Mystery in Lousiana - Poverty Point

Mystery in Lousiana - Poverty Point

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9 Indian Cave Petroglyphs

In Harrison County, West Virginia, a small cave was explored in the 19th century. Inside this cave are a number of incredible prehistoric petroglyphs. These petroglyphs portray a number of animals, including rattlesnakes and fish. Indian Cave is unique for its incredibly preserved state and has been described by archaeologists as &ldquovirtually unchanged.&rdquo Its petroglyphs are unique for their curious use of the color red, which can be seen on a number of the figures.

Archaeologists have determined the petroglyphs to be the work of early Native Americans but cannot identify which culture. Pottery found within the cave suggests that it was occupied sometime between AD 500 and 1675. Similar to other petroglyphs, the motivation for their creation is unclear.

Louisiana: Poverty Point National Monument

One of the larger mounds at Poverty Point. Together, most of the mounds form concentric semi-circles.

Courtesy of kniemla on Flickr

Poverty Point contains some of the largest prehistoric earthworks in North America that, like the pyramids of Egypt, were a massive building project involving the labor of many people. Located on more than 400 acres, the complex is a series of earthen mounds and ridges that overlook the Mississippi River flood plain in what is now northeastern Louisiana. A large, sophisticated society about which we know little constructed the impressive complex. Today, Poverty Point National Monument, operated by the State of Louisiana as a State park, records the technological and economic achievements of a bygone people.

Visitors have several options for exploring these mounds that people who lived in the area constructed from roughly 1650 to 700 BC. Poverty Point is a large mound complex—its builders manipulated approximately 1 million cubic yards of earth for the initial construction of the mounds. A guided tram tour through the site is offered at different times throughout the day. The tram tour provides the opportunity to visit one of the larger outer mounds of the complex, Mound A. Visitors may also explore the site on their own through self-guided tours. A museum offers an orientation and history of the site.

A hunter-gatherer society built Poverty Point, a massive network of artificially created ridges and mounds surrounding a plaza. Archeologists, including those at the on-site archeological laboratory at Poverty Point, continue to attempt to discover information about the society and the reason for the construction of the mound complex. Strategically located away from frequently flooded areas, Poverty Point is in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Here, the peoples of Poverty Point created not only the massive earthworks, but also an extensive trade network that stretched outwards for almost a thousand miles.

Relatively little is known about the Poverty Point society. Objects like clay cooking balls, spear points, and fishing tools found at the site give us some idea as to how the mound builders ate and lived. Because of the quality, diversity, and quantity of jewelry and other objects found at Poverty Point, some speculate that it may have been a capital for an entire ancient culture. The size of the complex and the number of objects are not what make Poverty Point remarkable, though. While research about the society that built Poverty Point continues, it is clear that those who moved the earth, basket by basket, were not sedentary peoples it is unusual that a mobile society of hunter-gatherers could build the complex system of mounds at Poverty Point.

The hunter-gatherer group that constructed Poverty Point was always on the move, looking for plants and animals. Not cultivating crops for support in between hunts, hunter-gatherer groups had to move frequently to access new food sources that a pre-agricultural society could perform such a building feat is remarkable. The construction of Poverty Point would have required work and residence in a fixed location. Given this, archeologists and anthropologists today continue to be puzzled over how such a loosely connected and constantly moving group of people could come together to fashion the complicated, planned mound complex at Poverty Point.

How long did they stay? How did they support themselves while building the mounds? Some of these questions have answers while others do not, as Poverty Point continues to be a mystery. Visitors can explore one of the most important mound complexes in North America, learn what is known, and ponder the mysteries and still unanswered questions about the site and the lives of the people responsible for Poverty Point.

Poverty Point National Monument (Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point) is a World Heritage Site, National Monument, and National Historic Landmark located at 6859 Highway 577, Pioneer LA. Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. For more information, visit the Louisiana State Parks Poverty Point World Heritage Site website or call 318-926-5492 or 1-888-926-5492, and also visit the National Park Service Poverty Point National Monument website.

In addition to guided tours, including a tram tour, the park offers visitors self-guided tours, a museum, and picnic areas. An online video, Poverty Point Earthworks: Evolutionary Milestones of the Americas is also available.

