American Indians entered the region south of the Great Lakes nearly 10,000 years ago. Some early sites along the Wabash have been preserved and investigated extensively by archaeological teams over the last 75 years. The people that we know the most about were cultures that established permanent locations along the Wabash and its tributaries. Researchers who want to get to know these cultures can form opinions based on a variety of evidence based in archaeology and later, the historical record.
The timeline for cultures in the region of the native american jackets Wabash starts with the Paleo period which extends as far back perhaps as 27,000 BP (Before present) to 8,000 BC. – these were the earliest human inhabitants of North America up to the end of the last glaciation period. Archaic is the next period classification extending from roughly 8,000 to 1,000 BC. During this period, agriculture began and these people domesticated a large number of crops and lived in semi-permanent villages living as much by farming as by hunting. The next period has been classified as the Woodland period from about 1,000 BC to 1600 A.D. This is a period of significant change when pottery making was established. These people, in general, had more settled lives and dependency on agriculture grew tremendously. They began to build small mounds for burial purposes. In the southeast and in the region of the Wabash a culture known as Mississippian developed. Mississippian Mound Builders extended their culture into the Wabash/Ohio Valley from roughly 900 AD to 1400 AD. These folks existed in large complex communities including Angel Mounds just east of present day Evansville.
It is generally believed that a form of chiefdom operated within the Mississippian period. These chiefdoms, operating out of temple mound complexes, apparently controlled specific territories usually associated with a defined floodplain environment. Chiefs were responsible for the redistribution of food between outlying communities and the home community. Whether these chiefs were able to control exchanges of goods within their territory and with other chiefdoms, employ full-time artisans and specialists, or function as both the religious and political head, are questions requiring more research. Caborn-Welborn phase in the history of the Wabash was a culture primarily in the area near Hovey Lake west of Evansville. These people came out of the decline of the Angel Mounds site and traded or interacted with late prehistoric populations to the north and northwest which scientists call Oneota and south and southeast in the central Mississippi valley and eastern Tennessee. The native people who lived in this region, located their communities –hamlets and villages along a 40-mile stretch of the Ohio just east of the juncture with the Wabash. The Vincennes Phase was another Mississippian cultural site nearly 100 acres in size and had about 12 platform mounds in Illinois. The Merom Site in Sullivan County, Indiana, located on a 5-acre bluff above the Wabash is perhaps connected to this culture dating around 1200 AD. It was enclosed on two sides by stone and earthen walls and on the west by deep natural ravines leading to the Wabash River.