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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Poverty Point Earthen Mound Built In One Season
What this means it that the main structure was built in one season by
an extended community of at least ten thousand. It also clarifies an
important issue. This was an excellent method by which a community
could demonstrate its power and size while easy to build and
maintain. Other communities would have followed suit as we know from
the archeological record.
At the same time, poverty Point was the Atlantean factory town that
received raw copper from Aztalan by the Mississippi access to Lakes
Michigan and Superior. Here the copper was smelted and formed into
ingots for shipping to Bimini in preparation for its journey to the
European market by way of Lewis in Scotland. The massive hearths are
Once you understand that a corn based town culture existed alongside
a general hunter gatherer culture, the archeology makes sense. This
corn based society was laid out in small plots and likely within a
protective cordon. Any other plan would have simply been overrun by
predation from those local hunters.
The same held true in Eurasia with the mobility afforded by horse
drawn wagons changing the equation and allowing an extended layout
not easy in the Americas.
Americans built massive Louisiana mound in less than 90 days
Nominated early this
year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which
includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu
and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, La., have been
described as one of the world's greatest feats of construction by an
archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers.
Now, new research in
the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling
evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point
was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30
days - an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a
loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands
extraordinary about these findings is that it provides some of the
first evidence that early American hunter-gatherers were not as
simplistic as we've tended to imagine," says study co-author
T.R. Kidder, PhD, professor and chair of anthropology in Arts and
Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Our findings go
against what has long been considered the academic consensus on
hunter-gather societies - that they lack the political organization
necessary to bring together so many people to complete a
labor-intensive project in such a short period."
Co-authored by Anthony
Ortmann, PhD, assistant professor of geosciences at Murray State
University in Kentucky, the study offers a detailed analysis of how
the massive mound was constructed some 3,200 years ago along a
Mississippi River bayou in northeastern Louisiana.
Based on more than a
decade of excavations, core samplings and sophisticated sedimentary
analysis, the study's key assertion is that Mound A at Poverty Point
had to have been built in a very short period because an
exhaustive examination reveals no signs of rainfall or erosion during
about an area of northern Louisiana that now tends to receive a great
deal of rainfall," Kidder says. "Even in a very dry year,
it would seem very unlikely that this location could go more than 90
days without experiencing some significant level of rainfall. Yet,
the soil in these mounds shows no sign of erosion taking place during
the construction period. There is no evidence from the region of an
epic drought at this time, either."
Part of a much larger
complex of earthen works at Poverty Point, Mound A is believed to be
the final and crowning addition to the sprawling 700-acre site, which
includes five smaller mounds and a series of six concentric C-shaped
embankments that rise in parallel formation surrounding a small flat
plaza along the river. At the time of construction, Poverty Point was
the largest earthworks in North America.
Built on the western
edge of the complex, Mound A covers about 538,000 square feet
[roughly 50,000 square meters] at its base and rises 72 feet above
the river. Its construction required an estimated 238,500 cubic
meters - about eight million bushel baskets - of soil to be brought
in from various locations near the site. Kidder figures it would take
a modern, 10-wheel dump truck about 31,217 loads to move that much
Point mounds were built by people who had no access to domesticated
draft animals, no wheelbarrows, no sophisticated tools for moving
earth," Kidder explains. "It's likely that these mounds
were built using a simple 'bucket brigade' system, with thousands of
people passing soil along from one to another using some form of
crude container, such as a woven basket, a hide sack or a wooden
To complete such a
task within 90 days, the study estimates it would require the full
attention of some 3,000 laborers. Assuming that each worker may have
been accompanied by at least two other family members, say a wife and
a child, the community gathered for the build must have included as
many as 9,000 people, the study suggests.
"Given that a
band of 25-30 people is considered quite large for most
hunter-gatherer communities, it's truly amazing that this ancient
society could bring together a group of nearly 10,000 people, find
some way to feed them and get this mound built in a matter of
months," Kidder says.
Soil testing indicates
that the mound is located on top of land that was once low-lying
swamp or marsh land - evidence of ancient tree roots and swamp life
still exists in undisturbed soils at the base of the mound. Tests
confirm that the site was first cleared for construction by burning
and quickly covered with a layer of fine silt soil. A mix of other
heavier soils then were brought in and dumped in small adjacent
piles, gradually building the mound layer upon layer.
As Kidder notes,
previous theories about the construction of most of the world's
ancient earthen mounds have suggested that they were laid down slowly
over a period of hundreds of years involving small contributions of
material from many different people spanning generations of a
society. While this may be the case for other earthen structures at
Poverty Point, the evidence from Mound A offers a sharp departure
from this accretional theory. Kidder's home base in St.
Louis is just across
the Mississippi River from one of America's best known ancient
earthen structures, the Monk Mound at Cahokia, Ill. He notes that the
Monk Mound was built many centuries later than the mounds at Poverty
Point by a civilization that was much more reliant on agriculture, a
far cry from the hunter-gatherer group that built Poverty Point. Even
so, Mound A at Poverty Point is much larger than almost any other
mound found in North America; only Monk's Mound at Cahokia is larger.
"We've come to
realize that the social fabric of these socieites must have been much
stronger and more complex that we might previously have given them
credit. These results contradict the popular notion that
pre-agricultural people were socially, politically, and economically
simple and unable to organize themselves into large groups that could
build elaborate architecture or engage in so-called complex social
behavior," Kidder says.
model of hunter-gatherers living a life 'nasty, brutish and short' is
contradicted and our work indicates these people were practicing a
sophisticated ritual/religious life that involved building these