Poverty Point Museum
The museum and interpretive
center provides a fascinating
introduction to the scope and
artifacts of the Poverty Point
State Historic Site.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Poverty Point State Historic Site, Louisiana
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Poverty Point State Historic Site, Louisiana
A paved walking path leads up Mound A,
the largest of the ancient mounds at Poverty Point
State Historic Site in Northeast Louisiana.
Poverty Point Mounds
This diagram from one of the
interpretive panels at the park
illustrates the giant bird-like
appearance of the mounds
and earthen ridges at Povery
View from Mound A
The largest mound at the site
rises 72 feet above the farms
of Northeast Louisiana. It is
thought the mound may have
once been more than 100 feet
The Poverty Point Ridges
The unique concentric ridges
at Pover Point spread out like
the wings of a giant bird.
Archaeologists believe that
the houses of the village once
stood on these artificial
elevations, facing inward to
the central plaza.
Poverty Point State Historic Site - Epps, Louisiana
A Cradle of Ancient Civilization...
One of the few archaeological and historic
sites in North America that is both a State
Historic Site and a National Monument, the
massive Poverty Point archaeological site in
Northeast Louisiana was home to one of the
most important prehistoric cultures on the
The prehistoric earthworks at Poverty Point
are the largest in the western hemisphere,
stretching more than 3/4 of a mile across.
Easily accessible from Interstate 20 or U.S.
Highway 65 and only an hour from the
historic city of Vicksburg, Poverty Point is
between the Louisiana towns of Epps and
The existence of the large Native American
mounds and earthworks at Poverty Point was
first reported before the Civil War, but it was
not until many years later when someone
thought to look at aerial photographs of the
site that its true significance became known.
After decades of research, archaeologists
now report that Poverty Point is the largest
Native American structure in the western
Construction of the mounds and earthworks
began more than 3,000 years ago on a bluff
overlooking what is now Bayou Macon and
the Mississippi River Delta. At the time the
site was occupied, however, scientists
believe the flat expanse below the bluff may
have been a large shallow lake that provided
food, raw material and a transportation route
to the Mississippi and beyond. Artifacts
unearthed at Poverty Point include quartz and
other crystal from the Ouachita and Ozark
Mountains in Arkansas, copper from the
Great Lakes and shells from the Gulf of
Mexico. Such items indicate that Poverty Point
was the center of a vast trading network
thousands of years before the much better
known Mississippians began to build
earthen mounds across much of what is now
the Southeast and Midwest.
The residents of Poverty Point were hunters
and artisans. More than 8,000 complete
spear points have been recovered from the
site and archaeologists have also
discovered a fascinating array of artistic
The most astounding display of artistry at
Poverty Point, however, is the site itself. The
occupants of the site constructed six
semi-circular rings or ridges of earth around
a central plaza more than 37 acres in extent.
At their widest point, the concentric ridges
enclose an area some 3/4 of a mile across.
Although the height of the earthworks was
greatly reduced by plowing during the 19th
and 20th centuries, they can still be seen.
Archaeologists believe that the inhabitants of
the site constructed their homes atop the
ridges, all facing inward to the central plaza.
In the central plaza itself, excavations
revealed that massive wood posts once
stood at the site. The purpose of these posts
remains open to discussion, but many
believe they formed the center of some type
of ancient calender or observatory along the
lines of England's famed Stonehenge.
Several individual mounds surround the site.
Although some of these predate the main
earthworks, they appear to have been
incorporated into the overall design of the
site. As is the case with many Native
American complexes, there is strong
evidence that the Poverty Point mounds and
earthworks were designed to align with
certain astronomical events. Likely they
served a functional purpose in helping the
residents determine the changes of the
The largest of the Poverty Point earthworks,
Mound A, towers some 72 feet above the rest
of the site. Considering normal erosion
patterns over more 2,000 years, some
experts believe the mound may once have
topped 100 feet in height. From the air, it
takes the shape of a giant bird. Wings and
the feet of the effigy are clearly apparent,
although the head is more difficult to
visualize. It is worth noting, though, that the
placement of the mound at the outermost
point of the concentric rings of earthworks
allows the entire site to take on the shape of
a huge bird. Birds were common in the art of
Other mounds at the site include Mounds B
and C, which are known to have been
associated with the Poverty Point earthworks.
Sarah's Mound, also on the site, was a
platform mound from a later era and the
Ballcourt Mound appears to be a mound,
although it may also be a natural hillock.
No one knows for sure what led to the
abandonment of the Poverty Point site.
Perhaps the shallow lake dried up or
perhaps there was some collapse in
religious or societal beliefs. Regardless,
Poverty Point was the center of a massive
civilization, a culture that developed in the
Delta region of Northeast Louisiana
centuries before the laying of the first stones
on the famed Mayan pyramids.
All of the great Native American civilizations
that soon spread across the U.S. Southeast
and Midwest were born here on the banks of
Bayou Macon. None would ever undertake a
public works project of the scope and size as
the one built by the prehistoric hunters and
gatherers of Poverty Point.
The site is a designated National Monument,
but is operated by the State of Louisiana
which does a phenomenal job of preserving,
interpreting and maintaining the earthworks.
Features of the site include the mounds and
ridges, a museum, walking trails, exhibits
and guided tram tours. Poverty Point is open
daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The price to visit is
only $2 for adults. Senior citizens and kids 12
and under are admitted free.
Please click here to visit the official Poverty
Point State Historic Site website for more
information on facilities, tours, etc.
To reach the park, travel west from Vicksburg,
Mississippi, or east from Monroe, Louisiana,
on Interstate 20 to the Delhi exit and then
travel north on Louisiana Highway 17. Pass
through Delhi and turn right (east) on
Louisiana Highway 134. Turn left (north) on
Louisiana Highway 577 and you will soon
enter the park.
From Lake Providence on U.S. Highway 65,
travel west on Louisiana Highway 134 and
then turn right (north) on 577 into the park.
The GPS coordinates are N 32 38.2500;
W 91 24.4164.
Also of interest in the area is Vicksburg
National Military Park and the historic sites of
the city of Vicksburg, just across the bridge in
Mississippi and beautiful Lake Providence,
Grant's Canal, a Civil War landmark, and the
Louisiana Cotton Museum, all in Lake
A Louisiana Paradise
The Poverty Point culture
depended heavily on the
beautiful lakes, swamps and
woods of the surrounding
Louisiana countryside. Rich
in wildlife and natural foods,
the area was perfect for the
development of the large
society of hunters and
|Copyright 2010 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.