Pre-1700s | Kentucky Timeline
180 Million years ago, during the Mesozoic Era, “The Breaks” in an area now lying across Kentucky and Virginia, a vast inland sea receded, leaving in its wake a veritable cradle of botany. Meanwhile the river that is now Russell Fork got about the work of carving out an immense, spectacular gorge, renowned as the largest east of the Mississippi.
12,000 – 8,000 B.C., the first Native Americans to call Kentucky home, the Paleoindians, moved into Kentucky. The Clovis people were the very first Paleoindians. Clovis people settled first in Western Kentucky in areas that bordered major rivers. Over time, as population increased, bands moved eastward into new territories. Clovis people settled last in the Eastern Kentucky Mountains. By 8,000 years ago at the start of the Archaic Period, people were living all across Kentucky, their permanent home.
8,000 – 1,000 B.C., like their Paleoindian ancestors, Archaic peoples were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Archaic peoples hunted white-tailed deer, small animals, birds, and fish, rather than mastodons. Their diet also included hickory nuts, fruit, and seeds. Toward the end of the Archaic period, people began to experiment with growing their own plant foods. Archaic peoples camped in the open near streams and lived in rock shelters. Home territories were smaller than in Paleoindian times and sometimes overlapped. Long distance exchange began toward the end of the Archaic Period in some Kentucky regions. Groups traded ornaments made from marine shell, copper, or nonlocal stone.
500 B.C. – 200 A.D., the Adena people lived in small camps, often on terraces by streams or on ridge tops, and rock shelters. They moved within their home territories to best make use of seasonal wildlife and plants. They did not always return to their campsites year after year. Their homes would have been small, around 200 square feet, and most of their daily activities would have taken place outside.
1000, was the Woodland Period which included the Adena and Hopewell cultures , a people who built mounds for complex burial and ceremonial rituals. The Adena lived in a variety of locations, including: Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Although the first use of coal in Kentucky is unknown, Hopi People, living in what is now Arizona, are known to have used coal to bake pottery made from clay more than 1,000 years ago.
900 – 1750, a time of the Fort Ancient Society where humans began to be hunter-gatherer-farmers. They lived in villages of small scatters of houses. But by A.D. 1200, villages were larger with between 90 and 180 inhabitants. They arranged rectangular houses in a circle around a central plaza. Storage pits and outdoor working areas were located near each house. The plaza was the center of trading and ceremonial life. Villages became larger after A.D. 1400, and circular villages became uncommon. These larger villages housed 250-500 people.
1540, the earliest known contact with Europeans occurred when a party of Cherokee warriors successfully defended their northwestern border against the advances of Hernando DeSoto and his Spanish soldiers. They forced the Spanish to retreat from Kentucky to the north side of the Ohio River at present-day Fort Massac, Illinois.
The 1557 Portuguese narrative of DeSoto’s expedition claims the word Cherokee comes from the written as chalaque. It is derived from the Choctaw word, choluk, which means cave. Mohawk call the Cherokee oyata’ge’ronoñ, which means people who live in caves or in the cave country. In Catawba, the Cherokee are called mañterañ, which translates as the people who come out of the ground. Kentucky is a land of caves and home to the longest cave in the world.