[sacredlandscapelist] louisiana mounds
- The trip to Louisiana was good.
Since last fall i have been exchanging letters and phone calls with Joe
Saunders, an archaeologist at North Louisaiana State University. He has
been working on the Watson Brake mound site near there. He told me if i
could be in Monroe the morning of the 20th, he could take me out there.
I got a late start on the 19th and arrived at Poverty Point Commemorativen
Area 30 miles NE of Monroe around 5:30pm. The museum was closed but the
grounds were open. It's a public park. The county road runs right through
it. It was so big it took a moment to orient myself. The site is over 400
acres. The plaza of the site is a half mile across. It's an ancient planned
community. The layout is like this: in a grassy field there are 6
concentric raised semi-circles facing the river channel [formerly a part of
the Mississippi] which were occupied by circular houses. The park marks
the semi-circles by cutting the grass taller so they stand out. At the apex
of the the whole deal, rising out of the woods, is a huge mound 70 feet
high in the shape of a bird with outstrecthed wings. Beyond that is a
shallow moat. The semi-circles are divided by three avenues oriented to the
winter solstice and dates close to equinox and summer solstice. Late day
light was golden. A few pickup trucks passed but there was no one else
anywhere. I climbed the big mound and listened the the shreiks of large
unfamiliar marshbirds and walked to markers placed around the grounds til
Next day at Dr Saunders lab I met Reca Jones now in her 60's who discovered
Watson Brake after it was partly cleared by logging back in the early 70's
She introduced me to two research assistants who were sorting material
recovered from sample pits and showed me what they were finding. Then I
followed Dr Saunders out to the site. Watson Brake is the oldest man-made
structure in the western hemisphere, carbon-dated to circa 3400 BC. It's
2000 years older than Poverty Point. It consists of a wide 'C'-shaped
platform affair 20 to 40 feet wide with mounds spaced around it at
intervals. The open part of the 'C' is closed with three more mounds. I t
overlooks a river that was once much bigger. Debris distribution indicates
the inhabitants worked and camped on the raised "C" and its mounds. No post
holes for shelters have been found. Amazingly samplings of the the center
plaza indicate that it is conspicuously free of the debris of any kind of
human activity. This suggests that perhaps this area was kept ceremonially
clean as sacred or ritual space. Illustrators who have drawn the site
always show the setting bare of vegetation. Dr Saunders believes the site
looked different during its occupation. In his view, tall hickory trees
grew on the ring as well as trellised miscadine grapevines which still grow
wild on the site. These provided food and shade. The occupants of Watson
Brake were pre-ceramic. They did not cook in pots. They heated liquids in
water tight baskets by placing a sucession of hot stones or fired clay
objects in the liquid til it was hot. A distinctive feature of the site at
Watson Brake is they liked to make these immersion objects in the shape of
cubes. Poverty Point occupants continued to cook this way two millenia
later and had their own characteristic immersion objects.
We were done by noon, Saunders said that Marksville [ 400-1000AD] was
close enough to see and worth a two hour detour. I drove from Monroe to
Alexandria along a beautiful 4-lane following the Quachita [sounds like
wash-a-taw] river though tall pines, then 30 minutes east to Marksville.
The Tunica indians have a big casino in Marksville and a tribal
interpretive museum next door . The building is earth covered and built to
look like a mound with a hut on top. It is ringed by a moat and gator
statues guard the entrances.
The mound site is in the nearby State Commorative Area. It has its own
museum. The site is nice but lacks the imaginative groundskeeping of
poverty point. Overall the park has a distinctly underfunded appearance.
Altho parts of the the site are very early it is now thought to have been
reoccupied and expanded.Marksville is thought to have been under their
influence of Ohio Hopewell for a time . Several of the displays address
this subject. By now people made pottery and the pottery found at
Marksville is very nice. It is apparently similar to Hopewell pottery in
form and motifs. The characteristic figure on pots from Marksville shows
the repeating image of a fantastic creature in raised relief, a combination
longbeaked bird with curvy serpents body. Other ancient pottery of
Arkansas, North Louisiana and Mississippi, is also very nice and desirable
among regional collectors. Pot hunting, or freestyle grave robbing,
depending on your viewpoint, is an old regional pasttime. There are no
large pottery collections in any regional museums, all such collections are
in private hand
The exhibits at Marksville's museum were originally done in the 50's and
have been recently freshened. They still preserve the antique charm of the
older graphic-arts style . The B&W photos of the site as part of a farm
in the 1920's and of excavation projects in the 30's are also wonderful.
Because of the Hopewell connection there are also other old photos of
important sites in Ohio, at Newark and Chilicothe.
The most memorable meal on the trip was at Leesville, La on the way back.
At a crossroads where one road heads for Texas and the other goes to Lake
Charles, was an establishment called Jacks Place. It was gas station and
nice diner. They served several fresh-made items. I ordered a half catfish
sandwich to go for $3.50, the cheapest thing on the menu. These turned out
to be fresh, not frozen, fillets. The young lady hand breaded several
orders and deep fried them. Next she prepared my frenchbread loaf with a
spicy sauce and placed a very large piece of fried fish on it. It was
almost a foot long! I told her I only ordered the HALF catfish sandwich.
She looked at me and said, "This is half a catfish." Wow! B.
eGroups.com home: http://www.egroups.com/group/sacredlandscapelist
http://www.egroups.com - Simplifying group communications