Native Americans built Poverty Point in less than 90 days, research confirms

Academics are constantly underestimating the complexity and sophistication of all ancient civilizations but perhaps more so with ancient Native American civilizations. The standard story goes that only people that practiced agriculture could develop the necessary surpluses to establish complex societies and civilization. It seems every time archaeologists put a spade into the earth what comes out is not just dirt but evidence that their theories are simply too simplistic. Every shovel full of dirt conspires to push back the date of the earliest civilizations and the complexity of the “primitive” people who built them. Such is the case with the spectacular site of Poverty Point in Louisiana. This was one of the earliest complex civilizations in the Americas dating to around 1700 BC. The latest research has stunned researchers at the speed with which its enormous earthen pyramid was constructed by a supposedly “simple” and “archaic” hunter-gatherer society. Read the full story below to learn more:

Nominated early this year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, La., have been described as one of the world’s greatest feats of construction by an archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers.

Now, new research in the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30 days — an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands of foragers.

“What’s extraordinary about these findings is that it provides some of the first evidence that early American hunter-gatherers were not as simple as we’ve tended to imagine,” says study co-author T.R. Kidder, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Our findings go against what has long been considered the academic consensus on hunter-gatherer societies — that they lack the political organization necessary to bring together so many people to complete a labor-intensive project in such a short period.”

Co-authored by Anthony Ortmann, PhD, assistant professor of geosciences at Murray State University in Kentucky, the study offers a detailed analysis of how the massive mound was constructed some 3,200 years ago along a Mississippi River bayou in northeastern Louisiana.

Based on more than a decade of excavations, core samplings and sophisticated sedimentary analysis, the study’s key assertion is that Mound A at Poverty Point had to have been built in a very short period because an exhaustive examination reveals no signs of rainfall or erosion during its construction.

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Study co-authors Anthony Ortmann (standing) and T.R. Kidder (center) evaluate the Mound A excavations at Poverty Point. Katherine Adelsberger (seated left), then a Washington University graduate student (now professor at Knox College), and Rachel Bielitz, then a Washington University undergraduate, look on.

“We’re talking about an area of northern Louisiana that now tends to receive a great deal of rainfall,” Kidder says. “Even in a very dry year, it would seem very unlikely that this location could go more than 90 days without experiencing some significant level of rainfall. Yet, the soil in these mounds shows no sign of erosion taking place during the construction period. There is no evidence from the region of an epic drought at this time, either.”

Louisiana_-_Poverty_Point300Part of a much larger complex of earthen works at Poverty Point, Mound A is believed to be the final and crowning addition to the sprawling 700-acre site, which includes five smaller mounds and a series of six concentric C-shaped embankments that rise in parallel formation surrounding a small flat plaza along the river. At the time of construction, Poverty Point was the largest earthworks in North America.

Built on the western edge of the complex, Mound A covers about 538,000 square feet [roughly 50,000 square meters] at its base and rises 72 feet above the river. Its construction required an estimated 238,500 cubic meters — about eight million bushel baskets —of soil to be brought in from various locations near the site. Kidder figures it would take a modern, 10-wheel dump truck about 31,217 loads to move that much dirt today.

“The Poverty Point mounds were built by people who had no access to domesticated draft animals, no wheelbarrows, no sophisticated tools for moving earth,” Kidder explains. “It’s likely that these mounds were built using a simple ‘bucket brigade’ system, with thousands of people passing soil along from one to another using some form of crude container, such as a woven basket, a hide sack or a wooden platter.”

Kidder hole

Kidder analyzes the varied colors and layers of the soils of Mound A, which are a result of the building process. Indians carried basket-loads of dirt weighing roughly 55 pounds and piled them up carefully to form the mound.

To complete such a task within 90 days, the study estimates it would require the full attention of some 3,000 laborers. Assuming that each worker may have been accompanied by at least two other family members, say a wife and a child, the community gathered for the build must have included as many as 9,000 people, the study suggests.

