Woodland Period (1,000 BC – 1,640 A.D.)


The Woodland Period beginning about 3,000 years ago was the lifeway of the Native people when ‘discovered’ by the first European explorers. It was characterized by the development of pottery and first use of the bow and arrow, as well as hunting whales (which could have been possible since Archaic times, when clam and oyster resources became available).1 These villagers began to experiment with rudimentary forms of plant husbandry.

Some edible seed plants such as chenopodium (lambs quarters), polygonum (smartweed), phytolacca Americana (pokeweed), Cucurita pepo (gourd), Amaranthus (pigweed), and Helianthus annus (sunflower) were cultivated nearly two thousand years before the introduction of corn, beans and squash into North America.

Pottery appeared in the Northeast about 3,000 years ago. In 1927 archaeologist Foster Sayville excavated some vessels from this period in a site on Three Mile Harbor.

Sayville worked with a crew of local volunteers, including Roy Latham, a young farmer from Southold, and Selah Lester, an East Hampton carpenter. These two enthusiastic amateur archaeologists made a significant contribution over the years to our understanding of prehistoric peoples on Long Island. They were avid naturalists who devoted much of their leisure time to the study of local flora and fauna.

Woodland Period Culture

Horticulture including corn, beans and squash were developed during this time. Bows and Arrows began to be used primarily.



woodland-artifacts-from-william-ritchie-ny-state-educational Woodland Period (1,000 BC - 1,640 A.D.) Jeremy Dennis On This Site
Artifact Types of the Woodland Stage Culture. Image from William Ritchie’s NY State Educational Leaflet Series pp. 20


Few sites which can clearly be identified with this period have been scientifically excavated in the Town of East Hampton, but several have been identified and partially explored by local amateurs.

Local baymen have found sites when they worked on the bays harvesting shellfish.2


  1. Gaynell Stone, Transcript of Lecture on The Material History of the Montaukett, 1998, pp. 1[]
  2.   John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002[]