First Tennesseans: Trading Routes

DURATION: One session



The Woodland Indians are the third major prehistoric culture to live in Tennessee. This era in Tennessee lasted about 2,000 years from 1,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D.  The Woodland Indians had a very rich culture centered on new innovations in pottery, burial customs, agriculture, trade, hunting and warfare. They began to develop more complex societies.
There was a highly developed culture to the north of Tennessee called the Hopewell Indians. The Hopewell Indians developed vast trade networks across the continent. This allowed the Woodland Indians in Tennessee to access objects and materials from all over the country.

Guiding Question:

  • How did Tennesseans obtain artifacts made in other regions of the country?


  • Students will create a trade route map for the Woodland period.


  • Have students write a journal account from the perspective of a Woodland Indian about to embark on a trading mission. What kind of things would they bring to trade? How would they travel? How far do they need to go and how long will it take?


1.      Read about the trade routes developed during the Woodland period.
2.      Provide blank trade maps to students. (pdf) 
3.      Using the pictures posted on the website, have students match up artifacts found in Tennessee to the area of the country that the materials came from.
4.      Using the scale on the map, have students estimate the number of miles an artifact traveled before being found in Tennessee.


  • 4.1.01 Understand the diversity of human cultures.
  • a. Describe cultures of Native American tribes. 
  • 4.1.spi.1. identify pre-Colonial Native American groups (i.e., Cherokee, Creek,Chickasaw, Aztec, Mayans, Olmec, Mississippi Mound Builders).
  • 4.2.01b. Describe how Native Americans in Tennessee and the Western Hemisphere met their basic economic needs 
  • 4.2.02a. Explain the economic patterns of various early Native American groups in Tennessee and the Western Hemisphere. 
  • 3.01 Understand how to use maps, globes, and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process and report information from a spatial perspective.
  • 5.01 Identify the ancient civilizations of the Americas.
  • 4.5.01 Identify the ancient civilizations of the Americas.
  • a. Identify the ancient civilizations of the Americas at the time of European arrival. 
  • b. Explain the cultures of the Western Hemisphere's native peoples prior European contact