(Press-News.org) Nominated early this year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, La., have been described as one of the world's greatest feats of construction by an archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers.
Now, new research in the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30 days — an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands of foragers.
"What's extraordinary about these findings is that it provides some of the first evidence that early American hunter-gatherers were not as simplistic as we've tended to imagine," says study co-author T.R. Kidder, PhD, professor and chair of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Our findings go against what has long been considered the academic consensus on hunter-gather societies — that they lack the political organization necessary to bring together so many people to complete a labor-intensive project in such a short period."
Co-authored by Anthony Ortmann, PhD, assistant professor of geosciences at Murray State University in Kentucky, the study offers a detailed analysis of how the massive mound was constructed some 3,200 years ago along a Mississippi River bayou in northeastern Louisiana.
Based on more than a decade of excavations, core samplings and sophisticated sedimentary analysis, the study's key assertion is that Mound A at Poverty Point had to have been built in a very short period because an exhaustive examination reveals no signs of rainfall or erosion during its construction.
"We're talking about an area of northern Louisiana that now tends to receive a great deal of rainfall," Kidder says. "Even in a very dry year, it would seem very unlikely that this location could go more than 90 days without experiencing some significant level of rainfall. Yet, the soil in these mounds shows no sign of erosion taking place during the construction period. There is no evidence from the region of an epic drought at this time, either."
Part of a much larger complex of earthen works at Poverty Point, Mound A is believed to be the final and crowning addition to the sprawling 700-acre site, which includes five smaller mounds and a series of six concentric C-shaped embankments that rise in parallel formation surrounding a small flat plaza along the river. At the time of construction, Poverty Point was the largest earthworks in North America.
Built on the western edge of the complex, Mound A covers about 538,000 square feet [roughly 50,000 square meters] at its base and rises 72 feet above the river. Its construction required an estimated 238,500 cubic meters — about eight million bushel baskets — of soil to be brought in from various locations near the site. Kidder figures it would take a modern, 10-wheel dump truck about 31,217 loads to move that much dirt today.
"The Poverty Point mounds were built by people who had no access to domesticated draft animals, no wheelbarrows, no sophisticated tools for moving earth," Kidder explains. "It's likely that these mounds were built using a simple 'bucket brigade' system, with thousands of people passing soil along from one to another using some form of crude container, such as a woven basket, a hide sack or a wooden platter."
Kidder analyzes the varied colors and layers of the soils of Mound A, which are a result of the building process. Indians carried basket-loads of dirt weighing roughly 55 pounds and piled them up carefully to form the mound.
To complete such a task within 90 days, the study estimates it would require the full attention of some 3,000 laborers. Assuming that each worker may have been accompanied by at least two other family members, say a wife and a child, the community gathered for the build must have included as many as 9,000 people, the study suggests.
"Given that a band of 25-30 people is considered quite large for most hunter-gatherer communities, it's truly amazing that this ancient society could bring together a group of nearly 10,000 people, find some way to feed them and get this mound built in a matter of months," Kidder says.
Soil testing indicates that the mound is located on top of land that was once low-lying swamp or marsh land — evidence of ancient tree roots and swamp life still exists in undisturbed soils at the base of the mound. Tests confirm that the site was first cleared for construction by burning and quickly covered with a layer of fine silt soil. A mix of other heavier soils then were brought in and dumped in small adjacent piles, gradually building the mound layer upon layer.
As Kidder notes, previous theories about the construction of most of the world's ancient earthen mounds have suggested that they were laid down slowly over a period of hundreds of years involving small contributions of material from many different people spanning generations of a society. While this may be the case for other earthen structures at Poverty Point, the evidence from Mound A offers a sharp departure from this accretional theory.
Kidder's home base in St. Louis is just across the Mississippi River from one of America's best known ancient earthen structures, the Monk Mound at Cahokia, Ill. He notes that the Monk Mound was built many centuries later than the mounds at Poverty Point by a civilization that was much more reliant on agriculture, a far cry from the hunter-gatherer group that built Poverty Point. Even so, Mound A at Poverty Point is much larger than almost any other mound found in North America; only Monk's Mound at Cahokia is larger.
"We've come to realize that the social fabric of these socieites must have been much stronger and more complex that we might previously have given them credit. These results contradict the popular notion that pre-agricultural people were socially, politically, and economically simple and unable to organize themselves into large groups that could build elaborate architecture or engage in so-called complex social behavior," Kidder says. "The prevailing model of hunter-gatherers living a life 'nasty, brutish and short' is contradicted and our work indicates these people were practicing a sophisticated ritual/religious life that involved building these monumental mounds."
Editor's Note: The U.S. Department of the Interior issues a news release Jan. 17, 2013, on its nomination of the Poverty Point site for inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
The DOI news release is available here: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/louisianas-poverty-point-state-historic-site-to-be-nominated-as-a-world-heritage-site.cfm
Learn more about World Heritage at whc.unesco.org
Archaic Native Americans built massive Louisiana mound in less than 90 days
Poverty Point site recently nominated for UNESCO world heritage list
ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:
REACH news: European ombudsman takes up PETA complaint
London – In response to a complaint by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the European Ombudsman has launched an inquiry into the actions of the European Union (EU) agency responsible for the administration of the REACH chemical-testing program, which is expected to consume millions of animals in toxicity tests. PETA's complaint, submitted in July 2012, alleges that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is not properly investigating cases in which animal testing could be avoided under the rules of REACH. PETA maintains that evidence derived from public documents ...
