Early Native American Cultures in Georgia

SS8H1: Evaluate the development of Native American cultures and the impact of European exploration and settlements on the Native American cultures in Georgia.

A. Describe the evolution of Native American cultures prior European contact.

P.A.W.M.(Paleo Ate Wild Mammoth)
Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian.


Paleo Indians were the first human beings in Georgia. There is evidence that they were in the state as early as 13,250 years ago, and they are often dated from 12,000-8,000 BCE. They were nomadic hunters and gatherers who followed large game such as mastodons and giant bison. Once these large animals (often called “Megafauna”) disappeared, the Paleo Indians began hunting smaller game, such as deer. The primary weapon they used was spears made of wood and stone or flint. These spear points are often called “Clovis” points after the town in New Mexico where they were initially discovered. Paleo homes were made out of animal skins, which allowed the Paleo Indians to easily move from place to place as they hunted. Artifacts produced by this group have been found throughout all five regions of Georgia.

Paleo Indians were nomadic. They followed and hunted their food on foot.


The next prehistoric culture who lived in the state was the Archaic Indians(8,000 BCE-1,000 BCE). This group descended from of the Paleo Indians, and they developed new technological tools due to their rapidly changing environment. The Archaic Indians were also nomadic, but they made several technological advancements, including the atlatl that allowed spears to be thrown at a high rate of speed. In addition, they invented other tools such as the grooved axe and pottery. They also made hooks and nets for fishing. This group is often divided into three distinct periods: Early, Middle, and Late. Similarly to the word “Paleo,” “Archaic means “old.”

The Archaic Indians developed the Atlatl for hunting.


The third prehistoric Native American culture was the Woodland Indians(1000 BCE-750 CE). This culture is also credited for technological advancements, including the use of the bow and arrow for hunting, and pottery for storage. This group is credited for being the first to rely on horticulture and farming as a major source of food. The Woodland Indians began to live in small villages with homes made of wood, leaves, and bark. Students should be told that this group depended on corn and that it was they, not the Mississippian Indians, who were the first mound builders.

Example of a Woodland Indian home


The last Prehistoric Native American culture was the Mississippian Indians (800 CE-1600 CE). This group is considered to be the most “complex” prehistoric culture in Georgia. They were large scale farmers and mound builders who traded extensively throughout North America. The Mississippian society was organized as a “chiefdom” society, or a structured hierarchical society with a small number of “elites” and the majority who were “commoners.” The “chief” held almost all of the power in the village. The people of the period lived in large “mound towns.” This group was the first to encounter Europeans, such as Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, whose army starved thousands of Mississippian Indians, and killed many others outright. However, this culture ultimately ended due to the impact of diseases that were brought to the region by the Europeans. Some experts argue that another factor for the end of the Mississippian Indians was a desire by these peoples to be closer to European centers for trade which broke up large villages. Remnants of the Mississippian Indian tribes went on to form modern tribes such as the Creek and Cherokee.

Mississippian Indians were the most advanced as shown with this village.