Poverty Point Earthworks in Louisiana Shows Early Native Americans Were “Amazing Engineers” | Smart News
New research shows that people who lived in what is now northern Louisiana about 3,400 years ago had sophisticated engineering expertise, David Nield reports for Scientific alert. The remains of mounds of earth built by the mysterious civilization still rise up to 66 feet above the ground in Poverty Point, Louisiana. The new study, published in the journal Archeology of the Southeast, notes that the inhabitants of the region have completed the enormous earthworks in a few months, if not a few weeks.
“One of the most remarkable things is that these earthworks have held together for over 3,000 years without failure or major erosion,” said the author of the study. Tristram R. Kidder, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement. “In comparison, modern bridges, highways and dams fail with amazing regularity, because building things out of earth is more complicated than you might think. They were truly amazing engineers with very sophisticated technical knowledge.
Even in the face of frequent heavy rains, tThe mounds have apparently held together for so long because of this knowledge. Using microscopic analysis of the soils that make up the mounds, the new study shows that builders mixed different types of clays, silts and sand to make the construction more durable.
“Similar to Roman concrete or dirt in China, Native Americans discovered sophisticated ways of mixing different types of materials to make them virtually indestructible, even if they were not compacted,” Kidder said in the release. “There is a magic here that our modern engineers have yet to understand. “
The researchers determined the rapid pace of construction using radiocarbon dating and magnetic measurements of the soils. They found no evidence that rain or wind altered the materials between stages of construction, suggesting that there was no significant pause in the process.
“Between the speed of excavation and construction, and the amount of earth moved, this data shows us natives coming to the site and working together,” Kidder said in the statement. “This in itself is remarkable, as hunter-gatherers are not supposed to be able to do these activities. “
More remarkable still, the builders of the mounds completed the structures without draft animals or wheeled carts, the New York PostHannah Sparks reports.
The monumental earthworks of Poverty Point have become a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2014. The 400-acre site contains five mounds and six concentric C-shaped ridges. Unesco notes that one outstanding aspect of the site is that it was built by people who lived by hunting, gathering and fishing. In contrast, many later monuments were built by people living in agricultural economies. Researchers suspect the site was a center of religious activity for the area, as well as a hotbed for some people.
According to A tourist site for the Poverty Point World Heritage Site, the site was at the center of a vast trading network that brought tons of rocks and minerals 800 miles away. In a place with few rocks nearby, locals used imported stone to make weapons and tools. Artifacts found at the site included owls carved from red jasper stone and ceramic human figurines. The inhabitants lived in houses built with wooden poles and a frame woven from sticks covered with mud. Unlike many parts of North America, the mounds were not burial grounds or rubbish heaps and instead may have been designed to showcase the wealth and power of the people who built them.
The site was abruptly abandoned between 3,000 and 3,200 years ago, possibly due to flooding in the Mississippi Valley. While other people later occupied part of the site around AD 700, it remained largely abandoned until the 19th century.