Paleolithic Period (40,000 BC-8000 BC)
Note: Dates for the hunter-forager period (Stone Age) keep expanding as more and more archaeological evidence is uncovered.
Hunter-foragers track and kill large mammals: mammoths, mastodons (Illinois has forty-one woolly mammoth dig sites), giant bison and bears, etc. Their diets are supplemented with roots, nuts, fruits and seasonal wild plants. Stone animal effigy amulets depict knowledge of poisonous spiders and snakes: “Gods, keep these creatures from harming me.”
At Lithic Industries, the precursor of Ace Hardware, tools, knives and projectile points are fashioned from chert (a type of stone in the crystal family), easily fractured and shaped by granite and sharpened bone. Granite is also the principle stone used for grinding heavy duty stone tools. Hammer stones and other, larger and heavier tools are quickly and roughly ground, chiseled and discarded, as small bands of people move hundreds of miles in search of game. Stone sculpture and cave painting representations indicate an acute awareness of what it is to be human.
The mystery: Where did they come from? Old thinking: Walking from Asia across the Bering Sea on packed ice, starting at 14,000 BC, three separate migrations. New theories: 40,000 BC, Solutrians (neighbors to Neanderthals)—sailors/hunters/explorers—in boats made of animals skins, following ice sheets from now-Europe to the James River in Virginia; sailors setting out from Africa and landing in South America. Modern archaeologists have made these journeys. Paleo spear points found in the Americas more closely resemble spear points from now-France and Spain, than the ancient technology of Asians.