Woodland Period

Early Woodland Period (1000 BC – 200 BC)

In the Mid-Atlantic region, the Early Woodland Period is believed to have been a continuation of Late Archaic traditions. Native peoples slowly became more sophisticated in adapting to their environment. Population slowly increased. There were steadily more trade contacts between regions.

An important trade route connecting the North Georgia Mountains and Tennessee River Valley with the Potomac River Valley passed through the Shenandoah Valley. It intersected major east-west trade routes at Harpers Ferry, WV and Roanoke, VA, where the James River passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

At least as early as around 600 BC the Adena Culture reached the northern Shenandoah Valley from the Ohio Valley. None of the Adena sites in Virginia have been radiocarbon dated. Official Commonwealth of Virginia Native American histories do not even mention the Adena Culture. However, as stated earlier, the Native Americans of the Ridge and Valley Province in Virginia were often more similar culturally to contemporaries in West Virginia than Virginia. Of course, West Virginia was part of Virginia until the Civil War. The archaeological evidence for the Adena Culture will be discussed in Part 4.

There are petroglyphs scattered throughout the Massanutten Mountains, east of Strasburg and Woodstock, VA. Even though most are within the Shenandoah National Forest, few have been either cataloged or studied. They probably date from the Woodland Period, but they have never been studied by specialists on petroglyphs

Middle Woodland Period (200 BC – 900 AD?)

The bow and arrow first appeared in Virginia during the Middle Woodland Period. Archaeologists today believe that it only had limited usage until the Late Woodland Period. Most hunters still relied on atlatl’s and spears. This conclusion is based on the relative number of spear and arrowhead points found.

Pottery was endemic during the Middle Woodland Period. This fact suggests that populations in western Virginia were generally sedentary. Perhaps during certain seasons of the year, portions of villages traveled to hunting or nut-gathering camps, but there was always a base village where pottery could be stored.

Beginning around 220 BC a new culture appeared in the northern Shenandoah Valley. Labeled by archaeologists as the Stone Burial Mound Culture, it is primarily known today by the few remaining clusters of small, stone piles on terraces overlooking the Shenandoah River or creeks. Only one or a few individuals were buried under each cairn. Archaeologists found evidence of a social hierarchy. The quantity and quality of burial offerings varied considerably.

Although contemporary with the Hopewell Culture to the west, the architecture of the Stone Burial Mound Culture is quite different. In recent years, stone cairn cemeteries have been identified near Winchester, VA, Shepherdstown, WV, Gilmer County, WV and Wood County, WV – near the Ohio River. The clusters of small stone burial cairns in the northern Shenandoah Valley are also identical to those found in many locations in northern Georgia, including both the Track Rock Gap and Athens terrace complexes, and in northeastern Alabama.

Villages associated with the Hopewell Culture existed in Shenandoah County, VA. This conclusion is based on the identification of Hopewell type artifacts and structures by archaeologists of the National Park Service. No sites have been thoroughly studied, but their surviving architecture suggests a cultural connection with the Duck River Culture of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. One of the bends in the Shenandoah River near Woodstock, GA contains earthworks and stoneworks very similar to Old Stone Fort near Manchester, TN.

Late Woodland Period (900 AD? – 1100 AD?)

Virginia archaeologists label all of their Native American inhabitants as being in the Late Woodland Culture until 1650 AD. However, as will be explained in Part Four, there were definitely indigenous cultures in the western part of the state that were ceremonial mound builders and shared cultural traits with Muskogean provinces in the Southeast.

Very little is known about the Late Woodland Period in western Virginia. A few sites have been studied by professional archaeologists, but throughout the Commonwealth there is a noticeable scarcity of Late Woodland sites. The first use of radiocarbon dating was in 1957 at the Kern Farm in Clarke County, VA, which is a Late Woodland Site, but very few similar sites have been studied in recent years. It is known that there was widespread use of the bow & arrow in the Mid-Atlantic Region during that period

Thornton, Richard. Native Americans of the Shenandoah Valley. Web. See Further: People of One Fire. Blairsville, Georgia, © 2012.

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