| 3 September 2003
Prehistoric Indian earthworks still exist in Louisiana
Well before the construction of Stonehenge in England or the Egyptian pyramids, prehistoric Americans were building earthen structures. Today, these mounds yield evidence of peoples who were both primitive and sophisticated, nomadic and yet builders. The best archaeological evidence available indicates this mound-building trend probably began in Louisiana (USA).
"At some time around 4000 BCE, the people who lived in North America started building these earthworks," state archaeologist Thomas Eubanks said. The purpose of the mounds often remains a mystery, he said. Some may have served ceremonial or political purposes. Some may have provided high points on which to locate huts. A few later ones served as burial sites, but not as many as people usually think, and archeologists are finding evidence linking the mounds to astronomy.
Archeologists are still learning from the sites, and state officials hope to use the mounds for tourism and public education. The oldest known site, Watson Brake, is located in the woods south of Monroe on an old channel off the Ouachita River, where 11 mounds connected by an earthen ridge form an oval. Archeologists have determined that the mounds were built in stages beginning about 6,000 years ago and were not used for burial. They also have theories about the purpose of the plaza in the middle because it contains no artifacts. “We know that the plaza was a sacred place,” Eubanks said. “It had some importance since no trash was being dumped there.”
The Poverty Point State Historical Site near Delhi is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in North America. The geometric earthwork complex there includes 11.2 miles of raised terraces arranged in six concentric octagons. It was built about 3,500 years ago.
The Marksville State Historical Site has mounds dated back 2,000 years. "The site is aligned with true north and positioned so that certain constellations could be viewed between the mounds on important days each year," said Chip McGimsey of Lafayette, southwest regional archaeologist.
Most of Louisiana’s Indian mounds sit on private property, and in many cases property owners may not even realize they are there.
Source: Gannet News Service (31 August 2003)
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