Researchers harness nature to produce the fuel of the future
Hydrogen has tremendous potential as an eco-friendly fuel, but it is expensive to produce. Now researchers at Princeton University and Rutgers University have moved a step closer to harnessing nature to produce hydrogen for us. The team, led by Princeton chemistry professor Annabella Selloni, takes inspiration from bacteria that make hydrogen from water using enzymes called di-iron hydrogenases. Selloni's team uses computer models to figure out how to incorporate the magic of these enzymes into the design of practical synthetic catalysts that humans can use to produce ...
Patients can emit small, influenza-containing particles into the air during routine care
[EMBARGOED FOR JAN. 31, 2013] A new study suggests that patients with influenza can emit small virus-containing particles into the surrounding air during routine patient care, potentially exposing health care providers to influenza. Published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, the findings raise the possibility that current influenza infection control recommendations may not always be adequate to protect providers from influenza during routine patient care in hospitals. Werner E. Bischoff, MD, PhD, and colleagues from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina ...
Social networking: Gen Xers connect online as often as they socialize in person
ANN ARBOR--- Young adults in Generation X are as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person, according to a University of Michigan study. In a typical month, adults in their late 30s report that they engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to about 74 electronic contracts through personal emails or social media. "Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions," says Jon D. Miller, ...
Debts That Remain after a Bankruptcy
Debts that remain after a bankruptcy If you have had to file bankruptcy recently due to the sluggish economy, you're not alone. Bankruptcy has many benefits, but the main reason to file is to receive a discharge of your debts. Normally, once you receive a discharge, you are under no further legal obligation to pay the debt. Although the bankruptcy discharge is a powerful tool against many types of debt, such a medical bills and credit card debt, there are certain types of debt that cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. Nondischargeable debts To a certain extent, ...
Should California Grant Driver's Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants?
Should California grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants? Whatever your position on the issue, there is no denying that undocumented immigrants make up a significant portion of California's population. Like other Californians, many of these immigrants need to drive in order to run errands, take their children to school or go to work. However, because they are residing in the United States illegally, they are not eligible to get driver's licenses. Increasingly, many legislators and safety advocates in California are becoming concerned that these unlicensed ...
Study Reveals Thousands Of Preventable Surgical Errors Occur Annually
Study reveals thousands of preventable surgical errors occur annually Placing your well-being in the care of a medical professional is always somewhat unnerving, requiring a degree of trust in another's abilities not often needed in our daily lives. Consequently, when a physician's actions are negligent and result in entirely preventable harm, we understandably seek avenues to recover. Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has disclosed the frequency with which surgeons are guilty of making preventable errors while ...
How To Protect A Business From The Fallout Of Divorce
How to protect a business from the fallout of divorce Marriage and business often go hand-in-hand. Frequently in this economy, one spouse or both spouses may own their own business or both spouses may even own a business together. The creation of a successful business requires a lot time and hard work and is likely to be the most important financial asset in a marriage. Unfortunately, more than half of first marriages in the United States end in divorce as do the majority of second and third marriages. Therefore, divorce and business also go hand-in-hand, and business ...
Understanding The Divorce Process In Florida
Understanding the divorce process in Florida Each state has its own rules for divorce, and as a result there are a lot of myths about the requirements of filing a divorce. The state of Florida no longer requires fault as a ground for divorce, and therefore the only requirement for a Florida resident to dissolve his or her marriage is to prove the marriage is "irretrievably broken." In Florida the official term for divorce is "dissolution of marriage," and either spouse may file for dissolution. While Florida is a no-fault state for the purposes ...
If You Need Disability Benefits, You May Be In For A Long Wait
If you need disability benefits, you may be in for a long wait The stress of living with a disability can be overwhelming, but the added stress of dealing with the system to collect Social Security Disability payments can make it even worse. A backlog of cases has significantly increased the amount of time that applicants have to wait to get their benefits approved. Recent reports indicate that applications for Social Security retirement and disability benefits have skyrocketed in recent years. This is likely due to the growing number of baby boomers who are reaching ...
LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:
Scientists model 'true prevalence' of COVID-19 throughout pandemic
New breakthrough to help immune systems in the fight against cancer
Through the thin-film glass, researchers spot a new liquid phase
Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring
Brain's 'memory center' needed to recognize image sequences but not single sights
Safety of second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines after first-dose allergic reactions
Changes in disparities in access to care, health after Medicare eligibility
Use of high-risk medications among lonely older adults
65+ and lonely? Don't talk to your doctor about another prescription
Exosome formulation developed to deliver antibodies for choroidal neovascularization therapy
Second COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose found safe following allergic reactions to first dose
Plant root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots
Rare inherited variants in previously unsuspected genes may confer significant risk for autism
International experts call for a unified public health response to NAFLD and NASH epidemic
International collaboration of scientists rewrite the rulebook of flowering plant genetics
Improving air quality reduces dementia risk, multiple studies suggest
Misplaced trust: When trust in science fosters pseudoscience
Two types of blood pressure meds prevent heart events equally, but side effects differ
New statement provides path to include ethnicity, ancestry, race in genomic research
Among effective antihypertensive drugs, less popular choice is slightly safer
Juicy past of favorite Okinawan fruit revealed
Anticipate a resurgence of respiratory viruses in young children
Anxiety, depression, burnout rising as college students prepare to return to campus
Goal-setting and positive parent-child relationships reduce risk of youth vaping
New research identifies cancer types with little survival improvements in adolescents and young adul
Oncotarget: Replication-stress sensitivity in breast cancer cells
Oncotarget: TERT and its binding protein: overexpression of GABPA/B in gliomas
Development of a novel technology to check body temperature with smartphone camera
The mechanics of puncture finally explained
Extreme heat, dry summers main cause of tree death in Colorado's subalpine forests[Press-News.org] Archaic Native Americans built massive Louisiana mound in less than 90 days
Poverty Point site recently nominated for UNESCO world heritage list