Poverty Point


In a rural part of northeast Louisiana, approximately 25 miles from Lake Providence (near the small town of Epps) stands the largest and most important earthworks in the Western Hemisphere. The Poverty Point mounds were built in 1500 B.C., which pre-dates the Parthenon in Greece, the Great Wall of China, and the Colosseum in Rome.  The earthworks are situated on Bayou Macon (pronounced 'mason'), which separates East and West Carroll Parishes.

 

The Native Americans used the Bayou as a means of transportation. They were also able to ship in supplies and sell their goods to other parts of the territory. The inhabitants of Poverty Point used the natural resources that were plentiful in the Mississippi floodplain. Their culture is considered a pre-agricultural society, but the amount of man power and the thousands of hours of work that it took to construct the earthworks suggests a highly evolved society, living and surviving together. The earthworks were built by the Poverty Point people, digging and carrying thousands of loads of dirt by hand in woven baskets.

Poverty Point's "central construction consists of six rows of concentric ridges, which at one time were five feet high. The five aisles and six sections of ridges form a partial octagon. (Two of the aisles correspond with the summer and winter solstice sunsets.) The diameter of the outermost ridges measures three-quarters of a mile. It is thought that these ridges served as foundations for dwellings although little evidence of structures has been found. However, features and midden deposits uncovered during excavations support this theory. Earthen mounds were also built on the site. Immediately to the west of the concentric ridges lies Poverty Point Mound, a spectacular bird shaped mound measuring about 700 by 640 feet at its base and rising 70 feet. To the north is Mound "B," a 20 feet high conical mound, which was constructed over a bed of ash and burnt bone fragments." --Quoted directly from the Poverty Point State Historic Site brochure from the Office of State Parks

During excavations, hundreds of personal articles were recovered. Bird effigies, stone tools, spears, and gems that are not native to Louisiana have been found, along with hundreds of round, clay balls. Historians believe that these clay balls were used for cooking. The balls were heated in a fire and then placed in a pit, which created an oven for cooking meat and other foods.

Today, Poverty Point is a popular tourist attraction and a site for archeological study. It is located southwest of Lake Providence on LA 577 off of LA 134. The site consists of a 2.6 mile walking trail or tram ride, which allows visitors to make their way up the large earthen mounds. Artifacts are displayed in an informative museum, which features an audio-visual history of the site and an observation tower gives visitors a birds-eye view of the mounds. Picnic areas and restrooms are also maintained. A nominal fee is charged for entrance into the museum.

Observation Tower at Poverty Point
 

Poverty Point State Historic Site

 

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County Coordinator: Ann Geoghegan
State Coordinator:
Edward J. Hayden Jr.
Assistant State Coordinator:
Annette Womack

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