The people inhabiting the region around southwestern Ontario and Wilmot Township have evidenced a series of subsequent groups that are defined as “Periods”. The periods describe when the lifeways or ‘cultural’ periods changed. The lifeways are identified as culture (language, religion, dress), social organization and subsistence methods. A ‘period’ is the time defined as having similar features or conditions. These ‘periods’ often overlapped as the ‘lifeways’ transitioned into another.

Pre-Paleoindian Period: 17,000 – 12,000 B.C.

The Pre-Paleoindian Period refers to Native American occupations of the New World that date to the time before Paleoindian or Clovis. Although somewhat controversial, evidence is mounting that humans occupied the Americas earlier than previously thought.

Paleo/Covis People Period: 12,000 – 8,000 B.C.

The Paleoindian Period refers to the time period when people migrated to the North American continent. People during this period were nomadic hunter-gatherers who subsisted on foods obtained from the wilds, from foraging and hunting species that are not domesticated. hunting-and-gathering peoples tend to live in social groups that consisted of between 20 to 60 people, were relatively non-hierarchical and politically egalitarian. Early evidence of these peoples includes “Clovis” points, which are long, fluted chipped stone projectile points. In South Carolina, an example of an early Paleoindian site is the Allendale Paleoindian Site (Topper site).

Archaic People Period: 8,000 – 3,000 B.C.

The Archaic Period begins as the environments changed to resemble modern environments. This period is characterized as a mobile gathering-and-hunting life and a mostly egalitarian social organization. Important Archaic cultural developments included the use of notched and stemmed projectile points, the atlatl, containers of stone and pottery, and ground and polished stone artifacts. During this period, the first inland shell middens were constructed and long-distance trade was established. In South Carolina, an example of an Archaic Period site is the Spanish Sea Pines Mount.

Woodland People Period: 3,000 BC – 1,000 A.D.

The Woodland Period is characterized by increasing horticultural expertise, use of ceramics, and increasing sedentism and social complexity, when compared to the previous Archaic period. Pottery technology improved allowing containers to be made in a variety of shapes and sizes for cooking, storing and serving food. A Woodland Period assemblage would include textile marked, check and complicated stamped pottery and triangular points. Mound building flourished and the first coastal shell middens and rings were constructed.

Mississippian People Period: 1,000 – 1520 A.D.

The Mississippian Period is characterized by peoples who practiced maize agriculture, lived in chiefdoms, had populous villages and zones of dispersed housing, and constructed earthen mounds in some of their villages. A Woodland Period assemblage would include complicated stamped, incised & burnished pottery. An example of a Mississippian Period site is the Green’s Shell Enclosure Heritage Preserve.

Exploratory Period: 1520 – 1670 A.D.

The Exploratory period begins with the arrival of Europeans. At that time, the area was the home of numerous Native American groups, some of which were related, and others who spoke mutually unintelligible languages. The first Europeans to make contact in South Carolina were the Spanish in 1526. Santa Elena became the capital of La Florida and was part of the mission concept meant to bring the native population under their control. The French made contact around 1562 and established Charlesfort on present-day Parris Island, but it was soon abandoned. A result of early exploration and settlement attempts was a severe reduction in Native American populations from the introduction of European and African diseases. The archaeology of early exploration and settlement reveal the incorporation of Spanish items into Native American material culture and Native American sociopolitical reorganization.

Historic Period: 1670 – present

The Historic Period begins with colonization by the British in the late 1600s. Trading posts, such as Ninety-Six were, established to trade deer skins. The English Colonial economy thrived on the deerskin trade and slave-labour plantations. Tensions between colonists and Native Americans led to the Yamasee War and between 1715 and 1717, various tribes from the southeast such as the Cherokee and Pee Dee, attacked colonial settlements in South Carolina in an effort to force the colonists to leave. The key archaeological features of this period are a severe reduction in Native American materials replaced with industrial mass-produced European-American materials, English trade items, firearms, and glass beads. Unable to resist the encroachment of white settlers demanding land, many Native American tribes were forced to migrate to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma); however, the Catawba were granted a reservation in 1763 and remain in the state to this day.