First People: The Early Indians of Virginia

Ancient History 
of Virginia
15,000 B.C.–Present

Note:  The information that follows is taken from the book First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, produced by the department, and published by the University Press of Virginia.  In writing the book, the authors collaborated with the leaders of the eight recognized tribes in Virginia, to produce a comprehensive look at the history of the native peoples who first inhabited the land.




People lived in Virginia for about 17,000 years before European contact.  The native people had no written language.  They recorded their historic events through storytelling and symbolic drawings.  Through patient work in the field and in the lab, archaeologists have reconstructed some of the history and lifeways of these first people by uncovering buried clues of their unwritten past.

The ancient times are divided into three periods:  Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland.  The years after the arrival of the English are referred to as "European Contact."

For information about these periods, select a link from the list on the right.

Early Hunters
Paleoindians 15,000 –8,000 B.C.
Early Archaic 8,000 –6,000 B.C.

Dispersed Foragers
Middle Archaic 6,000 –2,500 B.C.

Sedentary Foragers
Late Archaic 2,500 –1,200 B.C.
Early Woodland 1,200 –500 B.C.
Middle Woodland 500 B.C. –A.D. 900

Late Woodland A.D. 900 –1600

European Contact
Indians A.D. 1600 –1800
Modern Indians A.D. 1800 –Present

DHR Archaeology Program
    DHR Artifact Collections