The Red Ocher people were an indigenous people of North America. A series of archaeological sites located in the Upper Great Lakes, the Greater Illinois River Valley, and the Ohio River Valley in the American Midwest have been discovered to be a Red Ocher burial complex, dating from 1000 BC to 400 BC, the Terminal Archaic – Early Woodland period. Characterized as shallow burials located in sandy ridges along river valleys, covered in red ochre or hydrated iron oxide (FeH3O), they contain diagnostic artifacts that include caches of flint points, turkey-tails, and various forms of worked copper. Turkey-tails are large flint blades of a distinct type. It is believed that Red Ocher people spoke an ancestral form of the Algonquian languages.
Red ochre has a long history of use in North America; as early as the Folsom tradition during the Paleo-Indian period, certain localities in New Mexico and Wyoming were being mined for the substance. The people today known as Red Ocher were first identified by the University of Chicago in 1937. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Red Ocher Culture was a topic of great interest among archaeologists who were trying to better define the burial culture through various methods of research. Since then intermittent archaeological works have been published dealing with specific sub-topics within the burial culture and supported by more reliable AMS carbon dates. Nevertheless, many important archaeological questions regarding the Red Ocher burial manifestation and cultural phenomenon are still without answers.
- Cole, Fay-Cooper, and Deuel, Thorne. 1937. Rediscovering Illinois. University of Chicago Press.
- Ritzenthaler, Robert, E. and Quimby, George, I. 1962. "The Red Ocher Culture of the Upper Great Lakes And Adjacent Areas". Fieldiana Anthropology 36:11. Chicago Natural History Museum.
- Tankersley, Kenneth B., et al. "They Have a Rock That Bleeds: Sunrise Red Ochre and Its Early Paleoindian Occurrence at the Hell Gap Site". Plains Anthropologist 40.152 (1995): 185-194: 187.
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