The Facts and fictions of Rockshelter Function

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Rockshelters in North America were used by prehistoric peoples over a period of 11,000 years but the question often arises: What were prehistoric peoples using these sites for? The diversity of artifacts often found in rockshelters suggests they served other purposes than simply refuge from the elements. Given that these sites were embedded in cultural systems, however, their actual function is not always easy to reconstruct. In Eastern North America, several common assumptions about rockshelters have been held by many archeologists, including: who were using these sites (everyone except Early Paleoindians), when were these sites most heavily utilized (in the Late Woodland Period), and why were these sites being used (as hunting camps). These assumptions are often more heavily grounded in the biases of archaeologists than in solid archaeological evidence. A long-term study of rockshelters in eastcentral Ohio has called several of these common assumptions into question.

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