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Archaeologists call the earliest period when people occupied North America the Paleoindian period. Archaeological evidence shows that these people arrived on the North American continent between 12,000 and 25,000 years ago. In Kentucky, archaeologists have excavated sites that date from 9,500 to 8,000 BCE (or about 11,500 to 10,000 years ago). Over 350 archaeological sites dating to this time have been found in Kentucky, and studying these sites allows us to learn more about the people who lived here in the past.
When you imagine the hunter-gatherers that lived in this period, most people think they only hunted now-extinct Ice Age megafauna, like mammoths and mastodons. This is a myth. Archaeologists have found clues that people of the Paleoindian period would have used a mixed foraging strategy that included hunting and gathering a wide range of foods. These include large and small game animals like deer and bison, aquatic animals like fish, and plant foods like nuts and berries. Changes in foodways (the eating habits and culinary practices of people) and stone tool technology help archaeologists divide the Paleoindian period into three subperiods.