Pre-Columbian Cultures

Paleoindians hunting a glyptodon
Illustration of Paleoindians hunting a Glyptodon by Heinrich Harder, circa 1916

Humans arrived in Illinois more than 12,000 years ago as glaciers retreated and the Ice Age came to an end. Numerous cultures thrived and declined over thousands of years before European explorers first made contact with Native Americans in Southern Illinois in 1673. We can learn about pre-Columbian ways of life by studying what people left behind. Artifacts like stone tools and landscape features such as burial mounds give clues to identity and the emergence of customs over time, helping archaeologists to reconstruct the ancient past.

Pre-Columbian Cultures