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Origins of Maine


Maine state house
Maine state house

The first inhabitants of Maine lived there in about 10,000 bc. Archaeological evidence suggests that these peoples, called Paleo-Indians, hunted large animals such as caribou, musk ox, and probably other animals that are now extinct. After the Paleo-Indians disappeared from the region, most likely as a result of climate changes, a new culture, referred to as Archaic, emerged. During the Archaic Period (about 8000-1000 bc) changes in the climate resulted in changing plant and animal life, providing deer and fish for native diets. Evidence also suggests that Archaic people used a variety of stone tools for hunting, fishing, and woodworking.

The late Archaic Period (4000-1000 bc) produced a culture that has interested archaeologists for its burial practices. Differing from previous cultures, the so-called Red Paint people placed bright red ocher, powdered hematite, and unusual stone artifacts in burial pits, suggesting detailed funeral rituals. Archaeological remains of the Red Paint people exist throughout Maine and New Brunswick and indicate the culture disappeared about 1800 bc, for unknown reasons. The final culture during the Archaic Period developed around 1500 bc and is referred to as the Susquehanna Tradition. These people also hunted deer and fished, and they migrated farther into the interior. Archaeological evidence indicates that the next population to develop, people of the Ceramic Period, also fished and hunted, but the making of ceramic pottery distinguished them from their predecessors. The Ceramic period occurred from about 500 bc until contact with Europeans in the early 1500s.

When the first Europeans arrived to fish the waters off Maine’s coast, they encountered the Wabanaki, native people of the Algonquian linguistic stock. The native inhabitants hunted and farmed, lived in dwellings resembling wigwams and longhouses, and used birchbark canoes. The Wanbanaki included a number of bands of Abenaki, such as the Penobscot, the Kennebec, and the Passamaquoddy, whom the Europeans named for the rivers by which they lived. The Mi'kmaq, another Wabanaki group, were enemies of the Abenaki.

Some historians estimate that Maine’s Wabanaki population was about 20,000 at the time white settlement began. By 1620, however, more than half that number had died, from epidemics introduced by European contact and from intertribal warfare. "Maine" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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