Poverty Point

Poverty Point

:"This article is about the US National Monument in the lower Mississippi valley; for the geographical feature in Massachusetts also called Poverty Point, see" Fairhaven, Massachusetts.Infobox Protected area
name = Poverty Point National Monument
iucn_category = V

caption =
locator_x = 166
locator_y = 130
location = West Carroll Parish, Louisiana, USA
nearest_city = Epps, LA
lat_degrees = 32
lat_minutes = 38
lat_seconds = 12
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 91
long_minutes = 24
long_seconds = 41
long_direction = W
area = 911 (3.68 km²)
established = October 31, 1988
visitation_num =
visitation_year =
governing_body = State of Louisiana
National Park Service

Poverty Point ( _fr. Pointe de Pauvreté) is a prehistoric archeological site dating between 1650 – 700 BCE in northeastern Louisiana, convert|15.5|mi|km from the current Mississippi RiverMilner 44-50] on the edge of Maçon Ridge by the village of Epps. The site is named after the plantation on which was discovered in 1873, when it was believed to be a natural formation. It was not discovered to be man-made until the 1950s, when aerial photographs [http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/popo/hd_popo.htm Metropolitan Museum of Art – Timeline of Art History] ] revealed the complexity and complete pattern of the earthwork.

Earthwork's appearance

The site covers an area of roughly convert|400|acre|km2. [http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/ipvertypt.aspx Louisiana – Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism] ] In the center of the site, there is a set of “six curved earthen ridges” with flat corridors of earth separating the individual ridges. Dividing the ridges into three sections are two ramps that slope inwardly leading to Bayou Maçon. Each ridge is currently about a meter high, although it is believed that they were once five feet high. The approximated diameter of the outside ridge is three-quarters of a mile, while the innermost ridge’s diameter is about three-eights of a mile.

In the area surrounding the arches, there are five mounds. One is described as bird-shaped, another conical-shaped, and the remaining three are platform mounds. There is another known mound, located north of the main concentration of mounds, called the Motley Mound. There is another mound located south of center called Lower Jackson Mound, bringing the number of discovered mounds to seven. The bird mound is the largest of the mounds at convert|69|ft|m|abbr=on high. There is a ramp leading to the top of the mound’s elongated middle, giving it the shape of a bird with spread wings; this mound is located at the top of the midsection of the arches. The Motley Mound is of a similar form and rises convert|51|ft|m|abbr=on. The conical mound is circular and reaches a height of convert|24.5|ft|m|abbr=on. The three platform mounds are much smaller than the other mounds. Lower Jackson mound is believed to be the oldest of all the earthworks at the site.

Earthwork's creation

Construction of the mounds is estimated to have occurred over a period of about three hundred years. If this estimate is accurate, a hundred people could work a total of about 16 to 18 days during an average year on construction to produce the entirety of the earthworks found at the site. This estimate is based on research from observation of Mexican peasants, working a five-hour work day, moving a known total mass of soil excavated with digging sticks over a measured distance. This work indicates that at large labor force was not required to complete these mounds.

Activities at Late Archaic Poverty Point

Some in the archeological community believe that the site at Poverty Point was mostly used as a ceremonial center where people congregated at various times of the year, not as a city. Reasons that could have drawn individuals together during certain times of the year could be social or supernatural forces. Marriages, trade, kin ties and alliances were also all important reasons for gathering.

The act of building and the presence of the mounds themselves created an enhanced “sense of community”. There is evidence of “hearths, postmolds, and other features” found along the ridges, indicating the presence of people. Also found have been incredibly large volumes of clay balls used for the indirect heating of food, called "Poverty Point Objects," [Goad, Sharon. 1980 Excavations] . Their presence would indicate a high volume of on-site food production, thereby indicating a year-round population. Artifacts that have been recovered in archeological excavations from Poverty Point typically are imported items. There appears to be a disproportional amount of this imported material at the site, consisting of projectile points and microliths, that has been determined to have originated in the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains and in the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys.

There is also evidence of soapstone from the Appalachians of Alabama and Georgia. There are also copper and galena artifacts that indicate trade with the prehistoric copper producing region of the Great Lakes. Foreign artifacts in such large amounts could indicate that they were gifts used for ritual and social purposes by the gathering people. These gifts were left behind periodically, and over the several generations of people using the site, slowly accumulated into the hundreds of intricate artifacts discovered during archeological excavations. Their presence also indicates that the people at Poverty Point were in contact with a wide range of other groups.

The site today

The current site is a public park run by the state of Louisiana.

Tourist information

Currently the site is a park run by the state of Louisiana. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The cost of the entrance is $2 a person; seniors over the age of 62 and children 12 and under are free.

Recent history

“Poverty Point is the largest and most complex Late Archaic earthwork occupation and ceremonial site yet found in North America”. This is part of the Statement of Significance during June 13, 1962 for the placement of the site in the National Historic Landmark Program. [http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=263&ResourceType=Site • National Historic Landmarks Program] ] On October 31, 1988 Poverty Point National Monument was created by Congress, who expected the donation of the land for the National Park Service. The land, however, never exchanged ownership from Louisiana to the national government; despite this fact, the site is counted amongst the 391 units of the National Park System.


The site is occasionally monitored by the National Historic Landmark program, which is concerned about the erosion of the mounds. Louisiana is working with the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers to develop a plan for erosion control. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 13, 1962.cite web|url=http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=263&ResourceType=Site
title=Poverty Point|date=2008-06-24|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service

ee also

* Watson Brake
* Mound Builder
* Native Americans in the United States
* Archaic period in the Americas



* Milner, George R. (2004). "The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America" London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

External links

* The Archaeology Channel – Poverty Point Earthworks http://www.archaeologychannel.org/content/video/poverty.html
* National Park Service http://www.nps.gov/popo/

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Look at other dictionaries:

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