the Middle Archaic period, the Indians of Virginia had adjusted well to the Eastern
woodland. They became masters of the deciduous forest of oak,
hickory, and chestnut.
Their knowledge of how best to use the physical setting
altered with the changing environment and shifting seasons of
the year, and gradually became more sophisticated.
perform their tasks effectively, the Middle Archaic people enlarged
their tool kits, becoming skilled at new challenges.
Based on the findings of beautifully shaped and polished
perforated stones, scientists in Virginia now have evidence of
the spear thrower, or "atlatl."
Evidence for this weapon was found in the Early Archaic
period in Florida, where wooden shafts of the tool were preserved.
The spear thrower added length and power to the hunter's
Archaeologists have found parts of the spear thrower—bone
hooks and stone weights—at sites as old as 6,000 B.C.
The hooks, made from bone or antler, held the butt end
of the spear.
The polished stone was placed near the tip of the spear
The purpose of the stone is uncertain.
It may have balanced and steadied the spear as the hunter
followed through on the throw, or it may have added more spring
to the flexible spear thrower. The stones uncovered in excavations
are well made from beautiful types of stone and vary in shape
over a period of years.
As works of art, they probably had special meaning to the
that archaeologists commonly find in gathering societies
are mortars and pestles.
These tools were used to crush nuts, seeds, and fibrous
plants in preparing foods.
People added walnuts to the list of seed crops
stones found at archaeological sites are interpreted as net sinkers.
They indicate that the people expanded their quest for
food by catching large numbers of fish in nets.
people of the Eastern forest started to produce in large
quantities chipped stone axes around 4,000 B.C.
The axes were made from tough resilient stone, such as basalt
With large axes, the Middle Archaic people could more easily
cut wood to build houses and make fires.
The resulting forest clearings altered the environment
in a radical way.
Clearings encouraged the growth of plants and trees that
were beneficial to the people, such as berry bushes and fruit
and nut trees.
Deer, bear, turkey, and other animals came to the clearing
to browse on the tender leaves of low-lying shrubs
and to eat berries and nuts. The people had made changes to the
environment, that brought them direct benefits.
then, numerous types of spear points were used throughout the eastern
Many of them are found in Virginia.
Archaeologists use point styles from a particular
time to determine the period in which people lived at a site.
using the atlal, or spear thrower, could increase the force and
distance of their spear throwing and bring game down from afar.
used pestles and mortars to crush nuts and seeds to prepare foods
that could more easily be digested.
An important tool in the Eastern forest,
the axe changed shape over time: (top) the first axe chipped and
notched from stone, 5,000 B.C.; (middle) grooved axes, 2,000 B.C.;
and (bottom) celt, A.D. 1500, flaked, pecked, and smoothed with