Mystery in Lousiana - Poverty Point - History

In the case of Poverty Point, in northeastern Louisiana, no one knows for sure. In some states, like Ohio, Native American people built mounds as burial places. Archaeologists suspect that the mounds at Poverty Point served as sites for dwellings, but they are not certain. Native American culture in the Poverty Point area began almost 4,000 years ago, and the mounds were built between 1750 and 1350 B.C.

The mounds are six giant half-circles in the shape of a bull's-eye, almost three-fourths of a mile wide. If you straightened out the six mounds and laid them out end-to-end, they would stretch for 7 miles. Archaeologists believe the 37-acre central plaza formed by the mounds may have been used for religious and other public ceremonies.

Although archaeologists have not found any articles of clothing from these ancient people, they have found jewelry. The great variety of this jewelry, from simple to elaborate, indicates that social status was important in the Poverty Point community. Overall, Poverty Point presents evidence that ancient Americans lived in sophisticated communities. Even so, this does not help to solve the mystery of exactly what these mounds were. Do you have any other ideas?
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The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point consist of a series of earthen ridges, earthen mounds, and a central plaza. The earthworks core of the site measures about 345 acres (140 ha), although archaeological investigations have shown that the total occupation area extended for more than three miles (5 km) along the Bayou Macon. [7] The earthworks include six concentric, C-shaped ridges that extend to the edge of the Macon Ridge and several mounds outside and inside of the earthen ridges. These concentric ridges are unique to Poverty Point. [8]

Six C-shaped ridges Edit

The main part of the monument is the six concentric C-shaped ridges. Each ridge is separated from the next by a swale or gulley. The ridges are divided by four aisles forming earthwork sectors. Three additional linear ridges or causeways connect earthen features in the southern half of the ridges. Today the ridges vary from 0.3 to 6 ft (10 –185 cm) in height relative to the adjacent swales. Archaeologists believe they were once higher in places, but have been worn down through roughly 150 years of agricultural plowing. The slightly rounded crest of each ridge varies from 50 – 80 ft (15–25 m) in width. The width of the intervening swales is 65 – 100 ft (20 – 30 m). The approximate diameter of the outside ridge is three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km), while the innermost ridge's diameter is about three-eighths of a mile (0.6 km). [9] The scale of the ridges is so massive that it wasn't until researchers examined aerial photographs that they were able to recognize the geometric design. Radiocarbon dates suggest that most of the ridges were constructed between 1600 and 1300 BC.

Plaza Edit

Enclosed by the innermost concentric ridge and the eastern edge of Macon Ridge is a large, 37.5-acre (17.4 ha), plaza. Although the plaza appears to be a naturally flat area, it has been modified extensively. In addition to filled gullies, archaeologists found that soil was added to raise the level of the ground surface in some areas by as much as 3.3 ft (1 m). In the 1970s, excavations revealed evidence of huge wooden posts in the western plaza. [10] Later geophysical survey identified several complex circular magnetic features, ranging from about 82 ft (25 m) to 206 ft (63 m) in diameter, in the southern half of the plaza. [11] Based on the geophysical data, archaeologists with the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Mississippi State University undertook targeted excavations of some of the circular magnetic features they found large post pits, indicating the magnetic circles were rings of wood posts. Radiocarbon dates from the post pit fill and from overlying features indicate the post circles were part of the landscape built by Native Americans, even as the earthworks were under construction.

Mound A Edit

The earthen mounds are the most visible earthworks at the site. The largest of these, Mound A, is 72 ft (22 m) tall at its highest point and about 705 x 660 ft (215 x 200 m) at its base. Mound A is located to the west of the ridges, and is roughly T-shaped when viewed from above. Some have interpreted Mound A as being in the shape of a bird or as an "Earth island" representing the cosmological center of the site. [7]

Researchers have learned that Mound A was constructed quickly, probably over a period of less than three months. [7] Prior to construction, the vegetation covering the area of Mound A was burned. According to radiocarbon analysis, this burning occurred between 1450 and 1250 BC. The prehistoric builders immediately covered the burnt area with a layer of silt, followed quickly by the main construction effort. There are no signs of construction phases or weathering of the mound fill even at microscopic levels, indicating that construction proceeded in a single massive effort over a short period. [7] In total volume, Mound A is made up of approximately 8,400,000 cubic feet (238,000 cubic meters) of fill, making it the second-largest earthen mound (by volume) in eastern North America. It is second in overall size to the later Mississippian-culture Monks Mound at Cahokia, built beginning about 950-1000 AD in present-day Illinois near the Mississippi River. [7]

