Poverty Point receives international recognition

Published 11:07 am Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Great Wall of China, Stonehenge in England, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the monumental earthworks of Poverty Point are among the 1,007 places on the Unites Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s list of most historically and culturally significant sites in the world. 

Poverty Point, located near Epps in West Carroll Parish,La., joined that list this week during UNESCO’s annual meting on Doha, Qatar, where 26 new properties where added. The site was the U.S. Department of the Interior’s lone nomination for world heritage status. Its inscription onto the list makes it only the 22nd World Heritage Site in the United States.

“This is a huge win for Louisiana. I don’t think people realize how impactful this will be to northeast Louisiana’s economy,” Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said. “The World Heritage designation solidifies Poverty Point as one of the world’s greatest archaeological treasures, and we will work with surrounding parishes to provide early promotion of the inscription.”

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“It will have a great impact on traffic through the region and it will bring a lot more interpretation to the mound experience all along the river,” said Bill Serratt, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We encourage hubbing and spoking to the surrounding areas from here and what a wonderful trip it will be to a World Heritage Site an hour away.”

Already included in tourist maps of the area, Serratt believes the designation will bring more focus to the site and draw more money to preserve and tell the story of Poverty Point.

“There are a lot of visitors from around the world who travel specifically to see World Heritage Sites and hopefully they will venture a little further east,” said Mike Madell, superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park.

The earthworks at Poverty Point derive their name from a 19th century plantation close to the site. It is located 51 miles from Vicksburg in Pioneer.

About 3,500 years ago, natives known as Poverty Point People constructed a complex of semi-elliptical earthen ridges and mounds centered around a 35-acre flat plaza, David Griffing, manager of the historic site previously said.

No one is sure why the mounds were built or what purpose they served, Griffing said.

Archeologists believe the ridges were used to hold housing and it is estimated that as many as 2,500 people lived at Poverty Point around 1500 B.C., at the height of the civilization.

Ongoing research has not unearthed whether the complex had a steady residential function or was a campground occupied temporarily during ceremonies of trading fairs.

“Louisiana’s natural environment made these accomplishments possible. This site flourished long before Indians in this area grew corn or raised animals. People lived by hunting, fishing and gathering wild foods that are a part of the bounty of our state,” State Archaeologist Chip McGimsey said. “The location also allowed for long-distance canoe travel using the region’s network of waterways.”

Later this year, Dardenne, along with the Office of Cultural Development and the Office of State Parks, will host officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of State to celebrate the site’s inscription.