Peoples of the Mesa Verde Region

The Paleoindian Period: 13,000 (or earlier) to 6000 B.C.



People during the Paleoindian period were nomads who traveled great distances in pursuit of large herds of megafauna. As the name suggests, megafauna were large animals, now extinct, that were well adapted to the cool, wet climate of the late Ice Age. Mammoths, mastodons, and an ancient form of bison were among the most commonly hunted large game. Projectile points have been found in and near the bones of these animals, sometimes at sites where large numbers of them were killed and butchered.

Mammoth. Pen-and-ink drawing by Lee R. Schmidlap, Jr.

Mammoths were among the large game hunted for food during the Paleoindian period.

Without a doubt, wild plants were also an important part of people's diets during the Paleoindian period. But because fragile plant remains do not preserve very well and therefore are rarely found at Paleoindian sites, it is difficult for archaeologists to know exactly which plants were used for food. It is likely, however, that wild greens, roots, tubers, seeds, nuts, and fruits were eaten. The specific plants would have varied from season to season and from region to region. And so, people of this period had to travel widely not only in pursuit of game but also to collect their fruits and vegetables. People who engage in this lifestyle, relying solely on wild animals and plants for their food, are called "hunter-gatherers."