The Mound Builders

I am not an archaeologist and am terrible at remembering dates and facts and numbers.  But I am better at understanding ideas.  And the idea of who these people were and how they lived is enthralling to me.

The oldest mound sites in this area (or anywhere, I think) are around 5000 years old.  They were built by hunter gatherers.  People who moved from place to place to find food.  People who were not supposed to put down roots and build anything permanent.  And yet they built large earthern mounds, usually in groups, by hauling basket after basket of dirt.  Why?  I can’t find a good answer.  Maybe they were meant to symbolize the Earth Island, the birth of the planet, its rising from the womb of the cosmos.  Maybe they were built as offerings to mystical gods or as places of worship.  Maybe they were built simply to identify their land as home.  “We have built these structures.  This is where we live.”

It’s amazing to me that any of these mounds are still standing after so many centuries.  They aren’t as impressive as the pyramids of Egypt or the cliff houses of Mesa Verde, at least not visually.  But once you get to know them, they are just as stunning, maybe more so.  I imagine a stone house built into a cliff in Colorado, untouched, would last a considerable length of time.  But a mound of dirt, in the floodplain of the Mississippi River, in a region of drenching rains, that lasts for centuries required more than just hard work.  It required engineering.  And maybe the the watchful eye of the spirits that inhabit it.

Poverty Point State Historic Site, Epps, Louisiana

About Jenny Ellerbe

I am a photographer living, and working, in northeastern Louisiana.
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