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History of Cleveland

Early History

At the end of the last glacial period, which ended about 15,000 years ago at the southern edge of Lake Erie, there was a tundra landscape. It took about two and a half millennia to turn this wet and cold landscape dryer and warmer, so that caribou, moose, deer, wolves, bears and cougars were prevalent.

There was an early settlement in Medina County, dated between 9200 and 8850 BC Some tools consisted of flint from Indiana.

Increasing temperatures at about 7500 BC lead to a stable phase between 7000 and 4500 BC which had similar characteristics to today's climate. Population grew, and these members of the so called Early Archaic Culture lived in large families along the rivers and the shores of the lakes. During the warm seasons they met for hunting and gathering. The technology of tools improved but flint was still an important resource in that regard. Important archaeological sites are old Lake Abraham bog as well as sites on Big Creek, Cahoon, Mill und Tinker's Creek. There was a larger settlement where Hilliard Boulevard crosses the Rocky River.

Population density further increased during the Middle Archaic period (4500-2000 BC). Ground and polished stone tools and ornaments, and a variety of specialised chipped-stone notched points and knives, scrapers and drills were found on sites at Cuyahoga, Rocky River, Chippewa Creek, Tinker's and Griswold Creek.

The Late Archaic period (2000 to 500 BC) coincided with a much warmer climate than today. For the first time evidence for regionally specific territories occurs, as well as limited gardening of squash, which later became very important. A long distance trade of raw materials and finished artifacts with coastal areas, objects which were used in ceremonies and burials. The largest graveyard known is at the junction of the East and West branches of the Rocky River. Differences in status are revealed by the objects which accompanied the dead, like zoo- and anthropomorphic objects.

The following Early Woodland (500 BC-AD 100) and Middle Woodland (AD 100-700) is a period of increased ceremonial exchange and sophisticated rituals. Crude but elaborately decorated pottery appears. Squash becomes more important, maize occurs for ritual procedures. The first mounds were erected, buildings for which Ohio is world-famous. The mound at Eagle St. Cemetery belongs to the Adena culture. Further mounds were found in the east of Tinker's Creek. Horticulture becomes even more important, the same with maize. The huge mounds concentrate much more in southern Ohio, but they were also found in northern Summit County. One mound, south of Brecksville, contained a cache of trade goods within a 6-sided stone crypt. A smaller mound between Willowick and Eastlake contained several ceremonial spear points of chert from Illinois.

After AD 400 maize dominated. Mounds were built no more, but the number of different groups increased, with winter villages at the Cuyahoga, Rocky and Lower Chagrin Rivers. Small, circular houses contained one or two fire hearths and storage pits. During the spring, people lived in camps along the lakeshore ridges, along ponds and bogs, or headwaters of creeks, where they collected plants and fished.

Between AD 1000 and 1200 oval houses with single-post constructions dominated the summer villages, the emphasis on burial ceremony declined, but became more personal and consisted of ornaments, or personal tools.

From 1200 to 1600 Meso-American influence mediated by the Mississippian culture could be traced, in Cleveland in new ceramic and house styles, new crops (common beans), and the presence of materials traded from southern centres. At this time, there was an obvious difference in archaeological findings from the areas of Black River, Sandusky River and Lake Erie Islands westwards on the one hand and Greater Cleveland eastwards on the other.

This late Woodland or Mississippian culture is called Whittlesey Tradition (after Colonel Charles Whittlesey, who was the first to relate about these sites). The early Whittlesey Tradition (1200 t0 1350) reveals an equilibrium between hunters, fishers and gatherers. Three or four families lived in winter villages.

Between 1300 and 1500 agriculture became predominant, especially beans and new varieties of maize. Larger villages were inhabited in summer and fall. Small camps diminished and the villages became larger as well as the houses, which became rectangular. Some of the villages became real fortresses. During the later Whittlesey Tradition burial grounds were placed outside the villages, but still close to them. These villages were in use all year round.

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