Saturday, May 1, 2010

Poverty Point State Historic Site - Epps, Louisiana

Home to the largest known prehistoric earthworks in the Western Hemisphere, the Poverty Point State Historic Site is located on a bluff overlooking Bayou Macon between the towns of Epps and Lake Providence in the northeastern corner of Louisiana.

The site is one of the most remarkable Indian mound groups in the United States. Not only does its primary mound (Mound A) still rise more than 72 feet above the surrounding area, it takes the form of a giant flying bird. Such effigy mounds would become common in the Midwest and were built at other locations in the South over the centuries that followed, but at the time Poverty Point was active, Mound A was the only known such effigy in the country.

The Poverty Point Culture reached its height more than 3,000 years ago, long before any of the other mound-building groups of the Southeast. They were a pre-ceramic culture, meaning that they did not make pottery vessels to use for cooking or storing food. Instead, they were a stone age people who raised the manufacture of stone tools to a new level. Trade networks developed connecting the Poverty Point people to other prehistoric Native Americans across much of the eastern United States. Excavations at the site have revealed  shells from Florida, copper from the Great Lakes region and quartz and other crystals from the Ouachita and Ozark mountains of Arkansas and Missouri.

The site today is extremely interesting. In addition to the towering Mound A, which may have been more than 100 feet high when it was in use, the site includes other mounds, a central plaza site that appears to have been the location of a prehistoric observatory, and unique concentric manmade ridges upon which the people of the town lived.

In addition to walking paths and a nice museum, the site also provides guided tram tours of the extensive mounds. To learn more, please visit

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