Shallow borrow pits are located near Mound A. Presumably the Poverty Point people carried dirt from those borrow pits and from elsewhere on the site to build the mound. [12]

Mound B Edit

Mound B is located north and west of the six concentric ridges and 2050 ft (625 m) north of Mound A. The mound is roughly conical in form and is approximately 21 ft (6.5 m) in height with a 180 ft (55 m) basal diameter. Dating to sometime after 1700 BC, Mound B was the first earthwork built at Poverty Point. Built in several stages, charcoal, fire pits, and possible postmolds were found at various levels within the mound. The impressions of woven baskets were preserved in the fill of an upper level of the mound construction. The final stage of the mound construction was a conical silt loam lens that covered the entire mound surface. [13] During excavations in the mid-1950s, a human bone was reported within an ash lens at the base of the mound. At the time, this finding was reported as evidence of a cremation. [14] However, recent research failed to find any evidence of the ash lens. Researchers suggest instead the reported lens represents a fine gray silt common to E horizon soils on the Macon Ridge and often found beneath mounds. [15] The identification of the bone (reported as the proximal end of an infant's femur) has also been disputed and is not curated in any known collection from the site. [16]

Mound C Edit

Mound C is located inside the plaza area near the eastern edge of Macon Ridge. Mound C is 6.5 ft (2 m) in height, about 260 ft (80 m) long, and today is 80 ft (25 m) wide. The width is truncated by erosion along the eastern edge. There is a depression that divides the mound, which is thought to have been created by a 19th-century wagon road which proceeded northward to the old town of Floyd, Louisiana. Multiple radiocarbon dates for Mound C bracket the entire occupation of the site, but one radiocarbon test result from beneath the base of the mound suggests Mound C is one of the earliest constructions at the site. Mound C is composed of several thin layers of distinct soils with small amounts of accumulated debris, or midden, between them, indicating they were added over time. The uppermost level gave the mound its final dome shape. [17]

Mound D Edit

Mound D is a rectangular earthwork having a flat summit that today contains a historic cemetery associated with the Poverty Point Plantation. This mound is about 4 ft (1.2 m) tall and 100 x 130 ft (30 x 40 m) at its base and is situated on one of the concentric ridges. Several lines of evidence suggest that Mound D was built, at least in part, by the Coles Creek culture nearly 2000 years after the Poverty Point culture occupation of the site. First, Coles Creek culture ceramics were recovered near Mound D. Second, Coles Creek culture ceramics were recovered 40 cm below the ground surface near Mound D. [16] Third, optically stimulated luminescence analyses on soils beneath and within the mound, which determine the date the soils were last exposed to sunlight, are consistent with a Coles Creek culture mound constructed on top of a Poverty Point ridge. [18]

Mound E Edit

Mound E is sometimes referred to as the Ballcourt Mound. The Ballcourt designation comes from "two shallow depressions on its flattened top which reminded some archaeologists of playing areas in front of outdoor basketball goals, not because of any suggestion of actual activities at Poverty Point." [19]

Mound E is located 1330 ft (405 m) south of Mound A and is a rectangular flat-topped structure with rounded corners and a ramp extending from the northeast corner. Mound E is 13.4 ft (4 m) in height and 360 x 295 ft (110 x 90 m) at its base. [20] The profile of an excavation unit on the edge of Mound E revealed five construction stages that were corroborated by series of soil cores recovered across the mound surface. No features were recorded in the excavations and only a small number of artifacts were recovered. Several of the recovered artifacts were of nonlocal chert, such as novaculite, characteristic of the Poverty Point site raw material assemblage. [21] Until recently, dating of Mound E relied on a similarity with the construction of Mound B and their relatively similar soil development. [22] In 2017, a small piece of charcoal was recovered in a soil core taken from the base of the mound ramp. This charcoal, from the base of the mound, provided a radiocarbon date suggesting construction sometime after 1500 BC. [23]

Mound F Edit

A sixth mound was discovered at Poverty Point in 2013. Known as Mound F, it is located outside and to the northeast of the concentric ridges. Mound F is about 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and 80 x 100 ft (24 by 30 m) at its base. A radiocarbon date on charred wood from the mound base indicates it was built sometime after ca 1280 BC, making it the last Archaic mound added to Poverty Point. [24]

