Archaeology (also spelled archeology) is the study of ancient cultures through the artifacts people left behind. It is sometimes confused with paleontology - the study of ancient life preserved as fossils. Native People lived in and around the Falls of the Ohio for nearly ten thousand years. The first people, Paleoindians, left few clues of their time here. Those that followed - the people of the Archaic, Woodland or Mississippian cultures - left plenty of evidence.
Because of this significance, life of Native People at the Falls is one of four themes in our exhibit gallery. The Falls of the Ohio State Park has obtained several important local collections of artifacts from our general area that date back to over 8000 BCE. These tools help us understand how people lived and thrived.
Like almost all museums, we do not buy artifacts. Everything in our collections have been obtained through donations or small-scale archaeological digs related to projects within our property boundary. We can assist with identification of some artifacts and can refer individuals to the Falls of the Ohio Archaeological Society for a more accurate assessment.
The 2016 edition of the book Early Peoples of Indiana is available in PDF, courtesy the Indiana DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.
Early people at the Falls: An Introduction
It is believed that prehistoric people arrived at the Falls area around 13 thousand years ago. (The Falls are believed to have formed between 12 – 8,000 years ago.) The Falls at that time were almost impassible by canoe during low water periods. Low water caused pools of fish and mussels to be more easily harvested. Other resources like clay and chert were plentiful and allowed prehistoric people to make stone tools and pottery without traveling farther away from an easy food source. The Ohio also acted as the main transportation route from one area to another using adjacent rivers and streams like the Wabash, Miami, White, and Blue rivers.
Through archaeological excavations, it has been discovered that prehistoric people inhabited the Falls area during the Paleo, Archaic and Woodland periods. Remains of their activities, food, tools, and houses have been found. Because of the significant presence of native people at the Falls, their story is included as one of the four themes in the exhibit gallery.
To explore these cultural periods, click:
Clarksville Archaeological Sites
Some Archaeology Definitions
Artifact Identification Guide:
Archaic Tools Woodland Tools Mississippian Tools
Photo Album - E. Y. Guernsey Collection
(Old Clarksville, 1930s)
Scale = 2 cm in all photos.
Below is an assortment of tools from Native Peoples in the Falls of the Ohio State Park collections.
Kirk Corner Notched Biface Celt
Early Archaic 7500 - 6000 BCE Preform for point or knife Not attributable to a culture
Needles made from Bone Fishhook
Freshwater Drum Spines From a deer toe bone
Probably Archaic Probably Archaic
Drills Personal Ornament, Tan Chert
Fort Ancient Point, Late Woodland to Mississippian, 1140 - 1450 CE
Updated October 25, 2016