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Origins of Ohio


Ohio statehouse
Ohio statehouse

The Ohio country was first inhabited by Paleo-Indians about 12,000 bc, near the end of the last Ice Age, when ice sheets still covered northern and western Ohio. These nomads hunted with spears, killing mastodons, mammoths, and other prehistoric animals that fed on the vegetation that grew at the edge of the ice. As global warming caused the glaciers to retreat and hardwood forests to grow, the Paleo-Indians spread north to the Great Lakes, large bodies of fresh water created by the melting ice.

About 8000 BC, the peoples of the Archaic tradition began to occupy the land. These semisedentary people survived by hunting, fishing, and gathering. They in turn were followed by the Woodland peoples, including the Adena and later the Hopewell, who flourished from about 100 bc until AD 500.

These cultures are often referred to as Mound Builders, because they left behind thousands of burial mounds, geometric earthworks, and hilltop enclosures. The people of the Woodland tradition built permanent villages and domesticated crops, including squash, tobacco, sunflowers, and corn. They also established far-reaching trade networks to bring such exotic materials as copper, mica, graphite, obsidian, and ocean shells into Ohio, in exchange for such colorful and highly prized local material as Flint Ridge flint.

The last of Ohio’s early inhabitants, who reached the area by about ad 1000, were of the Mississippian tradition, including such cultural groups as the Fort Ancient people in southern Ohio, the Whittlesey in northeastern Ohio and the Sandusky in northwestern Ohio.

Living in stockaded villages, hunting with bows and arrows, and growing significant quantities of corn, beans, and squash, the Mississippians were frequently at war with other native peoples from the south and east. The powerful Iroquois, who conquered many other peoples from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River in wars over the fur trade, finally drove the remaining Mississippians from Ohio in the late 1650s, leaving the area mostly uninhabited.

By the late 1690s, Native Americans from other areas began migrating to Ohio’s expansive forests and occasional grasslands. Some came for the plentiful game, while others moved to escape encroaching white settlers and warfare with other native groups. From the north came members of the Huron group, including the Wyandot, and the Ottawa people. Closely allied, they built their villages in the valleys of the Sandusky and Portage rivers. From the northeast came bands of mixed-blood Iroquois, called Mingo, to occupy the upper Ohio Valley. From the east came the Delaware, who moved into the watershed of the Muskingum River. The Shawnee, arriving from the south, settled in the valley of the Scioto River. From the west came the Miami, establishing villages in western Ohio in the valleys of three rivers that would come to bear their name: the Great Miami and Little Miami, which emptied into the Ohio, and the Miami of the Lake (later called Maumee), which flowed into the western basin of Lake Erie. "Ohio" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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