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Origins of Tennessee


Tennessee state capitol
Tennessee state capitol

In the prehistoric period, several different Native American cultures flourished in Tennessee. Nomadic hunters, whose culture is called Paleo-Indians by archaeologists, were present about 11,500 years ago. Divided into small bands, they ranged widely over the land, hunting many now-extinct animals. In the Archaic culture, from about 8,000 to 2,500 years ago, woven baskets and highly specialized stone tools abounded. Beginning about 2,500 years ago, people of the Woodland culture practiced horticulture, mound building, and the making of clay pottery. Mounds remaining from this period still exist in many parts of Tennessee.

By the 1500s the state was occupied by essentially the same Native American peoples who were there when whites first entered the area. From west to east, the dominant peoples in early historic times were the Chickasaw, the Yuchi, and the Cherokee.

The Chickasaw, most of whom lived in northern Mississippi and Alabama, claimed western Tennessee. The Cherokee lived on the upper reaches of the Tennessee River and claimed the eastern part of the present state as their hunting ground. The Yuchi, part of the Creek, and other small tribes were driven out to the south about 1700. About the same time the Chickasaw and Cherokee forced the Shawnee, who had lived in the north central region, to move north of the Ohio River. Thereafter Middle Tennessee was a hunting ground, disputed between the Chickasaw and Cherokee but inhabited by neither. Both peoples maintained their claims to much of Tennessee into the 19th century. "Tennessee" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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