Early Cultures: Pre-European Peoples of Wisconsin
Paleo Tradition Archaic Tradition Woodland Tradition Mississippian and Oneota Traditions
Archaeological Basics Native Technology Wisconsin Sites Glossary Home
Hunting and Gathering
Image of a Mammoth and a Mastodon
Mammoth and Mastodon

Image of a Mastodon Tooth and a Clovis Point
A Clovis point is shown next to a single tooth from a mastodon. Mastodons were big animals.

Image of an Elk Swimming
Elk
Instead of going to the grocery store like we do today these early people searched around their local environment for their food. Their meat wasn't in a plastic tray in a store, instead it was alive and moved around because, like the people, it was also looking for food. People needed to follow the animals as they moved around to ensure that they could get meat. As people and animals ate all the plants in one area, they needed to move around to find more. Early people didn't have cars or trucks to carry their things. They had to carry everything they owned with them. Because of this they had a lot fewer things than we do today. This way of life is called hunting and gathering. People probably used light weight objects made out of skins which were easy to carry and move with their mobile lifestyle.

Paleo people probably hunted for much of their food. Some of the animals that lived in these conditions were very different from animals living here today. Mammoths and mastodons, similar in size to today's elephants, roamed the area. These animals are extinct today, but they were around when the first people came to Wisconsin. Some of these animals were hunted by groups of hunters using spears. These hunters would probably look for old, young, sick or isolated animals. They might also look for animals that were stuck in the mud. These animals might be easier to kill than a healthy adult animal. They also scavenged, or used the meat of animals that were already dead.

Caribou and elk were also hunted by these early people. These animals are not extinct. They are no longer in Wisconsin but can still be found farther north. Caribou and elk were probably hunted in similar ways that deer are hunted today in Wisconsin, except these early people didn't have guns or bows and arrows. The early people most likely hunted these animals using spears as weapons. These early people probably also hunted smaller animals such as rabbits, ground squirrels, muskrats, and beaver.

For food, Paleo people also used the limited plants that they found such as berries, seeds and nuts. Plant material is very delicate and does not preserve well, therefore, it is difficult for archaeologists to find evidence of plant materials used by these first people. We do know that these early people were resourceful and that they would have used the plants that were around them as much as possible.


Mastodon Tooth
Site Credits