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Learning to Look - Background

Approximately 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, the people living in the northeast of what would become the United States, experienced a warm climate (like Virginia, today). The forest had a huge number of species, including some tropical plants, but was dominated by oak trees. There was abundant fish and game. In addition, the people ate seeds and nuts and farmed some vegetables. The people moved around seasonally, following their food sources, although they maintained some larger base camps. The tools the people used were made of wood and stone and they included three different kinds of stone spear points.


Tools were used for:

1) hunting and fishing, including spear points, spearthrower weights, and plummets. Spear points were affixed to the end of a stick; large points were for animals, small ones for birds or fish. Spearthrower wieghts had a hole in the middle to be tied to the shaft of the spearthrower to increase the accuracy of a throw. Plummets were used to weight lines and nets. These tools were mostly used by men, while women gathered green plant for food and medicine.

2) preparing food, including bowls, knives, and pestles. Bowls were saucepans placed on the fire to heat up food. Knives were either semicircular or long and thin and were used to cut up meat or fish. Pestles could be small or large; they were used for grinding nuts and seeds. Baskets for carrying food and mats for preserving it were woven by women out of bark, rushes, corn husks, or hemp.

3) making clothes, including awls, scrapers, and knives. Awls were drills used to make holes in the skins so they could be sewn together. Scrapers and knives were used to clean the fat off hides and cut them after they were dried.

4) woodworking, including axes, gouges, and adzes. Axes were used to cut wood, gouges for hollowing it out, and adzes for rough shaping it. Men could use these tools to make canoes and large wigwams, while women used them to make smaller wigwams. Large canoes were made out of large logs that Native Americans hollowed by burning, then scraping, smoothing, and shaping them; small canoes were made out of birch bark.

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