Because they lived so close to nature, all Native American peoples from the Stone Age to the modern era knew that death from hunger, disease, or enemies was never far away.
The various death customs and beliefs, which first evolved during the invasions of Asians from Siberia to Alaska across a land bridge during the last Ice Age at least 12,000 years ago, gave them the means to cope with that experience.
The ancient mound-building Hopewell societies of the Upper Midwest, by contrast, placed the dead in lavishly furnished tombs.
Southeastern tribes practiced secondary bone burial. They dug up their corpses, cleansed the bones, and then reburied them.
Native Americans responded by changing their technology for hunting, placing smaller points on their spears and hunting smaller game as the large mammals disappeared and deciduous forest expanded to cover Virginia.
The Woodland label marks a distinctive evolution in Native American culture that evolved from internal reasons.
The cultural change probably was not triggered by a major shift in climate - in contrast to the change between Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods.
The Northeast Iroquois, before they formed the Five Nations Confederation in the seventeenth century, saved skeletons of the deceased for a final mass burial that included furs and ornaments for the dead spirits' use in the afterlife.
Northwest coastal tribes put their dead in mortuary cabins or canoes fastened to poles.