Lower Jackson and Motley mounds Edit

Approximately 1.8 miles (2.9 km) south of the Poverty Point site center is the Lower Jackson Mound (16WC10) a conical structure 10 ft (3 m) in height and 115 ft (35 m) in diameter at its base. For many years, archaeologists believed the Lower Jackson Mound was built during the same time as the Poverty Point site. [25] However, modern radiocarbon dates from the base of the Mound demonstrate that the Lower Jackson Mound was built ca. 3900 to 3600 BC which predates the Poverty Point earthworks by about 1500 years. Artifacts typical of the early date, such as baked loess blocks and Evans projectile points, were recovered near the mound. [26] Lower Jackson Mound is on the same north-south line as the later Poverty Point Mounds E, A, and B.

Approximately 1.2 miles (2.2 km) to the north of the Poverty Point earthworks is the Motley Mound (16WC7), which is 52 ft (16 m) in height with a base that measures 560 x 410 ft (170 x 125 m). Motley Mound has some similarity in form to Mound A, however, the cultural affiliation of this earthwork remains speculative. [27]

Construction Edit

Poverty Point was not constructed all at once. The final form appears to have been the product of successive generations over a considerable period of time. The exact sequence and timeframe of earthwork construction is not precisely known. Radiocarbon dating of the site has produced a wide variety of results, but recent syntheses suggest earthwork construction began as early as 1800 BC and continued until as late as 1200 BC. [28] [29] [30]

Archaeological excavations determined that prior to the construction of the earthworks, prehistoric workers leveled the land around the site and filled in gullies and other low places to create the flat central plaza and surfaces on which to build the mounds and ridges. The main building material was loess, a type of silt loam soil which is easy to dig but erodes when exposed to water. For this reason, clay may have been used to cap the loess constructions to protect the surfaces from erosion. [31] The earthworks were constructed by dumping basket loads of dirt in piles and then filling in the gaps between them. The baskets, depending on the size of the bearer, could hold between 30–50 lb (13.6–22.7 kg) of dirt, suggesting that men, women, and children participated in the construction. [32]

The number of individuals involved in the construction of Poverty Point is unknown, although archaeologist Jon L. Gibson provides multiple scenarios for how long it would have taken to build the earthwork depending on the number and intensity of individual efforts. For example, he estimated that the earthwork could have been produced in a century by three generations if one hundred individuals spent six or seven days a month on the construction project. Gibson also suggests that workers lived on-site during construction, possibly setting up temporary homes on top of the very earthworks that they were building. [33] Most archaeological excavations of the ridges at Poverty Point consist of small 3.3 ft × 3.3 ft (1 m × 1 m) units that cannot reveal the extent of an entire household. An exception is the 1980-1982 Louisiana State University excavations that explored a 16 ft × 98 ft (4.9 m × 29.9 m) trench placed on the Northwest Ridge 1. The trench excavation revealed multiple sequential levels of domestic activity over time. Archaeologists have interpreted this zone as possible evidence for more long-term habitation of the site. [34]

Changes in temperature, precipitation, and increased flooding, may have caused an ecological imbalance that led to the abandonment of Poverty Point. Archeologists use this change as a time boundary between the Archaic and later Woodland periods. [35]

Purposes Edit

Archaeologists have long-debated the functions of the Poverty Point site. One of the main questions has been whether it was used for a settlement or only for periodic events. Archaeologists postulate that houses were constructed on top of the concentric ridges. Postholes along with hearths and earth ovens have been found on the ridges, indicating the presence of buildings and associated activities. Other archaeologists believe that regular residence would have produced more postholes. Gibson and others note the postholes could have been destroyed by the historic plowing that took place on much of the site and also note the limited excavations that would reveal posthole patterns of houses. [36]

Archaeologists such as Sherwood Gagliano and Edwin Jackson support the interpretation that Poverty Point was a site where groups came to meet and trade on an occasional basis. [37] Gibson believes there is evidence of too much rubbish left by original inhabitants for only occasional habitation, and that it would be implausible to build for such a massive earthwork for use only as a trading center. [38]

Some archaeologists interpret Poverty Point as having religious symbolism and importance. Archaeologist William Haag, who excavated at the site in the 1970s, interpreted the aisles that divide the ridge sectors as having astronomical significance aligned to the solstices. Astronomer Robert Purrington believes the ridges at Poverty Point were geometrically, rather than astronomically, aligned. [39] Researchers have also studied historic and contemporary Native American religious beliefs for parallels. Gibson believes that the ridges were built with their arcs against the west to keep malevolent spirits of evil and death out of the complex. [40]

Poverty Point people Edit

The people of the Poverty Point culture who constructed the earthworks were hunter-fisher-gatherers rather than agriculturalists. They are an example of a complex hunter-gatherer society that constructed large-scale monuments. The vast majority of other prehistoric monuments, ranging from Stonehenge in England to Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt, were constructed by agricultural societies, in which crop surpluses allowed greater density of population and stratification of society.

