THE POST-SIGNAL / Desiray Seaux
The Rotary Club of Crowley recently hosted Dr. Charles R. “Chip” McGimsey, Louisiana State Archeologist, who delivered to the club a very educational presentation on Louisiana Archeology and Poverty Point earthen works. On hand for the presentation were, from left, Rotary Club President Amy Thibodeaux, McGimsey, and Rotarian Jill Habetz.
Poverty Point topic for Rotarians
Louisiana is home to earthen mounds located on the campus of LSU that predate the first Egyptian pyramids. It is also home to Poverty Point, an earthen mound and ridge structure that predates the Parthenon in Greece and the Colosseum in Rome.
Those mounds and more were the topic of conversation when the Rotary Club of Crowley recently welcomed Dr. Charles R. “Chip” McGimsey, Louisiana State Archaeologist, as the guest speaker for the club’s weekly meeting.
McGimsey explained the mission of the Division of Archaeology is to promote Louisiana’s cultural history through the protection of archaeological sites and preservation of material culture. The division is responsible for implementing state and federal guidelines for the investigation of prehistoric sites on land and underwater.
The services provided by the Division of Archaeology include issuing permits for archaeological investigations; long term curation of artifacts; providing educational materials to schools throughout the state; the use of a state-wide GIS Cultural Resource Map, and providing guidance with required site forms and Section 106 inquiries.
Poverty Point, located in the northeast part of the state, was named a World Heritage site in 2014. It became a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2010 and was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1962.
Originally built and occupied by archaic fisher-hunter-gatherers between 1730 and 1250 B.C., the site is about 3,400 years old and is composed of massive earthworks — six mounds and six C-shaped ridges around a huge plaza, McGimsey told Rotarians.
One of the mounds was built about 2,000 years after the completion of the rest.
Poverty Point is largest and most complex archaic earthworks in the United States. Construction encompasses between two-thirds and three-quarters of a million cubic meters of artificial fill in the various structures. The two largest mounds contain 238,000 and 99,000 cubic meters of dirt, respectively.
“Poverty Point is indeed a rare remnant of an exceptional culture,” McGimset said. “It has been estimated that landscape preparation and construction may have required the relocation of as many as 53 million cubic feet of soil.
“Considering that a cubic foot of soil weighs 70-100 pounds, at that the labors carried this dirt in roughly 50-pound basket loads, it is obvious that this was a great communal engineering feat.”
But, it wasn’t built overnight, the archaeologist continued. In fact it took about 600 years, or about 25 generations of people working on the earthen works.
In a book McGimsey referenced in his presentation, another Louisiana archeologist, Jon Gibson, describes Poverty Point as follows: “A set of six concentric earthen rings commands the arrangement and encloses a 14-hectare or 35-acre central area or plaza. Five aisles crosscut the ringed encloser dividing it into six compartments.”
According to the website, the time was eight centuries after Egyptian laborers dragged huge stones across the dessert to build the Great Pyramids, and before the great Mayan pyramids were constructed.
The people were a sophisticated group who left behind one of the most important archeological sites in North America.
McGimsey explained that the park is open all year long except for holidays. Admission is $4 a person and free for children under 3 and senior citizens.
Facilities and activities available include daily tours, museum/historic buildings, picnic areas, historic and/or nature programs and hiking trails. For more information call 1-888-926-5492 or visit the website at http://www.povertypoint.us
The website has many resources for educators such as pre-created slide shows and even traveling classroom sets of artifacts from Poverty Point and a sunken Spanish Ship.