The Paleoindian peoples, as archeologists call them, entered the area of Arkansas in groups of less than 50 before settling in small communities. There, they found plentiful chert, or fine-grained quartz, from which to make sharpened points for hunting. You can see examples of these early tools at the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, the Parkin Archeological State Park and Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park near Scott .
In the Archaic Period, between approximately 9500 and 650 BC, the Native Americans in Arkansas adapted to the transforming, more fecund environment, which was warming after the “Ice Age” and producing more plentiful plant and animal life. They began forming larger communities and engaging in domesticating plants; nuts and plants became more important to their diets.
These peoples hunted Ice Age animals such as mastodons, and as extinction changed the fauna available, they pursued deer, elk and other smaller mammals for their meat and hides. The Dalton point, a sharpened stone affixed to the end of a stick sited in a hurling mechanism, proved an effective hunting tool. In addition, the Dalton culture at the Sloan site (near Crowley’s Ridge State Park but not open to visitors) has given archeologists the oldest example of a ceremonial burial ground in the Western Hemisphere.
By 600 BC, pottery was being used for cooking and storage of grain, nuts and seeds, and the bow and arrow became a widely used hunting tool by the end of the Hopewell era, around 500 AD. With further cultivation came a more stable village life, and the use of salt for preservation and for trade encouraged settlement in the saline springs of southwest Arkansas.
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park provides a stunning example of early mound-building practices among a native tribe known as the Plum Bayou Indians. Their use remains somewhat of a puzzle, but shows an alignment with solstice and equinox lines.
The Mississippi era, beginning around 900 AD, was characterized by further developments in farming and trade, with the Parkin site, now a state park, showing a settlement of several mounds and dozens of houses. Some scholars believe it to be the city of Casqui, identified in accounts from Hernando de Soto’s party.