The people who lived at Poverty Point were Native Americans, descendants of the immigrants who came to North America across the Bering Strait land bridge approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. The people identified with the Poverty Point culture developed a distinct set of cultural traits different from other contemporary inhabitants in the Lower Mississippi Valley. [41] Time, cultural change, and the lack of written records prevent researchers from identifying the people of Poverty Point as ancestors to any specific historic or modern tribe.

The food sources of the people at Poverty Point came from the local animals and plant life in the region. The Poverty Point people's food was acquired through fishing, gathering, and hunting. Poverty Point subsistence was broad-based due to the different seasonal foods that were available. Their diet consisted of large mammals like deer, small mammals like possum, various fish and turtles, mollusks, nuts, fruits, berries, and aquatic roots. [42]

Artifacts Edit

The vast majority of artifacts recovered at Poverty Point are small, baked shapes made of loess, found in a wide variety of forms and referred to as "Poverty Point Objects" or PPOs. [43] Except for unique specialized forms, archaeologists generally conclude the fired earth objects were used in cooking, based on the artifacts recovery context and supported by experimental archaeology. When placed in earth ovens, the objects were shown to hold heat and aid in cooking food. [44]

The inhabitants of Poverty Point produced small amounts of pottery, creating a variety of different types such as fiber-tempered, grog-tempered, and untempered with both the Wheeler and Old Floyd Tchefuncte design styles as decoration. [45] More commonly, however, they imported stone vessels made of steatite from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. [46]

Most of the Poverty Point tools appear to have been made on-site, as there is evidence of debris from their manufacturing process found across the ridges. [47] An analysis of artifacts recovered from the ridges demonstrates that individual ridges and sectors of the earthwork complex were used for specialized activities. For example, based on the analysis of projectile points and production debris, the north sector of the earthwork was the favored location for manufacturing tools and the South sectors were the location where the manufactured projectile points were used as tools. Beads, pendants and other lapidary items were recovered primarily in the West sector. However, clay figurines are evenly distributed throughout the ridge system. [43] Based on the analysis of artifacts recovered from successive strata of ridge construction, there are clear changes in artifact styles through time. For example, cylindrical grooved Poverty Point Objects are the earliest form of the artifact type produced and biconical forms occur later in time. [34]

There is no naturally occurring stone at Poverty Point. Based on the distant geological sources of different kinds of stone used to make lithic artifacts recovered at Poverty Point, archaeologists conclude that the inhabitants were active in trade with other Native Americans. For example, a disproportionate number of projectile points were made from raw materials naturally occurring in the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains and in the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys. Other materials derived from trade that included soapstone from the southern Appalachian Mountains of Alabama and Georgia, and galena from Missouri and Iowa. Archaeologists assumed that the presence of copper artifacts indicated trade with copper-producing tribes in the upper Great Lakes region. [48] However, modern scientific analyses demonstrate that at least some of the copper artifacts recovered from Poverty Point were made from materials available in the southern Appalachian Mountains where soapstone or steatite vessels at Poverty Point are also sourced. [49]

Discovery and archaeological excavation Edit

In the 1830s Jacob Walter, an American explorer searching for lead ore in the area, came across Poverty Point and wrote about it in his diary: [50]

On my arrival at the place of my destination, on bayou Mason at which place I had been informed lead ore had been found. But on examination I soon discovered how the lead ore came to this place. & with this discovery, all hope of finding a lead mine disapate [sic]. Instead of a lead mine, I found myself on the site of an old Indian town. The surface of the earth at this place, for several acres around, were strewed in grate profusion, with fragments of Indian crockery. & a large number clay made by the indians for edible purposes indicating the fact that the inhabitants who located the town were a tribe of clay eating indians. The clay balls (Poverty Point Objects) were the size of a green walnut & had been baked in fire. Thus disappointed in the discovery of a lead mine, I mounted my horse. I rode out to look & see what the country looked like in the vicinity of this old town site. I soon discovered a mound of colossal size (Mound A). The figure of the base of this superstructure was a rectangle twice as long as wide & about 1000 long by 500 broad & 150 feet in altitude with top or terrace, of 20 feet wide & 500 feet long .

