Friday, Nov. 14, 2014

Leading Archeologist Visits UNO, Speaks about Poverty Point, a New World Heritage Site in Louisiana

Ancient monumental earthworks in Northeast Louisiana created more than three thousand years ago by some of the earliest known Americans recently gained status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next week, a leading anthropologist visits the University of New Orleans to tell us about it. 

Join us!

Come hear "Poverty Point World Heritage Site 'New Name, Same Amazing Place:' A Talk by Dr. Diana Greenlee, Thursday, Nov. 20, 165 Milneburg Hall, UNO Campus, 2 to 3:30 p.m. 

The University of New Orleans Departments of Anthropology and Urban Studies invited Poverty Point Station Archaeologist, Dr. Diana Greenlee, to campus Thursday, to discuss the earthen mounds and the UNESCP inscription process in a talk entitled "Poverty Point World Heritage Site: New Name, Same Amazing Place." Greenlee is expected to inform students about the preservation of a unique and amazing part of Louisiana's – and the world's — past.

The exceptional archeological site, which is called Poverty Point and located along Bayou Macon in the lower Mississippi delta between Monroe, La. and Vicksburg, Miss., gained inscription – and international status -- on the World Heritage list maintained by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in June. The World Heritage List highlights the world's most important natural wonders and cultural sites. The list includes more than 1,000 sites in 161 countries, including: the the Cahokia Mounds, Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.

Poverty Point, built around the time King Tutankhamen reigned in Egypt, "is the name of a vast, subtle ruin on the bank of today's Bayou Macon, a tributary of the Mississippi in northeastern Louisiana, partway between Monroe, and Vicksburg, Miss.," reports National Geographic Traveler. "Its awkward name comes from that of a plantation that once occupied the area. The site is the largest known complex built that long ago by hunter-gatherers in North America, maybe even in the world.

"What amazes archaeologists is that hunter-gatherers aren't supposed to build city-like complexes," reports National Geographic Traveler. "Normally, it takes more developed agricultural cultures to do that. But the Poverty Pointers—there's got to be a better name!—were apparently the nexus of a trading network that reached from the upper Mississippi to the coast of Georgia, and a lapidary manufacturing center to boot."

The original complex, included a number of mounds, including one that could originally have stood 100 feet all and today, at 70 feet, is a landmark in the Delta. Photography and human flight helped to uncover the site forgotten for millennia, reports National Geographic Traveler.

Six concentric semicircular ridges, spanning approximately three-quarters of a mile, appear to have stood about six feet high, supporting a row of huts centered on a wide flat plaza facing the river. The huts would likely have been built using posts from nearby cypress trees and whoever lived at Poverty Point "vanished long before the rise of the Native American cultures we know today," reports National Geographic Traveler.

"The mounds survived, if diminished, but erosion wore the ridges down to a foot or two. The plantation workers actually farmed over them, the plowmen probably cursing the oddly lumpy ground they had to tame. Eventually the plantation closed; trees grew. Except for the mounds, the extent of the ruin was literally too big to see from the ground, and well-disguised even from the air."

In 1952, archaeologist James Ford reviewed aerial photos taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during a routine sweep in 1938 and noticed the pattern of the semicircles, which apparently had escaped attention.

Already a state historic site supported by the National Park Service, Poverty Point gained new stature on June 22, when the World Heritage Committee, at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, accepted the U.S. nomination of Poverty Point for inscription, making it the country's 22nd World Heritage site, reports National Geographic Traveler.

"Louisiana hopes World Heritage inscription will boost tourism to its economically struggling northeast corner, especially from profitable international visitors attuned to World Heritage designations." 


Read More

Department of Geography
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Poverty Point World Heritage Site
"Louisiana's Best-Kept Secret Now a World Heritage Site," National Geographic Traveler
Poverty Point State Historic Site, Louisiana, Explore Southern
Ancient Mound At Poverty Point, La. Built With Surprising Speed, Archaeologists Say, The Huffington Post
Poverty Point is first Louisiana site named to World Heritage list, The Times Picayune