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May 29, 2009

ULM archaeologists join Mississippi colleagues for Poverty Point dig

University of Louisiana at Monroe archaeologists and students will join their colleagues from Mississippi State University for a major archeological excavation at Poverty Point State Historic Site near Epps this June.

Poverty Point Station Archaeologist and ULM Geosciences faculty member Diana Greenlee will lead the ULM effort and coordinate the excavations of the two universities. Students enrolled in field archaeology courses at both ULM and MSU will serve on the excavation crew.

Greenlee noted that the primary goal of the excavation this summer is to study enigmatic buried circles, which range from 20 to 50 meters in diameter, and in which scientists hypothesize might be architectural remains. The circles are located in a plaza – previously believed to be empty community space – where archaeologists detected slight variations in the soil’s magnetic field.

“This is the first excavations done by a ULM archeological camp at Poverty Point in over a decade,” said Gary Stringer of the ULM Geosciences Department. “It should be really interesting and a chance for people to observe ‘real’ science firsthand.”

The archaeological site at Poverty Point is the largest, most complex earthwork of its age in North America. Roughly 750,000 cubic meters of dirt were moved in its construction by people who primarily survived using a hunting-gathering-fishing way of life, according to a statement from site officials.

Five mounds and six semi-elliptical earthen ridges enclose a flat 37-acre plaza at the site, where it is estimated that major construction and occupation of the site dates between 3,700 and 3,100 years ago (1700-1100 BCE).

Members of the public are invited to visit the excavation, which will run 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, through June. Optimal viewing of the actual excavation is after the first week since that week is usually spent preparing for the dig, according to Park Manager Dennis LaBatt.

For more information, call 888-926-5492 or 318-926-5492, or email Poverty Point State Historic Site is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., seven days a week.

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