The first published account of the site was in 1873 by Samuel Lockett, who served as an officer in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. During the early 20th century, archaeologists took an interest in the site. Poverty Point was investigated and described by Clarence B. Moore in 1913, by Gerard Fowke of the Smithsonian Institution in 1926, by Clarence H. Webb in 1935, and by Michael Beckman in 1946. [51] Three excavation seasons in 1952, 1953 and 1955 were undertaken by James A. Ford and Clarence Webb, leading to the publication of Poverty Point, a Late Archaic Site in Louisiana in 1956. [52]

Excavations have continued at the site into the 21st century. These research efforts include Sharon Goad's (1980–1982) excavation trench on Northwest Ridge 1, Jon Gibson's (1983–1995) excavations at numerous ridge locations across the site, Glen Greene's (1983–1992) research on soil development and cultural landscaping of the site, and other archaeologists conducting limited site research. In the early 2000s T.R. Kidder and Anthony Ortmann conducted research on various mounds at the site and completed a topographic survey of the Poverty Point site. Michael Hargrave and Berle Clay conducted a large area geophysical survey from 2006 to 2012, using magnetic gradiometry and resistivity to investigate the plaza and ridge system. Since 2006, Rinita Dalan has measured magnetic susceptibility of cores and downed cored holes to understand features identified by the gradiometer surveys as well as the construction of the ridges and plaza. The Louisiana Division of Archaeology established the Station Archaeology Program at Poverty Point in 1996 to oversee, coordinate, and conduct site research. The program remains active and has conducted numerous excavations at the site along with curating and analyzing collections from previous excavations at Poverty Point.

Public access and site maintenance Edit

In 1960, John Griffin, who at the time was the Southeast Regional Archaeologist for the National Park Service, suggested to the Federal government that Poverty Point be declared and established a National Monument. At first the United States Congress declined to support the protection, fearing the unpopularity of acquiring the land from local landowners, [53] but the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark on June 13, 1962.

In 1972, the State of Louisiana purchased a 400-acre (1.6 km 2 ) section of the site. In 1976, the state opened the site to the public as the Poverty Point State Commemorative Area. The state built a museum devoted to interpreting the earthworks and the artifacts uncovered there. [54] In 1988 Congress designated the site as a U.S. National Monument. [55]

Today Poverty Point National Monument is open for visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. [56] As the site is managed by the Louisiana Office of State Parks, a National Parks pass is not accepted for admission. Louisiana works with the Vicksburg U.S. Army Corps of Engineers division in developing plans for erosion control. [6]

In 2013, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, the ex officio head of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, requested $750,000 in emergency state funding to limit erosion at Poverty Point. The erosion which threatens the prehistoric earthworks is caused by Harlin Bayou in the northern part of the site. The funding was approved.

UNESCO World Heritage Site designation Edit

In January 2013, the United States Department of the Interior nominated Poverty Point for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. State Senator Francis C. Thompson of Delhi in Richland Parish said the matter is not "just a local or even state issue [but] of international importance. The prestige of having a World Heritage Site in our region and state would be of great significance both culturally and economically." [57]

Poverty Point National Monument

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Poverty Point National Monument, site of a prehistoric Native American city, located in northeastern Louisiana, U.S., about 50 miles (80 km) east of Monroe. Designated a national historic landmark in 1962 and authorized as a national monument in 1988, it is managed by the state of Louisiana as Poverty Point State Historic Site. It occupies 1.4 square miles (3.7 square km).

The monument contains some of the largest earthen mounds in North America. A city with a population of 4,000 to 5,000 flourished at Poverty Point from about 1700 to 700 bce . The central structure of the site is composed of six concentric earthen ridges arranged in a horseshoe shape. It is thought that the ridges may have been foundations for living areas. To the west of the ridges is Poverty Point Mound, a massive earthen effigy of a bird in flight that is 700 feet (210 metres) across and 70 feet (20 metres) high.

The preagricultural people that built the mounds were a highly sophisticated and well-adapted society. Tools and vessels fashioned from materials traced to places as distant as the Ohio River valley point to a well-developed trade network. Unique artifacts found at the site include thousands of hand-built clay “stones” that were used for convection cooking.

