More about Oak Ridge

This blog has been quiet lately.  It’s really hot in Louisiana and it’s my least favorite time of the year for photography.  The light is harsh, the mosquitoes are bad and I long for October.  So I’ve been doing some research instead, inside, in the a/c.

I discovered, thanks to an article given to me by Dr. Diana Greenlee, archaeologist at Poverty Point, that the site in Oak Ridge has been studied more than I first believed.  The mounds have mostly been left intact but the site surrounding the mounds has been studied several times.  It was first mapped as far back as 1845!

It is a more recent mound site than others I have visited and they believe it was active AD 1540-1685.  And it is one of the largest and most architecturally complex sites of that period.  It has 7 mounds arranged around a plaza with an associated village outside of the mound area.  Little can be seen of that now though.  The large mound is surrounded by cornfields with another barrier of large trees and insulated again by a poison ivy farm and other vines and limbs and brush.  It’s like a hidden fortress.

It is also interesting because it appears to have evidence of earth moving to create permanent water sources and possibly irrigation.  Wow.  At first I wondered why go to all that trouble with all the water sources here?  Why not just build the site closer to water in the first place?

But the article explains that perhaps the builders of the site were looking for an isolated spot, away from the encroaching Europeans.  They aren’t believed to have been native to the area and probably came from the Mississippi River corridor to the east.  The site was built quickly and appears to have declined quickly.  It probably didn’t continue much after 1682.

Maybe the experiment didn’t work.  There was no way to build far enough away to avoid progress.  With the Europeans came changes to the economy and power struggles and new trade routes and diseases they couldn’t fight off.  By the 1720s the region was empty … all the inhabitants had been killed off or they had moved back to the Mississippi River.

This is the entrance to the great mound now … guarded by Mother Nature herself … and maybe the spirits of those who built it, finally achieving their isolation and peace.

June 2012

About Jenny Ellerbe

I am a photographer living, and working, in northeastern Louisiana.
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2 Responses to More about Oak Ridge

  1. Bill says:

    No one can blame you for not wanting to take photographs in this kind of weather. Infernal Louisiana summer! I’ve driven to Oak Ridge many times from Monroe, via Wham Brake. I know the downtown area, plus the road to Mer Rouge and the other road to Rayville. But I’ve never heard of these mounds. It all makes for an interesting chapter in your ongoing investigation. And your funny line about the “poison ivy farm” is a good one.


  2. Thanks Bill. Nice of you to say Oak Ridge has a “downtown”. That’s sort of stretching it a bit. 🙂

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