The lifestyle of Early Woodland people was probably much like that of their Archaic predecessors, supporting themselves to a great extent by hunting game and collecting wild plant foods. However, Early Woodland societies gradually began to plant seeds in the ground adjacent to their communities, thus providing themselves with a handy source of food rather than having to move to a location where the plants were growing wild. These earliest crops included seed-bearing plants such as sunflowers, goosefoot, and squash. This increased level of control over their food supply (plus the necessity of cultivating their crops during the growing season) allowed (or required) Early Woodland people to settle in one place for longer periods of time.
Although some Archaic cultures originated the techniques for making ceramics, Early Woodland people, with their more settled ways, found pottery vessels to be very efficient for storing and cooking food. Early Woodland potters often left the surfaces of their pots undecorated, although occasionally they ornamented their vessels with incised designs or roughened them with a stick wrapped with twine-like fiber cords.
The Adena people were a distinctive Early Woodland group located in central and southern Ohio and contiguous areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. These people frequently built conical earthen mounds over the graves of their deceased relatives. These mounds can range in size from only 2-3 feet in height to structures nearly 70 feet tall and 300 feet in diameter. The Adena people also occasionally constructed circular earthen enclosures several hundred feet in diameter. Often these enclosures have an opening or gateway on one side and a ditch following the interior edge of the earth wall. These sites were probably built and used as public gathering areas, perhaps for ceremonies or other special events.
The Adena culture is named for the large mound on Thomas Worthington's early 19th century estate called Adena in Chillicothe, Ohio.