scientists think that the first people entered the Western
Asia over land that connected Siberia and Alaska at the end of
the last great Ice (or Pleistocene) Age.
Huge glaciers more than a mile thick covered large areas
of land in what is now Canada.
The glaciers lowered the sea level by 300 feet, exposing
an immense, 1,000-mile-wide plain between Siberia and Alaska known
as Beringia. Especially
along the coast, the tundra-like plain teemed with animal and plant
life, and the ocean provided abundant marine life.
The early immigrants were unaware they entered
a new continent as they hunted Beringia's game and gathered plants
did the first people arrive and what was their culture like?
While Native Americans believe that they have always been here, the
first documented Paleoindian culture was found at an
archaeological site near Folsom, New
Mexico, in 1927. There,
a distinctive spear point was found between the ribs of a type
of bison that had been extinct since the end of the last Ice
Five years later near Clovis, New Mexico, a woolly mammoth
kill and associated stone tools were uncovered, dating to 11,200
years ago. The hallmark
of the Clovis culture is the lance-shaped fluted
Clovis points are found across the continent, an especially large number
of them are found in Virginia.
Other stone tools found with the Clovis point include scrapers, gravers, perforators, wedges, and
uncovered so far in Virginia suggests that these tools were used
to spear game, cut up meat, scrape and cut hides,
and split and carve bone of deer, bison, and rabbit.
Caribou, elk, moose, and possibly mastodon also may have been
effects of the glaciers made for long, hard winters and short,
cool summers. In
the Appalachian region, the mountain slopes were bare and tundra-like.
People in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Virginia lived
among grasslands, open forests of conifers, such as pine, fir,
spruce, and hemlock, and occasional islands of deciduous trees.
Slightly warmer weather south of present-day Richmond encouraged
the growth of more deciduous trees such as birch, beech, and oak.
first people lived in groups which anthropologists today call bands, and camped along streams
that flowed through the tundra-like grasslands and the open spruce,
pine, and fir forests that covered Virginia at that time. A band
was like an extended family. Due to the harsh climate, each
band moved seasonally within a set territory to hunt and forage.
image to enlarge
peoples entered North America through Beringia and traveled south along
a corridor between glaciers. Shaded areas indicate land
then above sea level. The large white masses are the Cordilleran
and Laurentide ice sheets. (Credit: Tellico Archaeology)
lance-shaped fluted Clovis point