Archived News | Return to News Center

July 2, 2009

Poverty Point excavation comes to conclusion under guidance of ULM leader

A major archaeological excavation at Poverty Point State Historic Site concluded this week, under the leadership and guidance of Diana Greenlee, station archaeologist and adjunct assistant professor in the department of geosciences at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Greenlee, Collections Manager Alisha Wright, and ULM students were joined by colleagues from Mississippi State University for the excavation, held throughout June.

The dig represented the first excavations conducted by a ULM archaeological field school at Poverty Point in over a decade, and provided the public an interesting, first-hand look at working scientists seeking clues about the Native Americans who occupied the site around 3,500 years ago.

The primary goal of the excavation was to study enigmatic buried circles identified using special instruments that detect slight variations in the soil's magnetic field.

The circles, which range from 20 to 60 meters in diameter, are located in the central plaza, previously believed to be empty community space for the prehistoric people who lived there. The archaeologists chose to excavate and compare parts of four different circles.

Greenlee said she realizes that visitors to Poverty Point State Historic Site may be a bit underwhelmed by the site, but emphasized how magnificent the cultural achievements of the prehistoric culture really were and how each exploration of the site is ripe with possibility.

“Just when you think you have some things figured out, you realize that you don’t have a clue. This site is just so complex,” she said.

Everybody involved, according to Greenlee, considered the excavations a success.

Greenlee noted, "We were able to establish that the different magnetic characteristics of the circles in the plaza correspond to different kinds of constructions.”

One of the circles has been dated, she said, and is the same age as the major occupation of the site.

“We now have sufficient samples to determine how old the rest of the circles are," said Greenlee.

Although the fieldwork is nearly complete, analysis of the artifacts and sediments will continue for many months. Greenlee anticipates that future field efforts will expand upon this summer's work to understand the function(s) of the circles.

The archaeological site at Poverty Point is the largest, most complicated earthwork of its age in North America. People who relied on a hunting-gathering-fishing way of life moved more than 750,000 cubic meters of dirt in its construction, all without benefit of beasts of burden.

PLEASE NOTE: Some links and e-mail addresses in these archived news stories may no longer work, and some content may include events which are no longer relevent, or reference individuals and/or organizations no longer associated with ULM.