The Archaic families who periodically lived at Indian Knoll hunted a variety of animals, including deer. They gathered wild plants, such as hickory nuts; fished; and collected river mussels.
These people were mobile hunters and gatherers, who did not live in a single spot all year. Instead, they moved with the seasons. But their lives were not ones of aimless wandering. Families planned their moves carefully, drawing on their deep knowledge of the life cycles of local plants and animals and the locations of other natural resources they needed. The nearby mussel shoal may have drawn them to Indian Knoll initially. But other abundant food resources, such as turtles, deer, and nut-bearing trees, would have kept them at this spot for extended periods.
Archaeological analysis of the Indian Knoll skeletons revealed that, in general, Green River Valley Archaic hunter-gatherers were relatively healthy. Most experienced dental problems, however, due to badly worn teeth. Eating nuts, certain kinds of plants, and mussels may have helped wear-down their teeth. But it was more likely that processing foods as they did - with sandstone pestles and nutting stones - added substantial amounts of small angular grit particles to their foods. Over time, these grit particles wore-down their tooth enamel, exposing the pulp.
River mussels were an important part of their diet. Five thousand years ago, many different mussel species lived in the shallow shoal and riffle areas of the Green River. Mussels were a good, predictable, protein-rich source of food. They were abundant, easily gathered, and simple to prepare. Unlike many other foods, they could be harvested in any season.
Women and children collected shellfish in shallow waters at the river’s edge. Men, on the other hand, retrieved mussels by diving. Evidence that supports this gendered division of labor are the bony growths observed on men's inner ear bones. These sorts of growths only develop when a person's ears are repeatedly exposed to cold water. These growths suggest that the men dove deep to the river bottom to retrieve shellfish.