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Archaeological Time Periods in Maine

Abbe : Research : Archaeology : Maine Archaeological Timeline
The Contact Period

Pictured: Shell beads, mouth harp, flint and lead shot

250-500 Years Ago

The Contact Period

The Wabanaki were among the first Native people to be affected by contact with Europeans. By the late 1500s, European fishermen and explorers began visiting Maine's shores. They exchanged ideas, technology and material objects with Native residents. Native people traded beaver pelts and other animal furs that were especially valued by Europeans. They shared their knowledge of the landscape, plants and animals, as well as their technologies, without which Europeans would have had more difficulties adapting to the New World.








The Ceramic Period

Pictured: Ceramic pot, bone
harpoon and side-notched point

500-3,000 Years Ago

The Ceramic Period

The introduction of pottery making into the archaeological record around 3,000 years ago marks the beginning of the time period archaeologists call the Ceramic Period. Ceramic Period sites are the most abundant in Maine, reflecting increased populations and expansion of territories. Coastal sites are especially common, where people collected shellfish and seasonally abundant plant foods, fished and hunted.









The Archaic Period

Pictured: Gouge, axe, stemmed points and plummet

3,000-9,500 Years Ago

The Archaic Period

Between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago, climatic warming had transformed Ice Age Maine into a northern forest environment of mixed hardwoods and softwoods. Melting and runoff from glaciers created the great rivers of the state and Native people used them as highways between the interior and coast. They fished, hunted and gathered along the waterways.


People adapted to living in a forested environment. Archaeologists identify this period by the introduction and prominence of ground stone tool tools such as gouges, celts, axes, slate points, bayonets and rods. These tools were part of the toolkit of Native people living in and harvesting resources from the forests, rivers and sea.


Who Where the Red Paint People?



The Paleoindian Period

Pictured: Fluted point, non-fluted
point and small fluted point

9,500-13,000? Years Ago

Paleoindian Period

The Paleoindian tradition refers to the earliest archaeological evidence for people in the Northeast following the end of the Ice Age. People inhabited a mixed tundra-woodland environment, following the retreat of massive glaciers that had covered Maine and extended south to Cape Cod. Elsewhere in North America, Paleoindian hunting weapons have been found with the remains of extinct Ice Age animals such as mammoth, mastodon and giant bison.


The Paleoindian toolkit included finely chipped spear points, scrapers for preparing hides and working wood, and gravers for incising bone and wood. Skilled flintknappers made fluted points from colorful, fine-grained rocks that were carried great distances from their sources to the sites where the tools are found. These fluted points are the hallmark of the Paleoindian tradition.











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