“Given that a band of 25-30 people is considered quite large for most hunter-gatherer communities, it’s truly amazing that this ancient society could bring together a group of nearly 10,000 people, find some way to feed them and get this mound built in a matter of months,” Kidder says.

Soil testing indicates that the mound is located on top of land that was once low-lying swamp or marsh land — evidence of ancient tree roots and swamp life still exists in undisturbed soils at the base of the mound. Tests confirm that the site was first cleared for construction by burning and quickly covered with a layer of fine silt soil. A mix of other heavier soils then were brought in and dumped in small adjacent piles, gradually building the mound layer upon layer.

As Kidder notes, previous theories about the construction of most of the world’s ancient earthen mounds have suggested that they were laid down slowly over a period of hundreds of years involving small contributions of material from many different people spanning generations of a society. While this may be the case for other earthen structures at Poverty Point, the evidence from Mound A offers a sharp departure from this accretional theory.

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A group of school students visits the Washington University excavations of Mound A at Poverty Point. While doing work at the site, researchers collaborate closely with the Louisiana Office of State Parks to conduct educational and outreach efforts that enhance understanding of the rich history and archaeology of America’s native inhabitants.

Kidder’s home base in St. Louis is just across the Mississippi River from one of America’s best known ancient earthen structures, the Monk Mound at Cahokia, Ill. He notes that the Monk Mound was built many centuries later than the mounds at Poverty Point by a civilization that was much more reliant on agriculture, a far cry from the hunter-gatherer group that built Poverty Point. Even so, Mound A at Poverty Point is much larger than almost any other mound found in North America; only Monk’s Mound at Cahokia is larger.

“We’ve come to realize that the social fabric of these societies must have been much stronger and more complex that we might previously have given them credit. These results contradict the popular notion that pre-agricultural people were socially, politically, and economically simple and unable to organize themselves into large groups that could build elaborate architecture or engage in so-called complex social behavior,” Kidder says. “The prevailing model of hunter-gatherers living a life ‘nasty, brutish and short’ is contradicted and our work indicates these people were practicing a sophisticated ritual/religious life that involved building these monumental mounds.”

Courtesy WUSTL.edu. Original story appeared here: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24857.aspx

Carvings in Land Attest to Amazon’s Lost World

The earliest explorers of the Amazon recorded that it was filled with villages and towns. After European diseases swept the area and wiped out its inhabitants, the jungle regrew and hid all evidence of these civilizations. Later explorers would find no evidence of such civilizations and the archaeological community, in all their brilliance and wisdom, decided they never existed and were simply the product of the overactive imaginations of the early explorers. In typical academic fashion, they then went on to create theories of why no such civilizations could have existed based on the low quality of the soils. The theories became established dogma and anyone who suggested the early eyewitness accounts might be true were considered fringe, nutty Atlantis seekers. Yet the latest research verifies the accuracy of the early eyewitness accounts and once more exposes the flaws and blind adherence to dogma of modern academia. Read the New York Times story below about the discovery of geoglyphs discovered in “pristine” jungle:

RIO BRANCO, Brazil — Edmar Araújo still remembers the awe. As he cleared trees on his family’s land decades ago near Rio Branco, an outpost in the far western reaches of the Brazilian Amazon, a series of deep earthen avenues carved into the soil came into focus.

“These lines were too perfect not to have been made by man,” said Mr. Araújo, a 62-year-old cattleman. “The only explanation I had was that they must have been trenches for the war against the Bolivians.”

But these were no foxholes, at least not for any conflict waged here at the dawn of the 20th century. According to stunning archaeological discoveries here in recent years, the earthworks on Mr. Araújo’s land and hundreds like them nearby are much, much older — potentially upending the conventional understanding of the world’s largest tropical rain forest.

The deforestation that has stripped the Amazon since the 1970s has also exposed a long-hidden secret lurking underneath thick rain forest: flawlessly designed geometric shapes spanning hundreds of yards in diameter.

