The Lower Platte River valley landscape is dotted with villages affiliated with the Central Plains Tradition—the term used by archaeologists to define the vast prehistoric Native American population that lived in Nebraska from A.D. 1000 to 1400. These people built and lived in permanent earth lodges, grew crops, and hunted a variety of wild animals. Their artifacts were beautifully crafted and included many tools, pottery vessels, and ornaments.
Today, these lodges are mere ruins, indicated by subtle changes in soil color and texture, with occasional charred posts, rafter sections, and other evidence. The inhabitants dug basement-like foundations one to three feet deep, above which they built a substantial timber framework. Large storage chambers were dug into the house floors. They were dug to store corn and other food, but when damaged by rodents or water seepage, were filled with trash.
What had been a successful adaptation apparently failed. Climatic deterioration and resource depletion led to the northward expansion of Central Plains people. Between A.D. 1300 and 1400, sites similar to those once in Nebraska appear in South Dakota. Conflict occurred between Central Plains Tradition people and tribes already inhabiting the Upper Missouri. By 1400 there is no archaeological evidence for Central Plains people. New groups moved in during the 1600s and 1700s ancestral to the Pawnee, Omaha, Ponca, and Oto.