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date: 18 September 2019

Poverty Pointlocked

  • Deborah A. Middleton


Prehistoric site in North America in north-east Louisiana, 50 km west of the Mississippi River, along Bayou Maçon. Poverty Point is an integrated architectural complex established between 1700–1100 BC, predating the construction of Mayan pyramids, situated on over 400 acres of land located on a marshy tributary at the confluence of numerous rivers near the west bank of the Mississippi River. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of four larger earthen mounds, six vast concentric semi-elliptical earthen ridges, estimated to be originally 1.5 m in height, and a large flat plaza defined by the innermost ridge, which covers 35 acres. The significance of this archaeological site is partially due to the unprecedented volume (over 750,000 cubic metres) of earthworks required to create the unique complex design executed by a pre-agricultural society whose form can only be perceived from the air.

Poverty Point artistic forms have strong regional significance for emerging artistic traditions of Archaic peoples and are similar to those found within many North American archaeological sites, highlighting the artistic importance of Poverty Point. Artefacts such as clay figurines, stone jewellery, and examples of a lapidary industry have been found of a quality unsurpassed in North America during this early time period. Archaic beads depict animals such as bears, squirrels, rabbits, insects such as locusts, and birds. The Locust Bead (...

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