|11 December 2004
Louisiana's Ancient Mounds Trail
Louisiana (USA) has a wealth of Native American sites dating to as early as 4000 BCE; the most obvious remains of ancient peoples are the over 700 mounds that can be seen throughout the state.
Mound building began around 6,000 years ago, at a time when people were becoming more sedentary, though not yet involved in agriculture, and continued until the period of European contact. The first mounds may have marked seasonal homes with abundant resources for nomadic hunter-gatherers, but mounds were used for different purposes at different times and places. Burials have been found in some mounds, while archaeologists have identified house patterns and found domestic objects on mounds that were apparently residential sites.
To celebrate Louisiana's Native American mounds, a series of historical markers has now been installed, creating the Ancient Mounds Trail. Currently made up of 37 sites that can be viewed from public highways, the trail's purpose is to educate the public about the state's earliest people while also diversifying and expanding tourism. The mounds are a lesser-known aspect of Louisiana's past, one that the state would like to better publicize and make accessible. The Louisiana Ancient Mounds Trail is about a five-hour tour by car. Individuals or groups with an interest in learning more about mound sites in Louisiana can start near Epps at the Poverty Point State Historic Site.
Participation of private landowners was critical to the success of this project, as most mounds are in private hands. The state has been quite successful in landowner cooperation and stewardship, and there are about 80 sites and 86 owners involved so far. The private owners have agreed to become stewards, whereby they protect the sites from looting, farming, and other activities that would damage the mounds or other archaeological remains. There is no payment involved, each participating landowner gets a certificate of appreciation and recognition.
Louisiana's Division of Archaeology hopes the trail will enhance appreciation for the mounds' significance and highlight the need to protect them. Because the state will never be able to own all of these sites, it is important for landowners and the general public to understand that the preservation of this cultural resource is to a great extent in their hands.
A 50-page interpretive guide and map of the Louisiana Ancient Mounds Trail will be published in January 2006. Until then, brochures and a trail map are available by contacting the Louisiana Division of Archaeology at email@example.com or visiting their website.
Source: Archaeology (9 December 2004)
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