History of West Virginia - Prehistory


Further information: Prehistory of West Virginia Further information: Protohistory of West Virginia

The area now known as West Virginia was a favorite hunting ground of numerous Native American peoples before the arrival of European settlers. Many ancient man-made earthen mounds from various mound builder cultures survive, especially in the areas of Moundsville, South Charleston, and Romney. The artifacts uncovered in these give evidence of a village society having a tribal trade system culture that practiced limited cold worked copper. As of 2009, over 12,500 archaeological sites have been documented in West Virginia (Bryan Ward 2009:10).

Paleo-Indian culture appears by 10,500 BC in West Virginia passing along the major river valleys and ridge-line gap watersheds. Following are the traditional Archaic sub-periods; Early (8000-6000 BC), Middle (6000-4000 BC), and Late (4000-1000 BC), (Kerr, 2010). Within the greater region of and neighboring the Mountain State, the Riverton Tradition includes: Maple Creek Phase. Also are the Buffalo Phase, Transitional Archaic Phase, Transitional Period Culture and Central Ohio Valley Archaic Phase. Also within the region, the Laurention Archaic Tradition which includes: Brewerton Phase, Feheeley Phase, Dunlop Phase, McKibben Phase, Genesee Phase, Stringtown/Satchel Phase, Satchel Phase and Lamoka/Dustin Phase.

The Adena provided the greatest cultural influence in the state. For practical purposes, the Adena is Early Woodland period according to West Virginia University's Dr. Edward V. McMichael (1968:16), also among the 1963 Geological Survey. Middle and Late Woodland people include: Middle Woodland Watson pottery people, Late Woodland Wood Phase, Late Hopewell at Romney, Montaine (late Woodland AD 500-1000), Wilhelm culture (Late Middle Woodland, c. AD 1~500), Armstrong (Late Middle Woodland, c. AD 1~500), Buck Garden (Late Woodland AD500-1200), Childers Phase (Late Middle Woodland c. 400 AD) followed by Parkline phase (Late Woodland AD 750~1000). Adena villages can be characterized as rather large compared to Late Prehistoric tribes.

The Adena Indians used ceremonial pipes that were exceptional works of art. They lived in round shaped (double post method) wicker sided and bark sheet roofed houses (McMichael 1968:21). Little is known about the housing of Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods, but Woodland Indians lived in wigwams. They grew sunflowers, tubers, gourds, squash and several seeds such as lambsquarter, may grass, sumpweed, smartweed and little barley cereals. In the Fort Ancient period, Indians lived in much larger poled rectangular shaped houses with walls hide covered (McMichael 1968:38). They were farmers who cultivated large fields around their villages, concentrating on corn, beans, tubers, sunflowers, gourds and many types of squash including the pumpkin. They also raised domestic turkeys and kept dogs as pets. Their neighbors in the northerly of the state, the Monongahelan houses were generally circular in shape often with nook or storage appendage. Their living characteristics were more of a heritage from the Woodland Indians (McMichael 1968:49).

The Late Prehistoric (ADE 950~1650) phases of the Fort Ancient Tradition include: Feurt Phase, Blennerhassett Phase, Bluestone Phase, Clover Complex followed by the Orchard Phase (ADE 1550~1650) with a Late Proto-historic arrival of a Lizard Cult from the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Contemporaneously to Fort Ancient Tradition southerly of the state, the sister culture called Monongahela is found on the northerly of the Mountain State stemming from the Drew Tradition. Early historic tribes living within or routinely hunting and trading within the state include: Calicuas later mixed in colonial north-western Virginia-Pennsylvania at the time as popular termed Cherokee, Mohetans, Rickohockans from ancient Nation du Chat area, Monetons and Monecaga or Monacan, Tomahitans or Yuchi-Occaneechi, Tuscarora or mixed broad termed Mingoe & Canawagh or Kanawhas (Chiroenhaka, Mooney 1894:7-8), Oniasantkeronons or Tramontane of the proto-historic southerly Neutral Nation trade empire (element Nation du Chat), Shattera or Tutelo, Ouabano or Mohican-Delaware, Chaouanon or Shawnee, Cheskepe or Shawnee-Yuchi, Loupe (Captina Island historic mix, Lanape & Powhatan), Tionontatacaga and Little Mingoe (Guyandottes), Massawomeck and later mixed as Mohawk, Susquesahanock or White Minqua later mixed Mingoes and Arrigahaga or Black Minqua of the Nation du Chat and proto-historic Neutral Nation trade empire.

Within the Mountain State, these tribal villages can be characterized as rather small and scattered as they moved about the old fields every couple of generations. Many would join other tribes and remove to the midwest regions as settlers arrived in the state. Although, there were those who would acculturate within the historic as sometimes called Fireside Cabin culture. Some are early historic documented seeking protection closer, moving to the easterly Colonial trade towns. And later, other small splintered clans were attracted to, among others, James Le Tort, Charles Poke and John Van Metre trading houses within the state. This historic period changed way of living extends from a little before the 18th century Virginia and Pennsylvania region North American fur trade beginning on the Eastern Panhandle of the state.

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