richer and more extensive than previous periods. It is
delineated by advancements in grinding and polishing stone and the appearance of shell middens, mounds and rings. The major innovation of
the late Archaic period (4000-1000 BC) is the emergence of fired clay pottery tempered with Spanish moss and sand.
edited from source - NERRS - NOAA