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Early Humans

While many cultures​ have stories about how Key Ideas

the world began, scholars have also studied early human
history. They study when humans first arrived in Kansas and ● The first humans to arrive in Kansas
how they lived. These scientists are known as archeologists. lived during an ice age and hunted
Archeology​ is the study of past people and cultures through a big game.
careful examination of artifacts. Many early human cultures left
behind no written records to help us understand their lives. So, ● When the climate became warmer,
archeology helps us to understand human groups through humans adapted and created new
things discarded or left behind. People changed the land technology.
where they lived by using natural resources to build houses
and fire pits. They discarded broken tools and household items ● As farming spread, some groups
that were no longer needed. Archeologists use these artifacts settled down into permanent villages.
to piece together the stories of the past.
Key Terms
The Earliest People adapt
We have physical evidence that people have lived in archaeology
Kansas for thousands of years. Archeologists believe the atlatl
earliest people arrived in Kansas around 10,000 BCE. The barter
story of these early people is one of migration, adaptation, and currency
technological change. domesticate
Big Game Hunters migrate
Thousands of years ago, much of North America, including technology
some of Kansas, was covered in glaciers. Scientists call this
period of ice and cooler temperatures an ice age. The earliest
people to live in Kansas lived during this ice age.
Archaeologists call them the Big Game Hunters. They
migrated​, or moved, from the north when the glaciers pushed
Their world was very different from what you know today.
The land was covered with different more diverse plant and
animal life. The Big Game Hunters take their name from the
animals they killed for food, such as mammoths, mastodons, Early people in Kansas used an atlatl
and giant bison. They roamed the land in search of food, for hunting. ​How might this device
rather than living in one place all year. Many used a weapon be an improvement over spear
called an ​atlatl​ ​for hunting. This was a throwing stick used to alone?
propel darts and spears.

Many Questions Remain Adapting to Warmth
There are many mysteries surrounding the Big Eventually, the ice age ended and the climate
Game Hunters. We do not know what they called began to change. These were not small changes like
themselves or what language they spoke. we see from season to season, but big, life-altering
Archaeologists know they hunted large animals changes. These changes also did not happen
because of the hunting tools found with ancient overnight. It took thousands of years for the climate to
mammoth and bison remains. Other than these become hotter and drier. The seasons became more
artifacts, there is very little evidence of how these like what we experience today, with hot summers and
people lived. It is thought that people lived and cold winters. This change was very hard on plants
traveled in small family units, but we do not know for and animals. Some, like the mammoth, were unable
sure. to ​adapt,​ or change their behavior to survive, and
One interesting thing that we do know is that these became extinct.
early people ​domesticated​ ​dogs. This means that
they trained dogs to need and want to be around This illustration imagine what the end to a successful hunt
humans. Dogs were important work animals for the for the Big Game Hunters might have looked like. ​Besides
early people, and also provided protection. providing much-needed food, why might such an event
be so important during this time period?

Human Changes
This chain of events also affected humans. They
depend on plants and animals for food, but many of
their food sources were dying. Humans had to adapt
to survive in this new climate.
The climate change was slow enough that people
had time to alter their patterns of living. They adapted
their skills at hunting and gathering to new plants and
animals. People hunted animals that were similar to
those we know today, including buffalo, elk, and deer.
People ate grains, fruit, nuts, and seeds.

Creating New Technology

Today, when we think of technology, computers,
cell phones, and other electronic gadgets probably
come to mind. Maybe you think of science fiction
movies with spaceships and robots. In reality, though,
technology is much more common than we think.
Technology​ is anything that is used to make a job Archaeologists reconstructed this vessel from pieces found at
easier or solve a problem. an Indian village site in Ottawa County. ​What kinds of
information might scholars learn from an artifact like this?
How do people get new technology? Sometimes
we invent new ways of doing things, either, by
accident or on purpose. Sometimes new ideas come Pottery vessels improved food storage and
from other places in the world, and technology changed cooking methods. Keeping food in pots
improves that way. As time went on, people living in helped it last longer without rotting. The bow and
Kansas received new ideas from other groups of arrow became a common hunting weapon. The bow
people living to the east. Some of the new things and arrow was an improvement over the atlatl.
were pottery vessels and the bow and arrow. Smaller arrows traveled farther and the bow provided
more force.

Early people crossed landscapes like this one in western Kansas in search of food.

