Ohio was at one time 95% forest.
First humans in Ohio arrived at around 7000-6000 BC, at the same time that the glaciers were receding. Average lifespan of these ancient people was 25 to 30 years.
These early people, known as Paleo Indians were nomadic hunters and gatherers. They sustained on roots, berries, clams and some animals (buffalo, mammoth, rabbit, fox, beaver, wolf, badger, etc.). The term Paleo Indians typically refers to people who lived in North America between 9000 and 6000 BC.
The Meso Indians lived between 6000 and 1000 BC. They were the first non-traveling Indians. They are also known as Archaic Man or Shell Midden (because they were partially sustained by clams). They lived mostly on fish and clams, lived in villages and were between 5' and 5'6".
They had several early, civilized characteristics. They buried their dead and kept domesticated wolves as pets. Their buried their dead in shallow group graves which were typically about 2' deep and up to 28' in diameter. It is believed that they were mostly peaceful people who did not engage in war.
The Neo Indians lived from 1000 BC to 1650 AD. They are also know as the Mound Builders and there were two primary groups: Adena and Hopewell. The Adena lived from 1000 BC to 800 AD and the Hopewell lived from 300 BC to 800 AD.
The Neo Indians were the first farmers. They did not typically live in villages, but rather spread out from each other. Extended families tended to live together in large houses. They crafted clay pottery, smoked tobacco and wore jewelry made from copper.
The Adena were the first Indians in the Ohio are to build mounds. These mounds were large earthen structures built for various spiritual, burial and honorary reasons. The largest mound was built to honor one man, covered three acres and was 80 feet high.
The Hopewell Indians, unlike other Neo Indians, lived in clusters similar to villages. They were the first Indian group to use the bow and arrow as a hunting tool. The Hopewell were farmers who grew rice, corn, beans, turnips and other root foods.
The Hopewell were also mound builders. They also constructed Fort Ancient. Fort Ancient was a structure with 25' high, 40' thick walls. The walls were 3 ½ miles long and enclosed a 100-acre area. The walls contained 20 gates. Flat stone roads were used in and around the fort.
They also constructed the Newark Earth-Works, a series of geometric shaped mounds surrounding an eagle-shaped effigy mound. This is sometimes referred to as Mound City.
These people showed further evidence of civilization. They wove their clothing and had a barter based economy. There is evidence that they traded flint as far west as present day California! The Hopewell used flint for weapons and for starting fires.
Because of their relatively advanced civilization, they are sometimes called "the Greeks of Ohio."
The Cole Culture people lived from 800 to 1300 AD. Their villages extended from present day Akron to Dayton. They buried their dead in graves (as opposed to mounds), lived in circular homes, and grew corn, beans, squash and tobacco. They died out (unknown reason) around 1300.
The Fort Ancient Culture people lived from 1000 to 1650. They did build mounds, of sorts. Their mounds were more utilitarian than ornamental. They covered their dead with piles of dirt not constructed into any shape or form. They lived in the southern part of Ohio and migrated to Tennessee in the mid 1600s. There is some speculation that this group later became the Shawnee.
The Erie people lived from 1000 to 1650 in northern Ohio. These Indians called themselves Erie, they were not named that by whites like the previously mentioned groups. The Erie lived in single-family units, generally near rivers.
The Erie became involved in a war with the Iroquois nations (Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga and Seneca) between 1648 and 1654. The English and the Dutch who provided them with guns and other supplies aided the Iroquois. The Erie had no such aid and were forced to retreat to the islands of Lake Erie. They made one of their last stands on an island that would later be called Kelly's Island. They inscribed the history of their people on a large rock on the island. This rock is called Inscription Rock. The Erie were wiped out completely by the Iroquois.
Between 1654 and 1700 there was no known Indian civilization living in Ohio. This time is referred to as the "Long Silence."