long have humans inhabited Western Pennsylvania? All around the
region are clues to the land's first human "tenants." Names
like Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio, Aliquippa, all find their origins
in Native American language.
migrants crossed the Bering Strait 20,000 years ago, they slowly
inhabited the continents of North and South America and became
the land's first human occupants. Scientific estimates suggest people
have been in this region for over twelve thousand years some
even say as long as eighteen thousand years.
Rock Shelter is one of the oldest inhabited places in the Americas.
Archeaologists believe, once this dig is excavated and analyzed,
that some parts of the shelter may date back as long ago as 20,000
Description of related video segments:
who roamed the land 12,000 years ago relied primarily on hunting and
gathering to survive. They knew nothing of farming, they had few tools,
they recognized only simple social units but they had language
and the mastery of fire. Gathering nuts, berries, roots, and hunting
and fishing for food demanded a nomadic lifestyle.
ago, the Indians developed canoes to travel the rivers, and developed
tools of wood and stone to help them hunt more effectively. The land
was densely forested and inhabited by bison, elk, deer, beaver, and
wild turkey, which were all hunted for food. Panthers, wolves, bear,
and mountain lions were their fellow hunters in the woods of western
ago an agricultural revolution took place when Indians learned to cultivate
corn (maize), allowing a steadier diet of plant foods and the establishment
of permanent villages. Smaller village hunting parties took over the
task of supplying meat, as, curiously, Native Americans never domesticated
animals except for dogs used for hunting. Corn, beans, and squash became
staples of the Indian diet, something to think about the next time you
eat one of these native New World vegetables!
By two thousand
years ago, they were living in villages and making pottery. Farming
had become intensive, and trade flourished between villages and even
Diagram, Susan Donley
Barkhouses were made by driving saplings into the ground, bending them into
a dome shape, and covering the dome with bark or mats woven out
American villages would often be situated on a hill and surrounded
by a stockade.
this era, Pennsylvania was networked with a web of "roads"
as intricate as today's system. They were not "roads" as we
know them today, or even "roads" as they were defined in the
17th and 18th centuries! These "roads" were a series of 18-inch-wide
footpaths, and Indians used them to travel between villages to trade
goods. All through the woods and along these paths, the precursor to
the modern-day "newspaper" existed in the form of messages
painted on trees in a simple picture language. These messages proclaimed
tales of battles and hunting excursions to alert and astound other travelers.
of burden, or knowledge of the wheel, however, all goods had to be carried
by humans along these footpaths. In Western Pennsylvania, the Indians
tapped the power of the rivers to lighten their load by perfecting canoes
hollowed out of logs (called "dug-outs") and boats made from
stretched animal skins and tree frames. With these and other advances
in daily life, the Indian population grew, town life developed, and
when white Europeans landed in America, they met the Indians with disastrous
effect. European diseases, to which the Indians had no resistance, decimated
the population. Their stone weapons were no match for European guns
, gunpowder, and horses. More subtle was the effect of the fur trade.
Desirous of metal tools, horses, and guns, Indians obliged the European
settlers' demand for furs but the result was a catastrophic depletion
of the region's game supply and dependence on white trade that would
forever alter the course of the Indian economy and way of life.
So, the original
inhabitants of western Pennsylvaniathe Monongahela peoplewere
wiped out by European diseases before they even met the people who imported
of this people in the early years of the 1600s left whole sections of
western Pennsylvania unpopulated by humans. Soon other tribes, especially
Delaware and Shawnee, who were pushed out of their eastern homes by
white settlers, moved into the area to take their place.