Essential Inventory

People make stuff, we learn stuff – we’ve always been good at it

16,000 years ago, everybody, everywhere lived as hunter-gatherers. But that doesn’t mean people were simple! They had deep knowledge and skills to thrive in their environments.

Flip through the cards below, and put yourself in their woven grass sandals!

Playing card with cartoon illustration of a Sharp Stick called a digging stick.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a Adze.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a Modified Flake.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a Curved Stone blade.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a Spear with sharp stone point.
Flakes from chert and other silica-rich stones can be very, very sharp. Flake edges can be quickly modified – which makes them useful tools for harvesting plants, slicing meat, scraping hide, and doing many other tasks.Play along! Click here to download printable cards and play A Year of Survival.

When Paleoindians first walked into Texas, they shared a lifestyle with every other person on the planet. It would be thousands and thousands of years before humanity would get around to inventing agriculture, forging metal, or even making pottery.

Being a meant having a deep understanding of the land, the animals, and the seasons. They had knowledge of how to craft the things they needed from natural materials. They knew which plants could fill their bellies and cure aches and pains. They were experts, and they needed this knowledge to survive.

Of course, there is more to life than just surviving! It is important to remember that ancient peoples played games, told stories, made music, and lived full lives with their friends and family.

(Not just) stone age

Stone tools “rock” at surviving the test of time ;)

But do their powers of preservation paint an uneven picture of Paleoindian peoples?

Watch the video to learn more.

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Two people holding a stone spear

Until recently, illustrations of Paleoindian life almost always featured guys with stone spears… and not much else. We need to remember that the earliest peoples made things that are far rarer than stone in the archeological record. Woven mats and sandals, bone tools, and ceremonial items have all been found in Texas sites, usually in caves where cool, dry air helps preserve these precious clues to the lives of Paleoindians.

What was for dinner?

Maybe something easy to get?

Paleoindians did hunt mammoths and other megafauna but not every day. Would you like to bust your hump hunting a dangerous animal, or would you just kick back and catch a fish?

Check out what was on the menu.

Playing card with cartoon illustration of a Turtle.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a rabbit.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a duck.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a deer.
Playing card with cartoon illustration of a pronghorn.
Ducks and other waterfowl migrated through Texas at certain times of year. Paleoindians would have learned their movement patterns and known when to expect these delicious, feathered friends.Play along! Click here to download printable cards and play A Year of Survival.

It’s fun to think about the skills and talent needed to take home a mammoth for dinner, but archeologists now know that people ate a lot of other things that were way easier to manage. How do we know what Paleoindians ate for dinner? Many different fields of study can help answer that question. Zooarcheologists study animal bones found in archeological sites. Paleoethnobotanists study charred seeds from campfires. Lithic analysts study tiny residue of animal blood and plant starches left on tools.

We know that Paleoindians hunted and trapped lots of different animals and ate plenty of plants. Although hunters are often depicted as men, women and children did their fair share of work to keep everybody fed. Animals like deer, rabbits, turtles, and fish would have been a reliable source of protein. Native Texas plants, like pecans, tubers, and wild onions, provided nutrition and flavor.

Life Lessons

Ancestors of Indigenous people were the first to learn the landscape

Their knowledge was important for surviving and thriving, and it has been passed down through generations. Today, those traditions are still around, often with a modern twist.

Hear from Native American people below about their favorite traditions.

Select a video

Native American became experts in selecting native plants for food and medicine. They knew the best season and location for harvesting specific plants or hunting their favorite game. They learned where to find the right kind of stone for tool making. And they learned to navigate from place to place, finding the best places to cross a river or a mountain. They passed this knowledge and deep relationship with the landscape down through the generations where it still flows today.

Paleo Pets

Our furry friends have a long history

Over 20,000 years ago, wolves and humans figured out that they could help each other survive. They joined forces, and the world’s oldest friendship began.

Sit, roll over, and test your doggy knowledge below!

True or False? Paleoindians domesticated North American wolves.
A cartoon North American wolf.
True or False? Dogs had jobs like helping people hunt and protecting camp.
A Native American and their wolf.
True or False? Ancient dogs spent time with their people.
A Native American watching the camp while their wolf sleeps.

When Paleoindians first came to the Americas, dogs were trotting along beside them. Bones and other artifacts discovered around ancient camp sites tell us a lot about man’s best friend. By studying DNA, we know that dogs and people were together long before they came to North America. In fact, Native Americans’ dogs were from a line of grey wolves in Scientists can trace their DNA back through generations to learn more about how dogs – and their friendships with people – changed over time.

Written in Stone

Stone tools tell a story – if you ask the right questions

When archeologists find stone tools, even broken pieces, they open a window into the past. They carefully document the artifact’s position and context and then study it in the lab.

Flip through these Paleoindian artifacts.

When collectors take stone tools, all this potential information is lost. Additionally, they may disturb a grave or other sacred spot. It’s very important to never dig or disturb a place where ancient Indigenous people lived.