Once these wild plants started growing,
How Do We Know This? humans could then collect and harvest the
plants. Over thousands of years, humans
No written records exist to tell us about the people who began to bury seeds and water them on
lived in Kansas before the 1500s. How, then, do we know purpose. This process would have taken a
about them? Archaeologists established dates and long time, but it led to the eventual
develop sequences for the artifacts they study. development of agriculture.
There are two ways to place artifacts in chronological As people began cultivating plants, their
order. ​Relative dating​ can order things in relation to other lifestyle saw major changes. In addition to
things. When archaeologists investigate a site, they gathering wild foods, people began to grow
carefully record the location of what they find. This helps food year after year to provide for a steady
to establish the timeline of events. If a site is undisturbed, diet. They began settling in one location,
the artifacts found closer to the surface are the youngest. rather than traveling with the seasons. When
The deeper an archeologist digs, the older artifacts are. humans domesticated animals like sheep and
​Absolute dating​ is done through scientific study of the cattle, they had a regular source of meat and
actual artifact. Archaeologists often use a method called fur for clothing.
carbon dating to learn the approximate year for an item Better hunting tools and the ability to
that is made of organic materials. grow crops meant that fewer people went
Taken together, all this information gives us a picture hungry. With these new technologies, the
of what life might have been like. Archaeologists must population in Kansas began to grow.
study the relationship between the artifacts and ​infer​ their
meaning to construct what may have taken place many
Creating Villages
Over time, many different cultures ca to
live in Kansas. Around 800 years ago, some
of these groups began to settle into
permanent villages. Located on bluffs, the
villages overlooked rivers and streams.
These villages included two to 20 structures.
Evidence suggests that houses were built
with poles buried in the ground. The homes
appear to have been covered with thatched
grasses and plastered over with class.
Because these homes would have been
difficult to move, scientists think the
Archaeologists experiment with how the Wichita might have structures were permanent rather than
lived hundreds of years ago. This student is demonstrating how mobile.
a scapula hoe might have been used. ​What do you think the
Wichita used to create this artifact?
Farming Spreads
​The Importance of Agriculture Another indication that the villages were
Perhaps the most important technology people in permanent is the cultivation of corn, beans,
Kansas developed was agriculture. More than any other squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers. These
invention, agriculture changed the way humans in Kansas crops, along with wild plants, buffalo, and
and around the world lived. Some scholars even refer to this fish, made for a diverse diet. People began
discovery as the agricultural revolution. to make new tools, like digging sticks, from
How did agriculture start? While we can never know for stone, bone, shell, and wood to help with
sure, scientists believe that as people collected certain cultivation.
plants again and again, the seeds probably began to grow Some early people appear to have been
near their homes. This could happen because a collector highly successful. Evidence of storage pits
dropped a few seeds every day over a long period of time. indicates a large amount of food that was
stored or saved, which is a sign of success

There is also evidence of trash or items
being discarded. People only throw things TIMEOUT 
out if they can replace them. We also find FOR
indications of trade among people. That is
one explanation of why shells from the Gulf ECONOMICS 
of Mexico are found in Kansas.
Where is the Money?
When you purchase something today, you use money to
pay for it. Both the buyer and the seller know the value of the
currency you use and the value of the item. (​Currency
means something that is widely accepted and exchanged
throughout the region.) Our culture depends on a system of
money to keep our economy stable from day to day.
When archaeologists study sites where American Indians
lived many years ago, one thing they do not find is money.
They find items that came from far away, such as pieces of
stone from the volcanic mountains of the Northwest. What
does that means?
We can infer that the early people of Kansas traded with
other groups of people to get these items. For such a trade
to work, both groups must agree on the value of the items
being traded. They might discuss this value until both sides
agree, and then the items are exchanged. This type of trade
This picture shows a woman gardening is called ​barter.​ No money is exchanged, and the value of
using a hoe made from the shoulder blade items might change from one encounter to the next.
​ ow might this tool be
of a bison. H The economy of early tribes relied on bartering. Tribes
different from the ones we have today. traded with other tribes. When French traders came to
Kansas, they knew the native people were experienced in
bartering. Indians traded furs for French items of metal and
glass. In successful barter systems, the two groups meet the
wants and needs of each other.

LESSON 1 Review
Check Your Understanding
Know Analyze Synthesize
1. How did people adapt to the 5. ​Why do we not know more about ​ ow did environment play a
8. H
major climate change? the earliest people of Kansas? role in the lives of early people?

2. Name at least two technological 6. ​Explain the difference between ​ ow did farming change the
9. H
changes that led to an increased relative dating and absolute lives of early humans?
population. dating.
10. ​What new technology or
3. What evidence do we have that 7. ​How did the American Indians change has most impacted
the village farmers lived in use a system of barter? your life?
permanent villages?

4. What do archaeologists mean

when they say they “infer