How’d They Do That?

Do not adjust your set.  Yes, the image is in color.

These small decorative artifacts were all found at Poverty Point.  They don’t seem to have any type of utilitarian purpose … they weren’t used for gathering nuts or catching fish or cooking food or making tools or building mounds.  But I think the moundbuilders were aware that life isn’t just about having enough food to eat and a place to huddle under during bad weather.  And even though providing the basic necessities for a non-agrarian culture must have been a massive amount of work, they still found time for making “pretty clay thingys” (not a scientific term and I’ve even been told I’m spelling “thingys” wrong.)

Why?  Why did even these ancient cultures feel the need to create … art?  Why was it so necessary that people who were probably struggling to scratch out an existence for their civilization still stop long enough to support extraneous endeavors, to do work that wasn’t going to put food on the table?  I think maybe it’s because they understood that life isn’t worth living if it is only about doing the necessary stuff, the required stuff, the expected stuff.  There have to be ways to do the other things that make life worthwhile.

I’m so grateful for the archaeologists who study these sites, find these artifacts, date the mounds and provide all of us with this information that enriches our lives while also preserving the lives of these ancient people.  They aren’t necessary.  They aren’t as “required” as education and healthcare and jobs.  But I feel fortunate that they are doing the work that most of us aren’t skilled enough to do and that they are making our lives fuller with their research.

The current budget negotiations in Louisiana are slashing away at all of our basic needs including the possibility of doing away with our regional archaeology program.  This is the same program that made us aware of places like Watson Brake and Hedgepeth and Frenchman’s Bend – some of the oldest civilizations in North America.  (I’d like to say the oldest but I’ll need an archaeologist to tell me if that is correct or not.)  The ancient mounds driving trail is only in existence because of our regional archaeology program.  The notion that these sacred earthworks are something that Louisianians can be proud of is due to the work of the regional archaeology program.

Jeff Girard, regional archaeologist, is currently working at Fish Creek.  Through his study we are finding out that the site is much older than first believed.  What other secrets does it have?  And what other sites are out there that still need to be studied?

I wonder if the ancient moundbuilders left us any other clues … like how to manage a state budget to allow for education, healthcare, jobs AND the arts and the regional archaeology program.  Because I’m not sure our modern-day society is going to be able to figure that out without help.

Clay figure, Poverty Point

About Jenny Ellerbe

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