Section 3: Archaic People

The Archaic era began about 7,500 years ago. The changes in climate led to changes in plants and animals. The Archaic (ar-kay-ik) was a new era because people made different spear points and used new tools. Some animals became extinct. Some animals, such as bison (sometimes called buffalo), became smaller. People of the Archaic era adapted to these changes.

People of the Archaic era were the descendants of the people who lived in the Paleo-Indian era. As their population increased, the people continued spreading throughout the continents of both North America and South America. They lived in small bands, or groups, and continued their nomadic way of life following herds of game animals and gathering plants for food.

Archaeologists have found remains of the Archaic people’s culture scattered throughout the plains. A hard stone called flint was mined by people along the Knife River in North Dakota. Spear points made of this flint were used by hunters in North Dakota and were also traded to people in other areas. Evidence of the use of flint has also been dated back to the time of the Paleo-Indians.

A weapon called an atlatl (at-lat-ul) was developed for hunting by the Archaic people. This weapon was a stick with a handle on one end and a hook on the other end. With the atlatl, hunters could throw darts much harder and farther than they could throw a spear. People of the Archaic era made knives, hammers, scrapers and other tools from flint or animals bones.  Many of these stone and bone tools have been found in sites of ancient peoples’ activities in North Dakota.

This skull of an ancient bison was found near New Town.

Figure 7. This ancient bison skull was found near New Town, North Dakota. The skull has a horn span of seven feet. The skull is on exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in Bismarck, North Dakota. (SHSND 98-44.1)