History of Twelfth Night in Louisiana

We all love king cake. Learn why it's part of the Twelfth Night tradition.

King cake is available at bakeries across Louisiana during Carnival season.

January 6 is an important date on the calendar in Louisiana, because it marks the official opening of “Carnival season,” the time when private Mardi Gras balls and street parades are staged. This date—called Twelfth Night, since it is twelve days after Christmas—is the feast of the Epiphany in the Catholic Church and marks the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. It is also known as Kings’ Day or Little Christmas.

The Church set this fixed date for the start of the festive Carnival season (from the feast before Ash Wednesday through the fasting of Lent), but kept a moveable one for the single day of Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday), which is 47 days before Easter. So Mardi Gras can be as early as February 3 or as late as March 9, making the Carnival season as short as 28 days or as long as 63 days.

Twelfth Night Events

While celebrations will look a lot different this year, several events are usually scheduled on January 6 in New Orleans, starting with a morning press conference and king cake party by the mayor at historic Gallier Hall, where Mardi Gras parades have been passing in review since the first one in 1857. Representatives of all 33 parades that roll in the city attend this event.

The St. Joan of Arc foot parade strolls through the French Quarter in the evening. Three streetcar parades roll on Twelfth Night, starting at 7 PM with the Phunny Phorty Phellows, the group that started the trolley tradition in 1991. They roll from the Willow Street Car Barn on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar. A new group, the Funky Uptown Krewe, which hops on its own streetcar at Jeannette and South Carrollton, follows them. At 7 PM the Society of Elysian Fields begins its ride on the St. Claude Avenue streetcar.

That evening after a parade on foot through the French Quarter, a private ball is presented at the Orpheum Theater by the city’s second-oldest Carnival organization, the Twelfth Night Revelers. Borrowing from a centuries-old European custom, the men roll out a giant cake and distribute slices to young ladies at the ball. The lucky young woman who receives the golden bean hidden inside the cake is declared queen the remaining women receive silver beans and serve as maids in her majesty’s court. Be sure to check in advance to see how events may be affected in 2021 - and make plans to return for an even bigger and better Mardi Gras celebration in 2021.

King Cake in History

In ancient times, tribes that survived the harshness of winter celebrated by baking a crown-shaped cake, using the preceding year’s wheat. Within the cake was placed a seed, bean or nut. Later, the Romans chose a king for their festivals by drawing lots. The Catholic Church linked these ancient customs to the Feast of the Epiphany in the 4th Century.

During the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Roi de la Feve (King of the Bean) was celebrated in both art and literature in Europe, and “Twelfth Cakes” were annually featured in England. Twelfth Night rituals took place in Creole homes in New Orleans when its French settlers brought the gateau des rois (king cake) custom with them. In 1870, the Twelfth Night Revelers formalized the Mardi Gras connection with its first parade and ball.

King Cake in Modern Times

With a small plastic baby doll tucked inside it today, the oval-shaped cinnamon dough brioche is covered in granulated sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green. Custom dictates that whoever receives the tiny favor buys the next cake or gives the next party. Traditionalists will not eat a slice of king cake before Twelfth Night. By the early 21st Century, more than one million king cakes were being consumed locally each year, with another 75,000 shipped out of state via overnight couriers.

New Orleans Voodoo

Synonymous with New Orleans, voodoo first came to Louisiana with enslaved West Africans, who merged their religious rituals and practices with those of the local Catholic population. New Orleans Voodoo is also known as Voodoo-Catholicism. It is a religion connected to nature, spirits and ancestors. Voodoo was bolstered when followers fleeing Haiti after the 1791 slave revolt moved to New Orleans and grew as many freed people of color made its practice an important part of their culture. Voodoo queens and kings were spiritual and political figures of power in 1800s New Orleans. 

The core belief of New Orleans Voodoo is that one God does not interfere in daily lives, but that spirits do. Connection with these spirits can be obtained through various rituals such as dance, music, chanting, and snakes.

Today gris-gris dolls, potions and talismans are still found in stores and homes throughout the city – a reminder of the New Orleans fascination with spirits, magic and mystery. Voodoo practices include readings, spiritual baths, prayer and personal ceremony. It is used to cure anxiety, addictions and feelings of depression or loneliness, as well as to help the poor, hungry and the sick.

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