A major focus of archaeological field investigations over the past four decades in eastern North America has been the excavation of rockshelters. Many of the Southern highland rockshelters investigated during this period yielded evidence of initial occupations by Dalton horizon (10,500 to 10,000 B.P.) hunter-gatherers. Data concerning the Dalton components from a sample of 45 of these shelters are reviewed and discussed in order to identify variability in site functions and to address the question, Why were Dalton peoples the first North American hunter-gatherers to systematically inhabit rockshelters? Factors such as shifts in hunting patterns and mobility strategies appear to have been central to this development in early Holocene landscape utilization.