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Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point

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West Carroll Parish Louisiana United states
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Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point

The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point is a publicly-owned and managed archaeological park in the parish of West Carroll, State of Louisiana, United States of America. The site is located on the eastern edge of an elevated landform, Macon Ridge, in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Today the ridge, which is about 7-9m higher than the adjacent lowlands to the east, overlooks and is abutted on its eastern side by the Bayou Maҫon.

The site consists of an integrated complex of earthen monuments, in the main constructed 3,700-3,100 years ago in the Late Archaic period. The complex includes large mounds and associated borrow/quarry areas, six semi-elliptical earthen ridges with an outer diameter of 1.14 km and a large flat plaza bordered by the ridges. Mound A, one of the largest constructed earthen mounds in North America, dominates the site. Collection and archaeological excavations have documented the rich material culture associated with this complex.

The Poverty Point complex is recognised internationally as an important site not just because of its scale, the integration of the earthworks and the extent to which the complex is intact, but crucially because it was built by hunter-fisher-gatherers. The elevated natural topography of the site above the Holocene alluvial lowlands provided a secure place for human settlement in an area otherwise prone to flooding, and influenced the layout of the complex and the placing of the earthworks: it helps to make it clear why the site was selected as the location of the monumental complex. All the singular elements that make up the complex as they survive in shape and substance – the mounds, the system of ridges and swales, the aisles, the plaza with the posthole circles, the causeway, the bisector ridge, the dock and the borrow areas – as well as their spatial organisation in relation to the topography, illustrate the refined use of natural features and topography to create a designed monumental landscape.

The extensive earth rearrangements beneath the above-ground structures attest to the extensive earthmoving to combat soil erosion and to achieve the required design. The archaeological deposits concealed below ground represent a repository of potential further information on the property and its builders. The meandering Bayou Maҫon, with its riverine vegetation, and the boggy and wooded areas, provide a sense of the natural environment at the time Poverty Point was constructed.

 


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