Alceu Ranzi, a Brazilian scholar who helped discover the squares, octagons, circles, rectangles and ovals that make up the land carvings, said these geoglyphs found on deforested land were as significant as the famous Nazca lines, the enigmatic animal symbols visible from the air in southern Peru.

“What impressed me the most about these geoglyphs was their geometric precision, and how they emerged from forest we had all been taught was untouched except by a few nomadic tribes,” said Mr. Ranzi, a paleontologist who first saw the geoglyphs in the 1970s and, years later, surveyed them by plane.

For some scholars of human history in Amazonia, the geoglyphs in the Brazilian state of Acre and other archaeological sites suggest that the forests of the western Amazon, previously considered uninhabitable for sophisticated societies partly because of the quality of their soils, may not have been as “Edenic” as some environmentalists contend.

Instead of being pristine forests, barely inhabited by people, parts of the Amazon may have been home for centuries to large populations numbering well into the thousands and living in dozens of towns connected by road networks, explains the American writer Charles C. Mann.

Read the full story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/americas/land-carvings-attest-to-amazons-lost-world.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=world

Ancient Amazon Cities Found

Academic dogma asserted that early eyewitness accounts of large numbers of towns and villages in the Amazon were simply flights of fancy of the overactive imaginations of the European explorers. They even went further and advanced theories for why such civilizations could never have existed due to the poor quality of the soil. As is usually the case, the eyewitness accounts have proven to be true and the Academic establishment is left looking like a bunch of brain-dead, fanatical cult members mindlessly repeating the talking points of their Dear Esteemed Leaders and High Priests of Science. Read the National Georgraphic story below about the “controversial new theory” that shows people in the New World were just as advanced as those in the Old:

Dozens of ancient, densely packed, towns, villages, and hamlets arranged in an organized pattern have been mapped in the Brazilian Amazon, anthropologists announced today.

The finding suggests that vast swathes of “pristine” rain forest may actually have been sophisticated urban landscapes prior to the arrival of European colonists.

“It is very different from what we might expect using certain classic models of urbanism,” noted study co-author Michael Heckenberger, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Nevertheless, he said, the repeated patterns within and among settlements across the landscape suggest a highly ordered and planned society on par with any medievalEuropean town.

The finding supports a controversial theory that the Amazon River Basin teemed with large societies that were all but obliterated by disease when European colonists arrived in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The isolated tribes that remain in the Amazon today are the last survivors of these once great societies, according to the theory.

Read the full story here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/08/080828-amazon-cities.html

Brazilian Stonehenge Discovered

The Academic establishment has long argued there were no civilizations much less advanced civilizations in Brazil or the Amazon. Apparently they were wrong. Read this story from the BBC about the discovery of a Brazilian Stonehenge:

 

Brazilian archaeologists have found an ancient stone structure in a remote corner of the Amazon that may cast new light on the region’s past.

The site, thought to be an observatory or place of worship, pre-dates European colonisation and is said to suggest a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. Its appearance is being compared to the English site of Stonehenge.

It was traditionally thought that before European colonisation, the Amazon had no advanced societies. The archaeologists made the discovery in the state of Amapa, in the far north of Brazil. A total of 127 large blocks of stone were found driven into the ground on top of a hill.

Well preserved and each weighing several tons, the stones were arranged upright and evenly spaced. It is not yet known when the structure was built, but fragments of indigenous pottery found at the site are thought to be 2,000 years old.

What impressed researchers was the sophistication of the construction. The stones appear to have been laid out to help pinpoint the winter solstice, when the sun is at its lowest in the sky.

It is thought the ancient people of the Amazon used the stars and phases of the moon to determine crop cycles.

Although the discovery at Amapa is being compared to Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle in southern England, the English site is considerably older.

It is thought to have been erected some time between 3000 and 1600 BC.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/americas/4767717.stm

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