An Owl in the Hand

This is the reverse of the sense of scale post where tiny people illustrated the monumental size of Mound A at Poverty Point.  Here station archaeologist Dr. Diana Greenlee holds a tiny Poverty Point owl made of red jasper, a type of stone.

How could anyone make something so small and so beautiful … with crude tools … over 3000 years ago?

A close-up view …

Amazing artisans.  And, yes, the small perfect hole would have allowed them to be worn as pendants.

About Jenny Ellerbe

I am a photographer living, and working, in northeastern Louisiana.
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5 Responses to An Owl in the Hand

  1. Bill says:


    There’s a theme running through your website: astonishment. How did so-called primitive peoples, who presumably needed to spend most of their energies just staying alive, find the time to create works of beauty, works of art?

    The wonderful red-jasper owls are a perfect example.

    Thanks for exploring this mystery through your photography and website. What lessons have you drawn thus far from your investigation?


  2. Hmmmmm. The first thing that pops into my mind is that the more I learn about these cultures, the more fascinating they become. Someone can look at the mounds and think … “boring piles of dirt”… and move on. But once you start learning about the people who built those piles of dirt and what their lives were like it, they start to come alive. And they are anything but boring.

    • Linda Denton says:

      As I think I told you, when I first moved to Monroe, my family and I went to Poverty Point and that was indeed my teen-age impression–“What a drag; its a grassy hill”. I had no idea what it was all about. Thank you so much for opening my mind and heart with your writing and images about these people and their lives. Linda

  3. Julia Ferehawk says:

    In 1996, pregnant with our first child, my husband and I took our last childless vacation to Louisiana and Mississippi. We visited Poverty Point, long on our list of “must sees.” We were already considering the name Jasper for our unborn son, determined to name him after a “thing” – something rarer in boy names than for girls (think flowers and gems). Several things reinforced our name choice. One was that one of three wise men was named Jasper and our due date was Christmas Eve (he was born on December 27th). The most compelling reason that we finally decided to name him Jasper was that when visited Poverty Point, we saw on display these beautiful pot-bellied jasper owls found on the site. Over the years (Jasper just turned 16!) I have periodically searched online for a photo of these amazing objects and this year on Epiphany (which I am not necessarily attuned to, but a friend reminded me of the story of the three wise men), I was prompted to search once again.

    Thank you so much for posting these photos.

    • Wow, what a beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing it here. And how wonderful that your Jasper is connected to our “jasper” and all the way back to the people who made the owls. He will have to come and visit someday.

      There’s also a post on my blog from December 13, 2012 with a link to an article (with photos) about the owls. I hope you enjoy that also.

      Thanks again for writing.


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