Artist's conception of the Watson Brake Site
|Location|| Logtown, Louisiana, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, |
|Region||Ouachita Parish, Louisiana|
|Responsible body: private|
Watson Brake is an archaeological site in present-day Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, from the Archaic period. Dated to about 5400 years ago (approx. 3500 BCE), Watson Brake is considered the oldest earthwork mound complex in North America.It is older than the Egyptian pyramids or England’s Stonehenge. Its discovery and dating in a paper published in 1997 changed the ideas of American archaeologists about ancient cultures in the Southeast and their ability to manage large, complex projects over centuries. The archeologists revised their date of the oldest earthwork construction by nearly 2000 years, as well as having to recognize that it was developed over centuries by a hunter-gatherer society, rather than by what was known to be more common of other, later mound sites: a more sedentary society dependent on maize cultivation and with a hierarchical, centralized polity.
An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved, and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record. Sites may range from those with few or no remains visible above ground, to buildings and other structures still in use.
Ouachita Parish is located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 153,720. The parish seat is Monroe. The parish was formed in 1807.
A mound is a heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris. Most commonly, mounds are earthen formations such as hills and mountains, particularly if they appear artificial. A mound may be any rounded area of topographically higher elevation on any surface. Artificial mounds have been created for a variety of reasons throughout history, including ceremonial, burial (tumulus), and commemorative purposes.
The arrangement of human-made mounds at Watson Brake was constructed over centuries by members of a hunter-gatherer society. It is located near Watson Bayou in the floodplain of the Ouachita River, near present-day Monroe in northern Louisiana, United States. Watson Brake consists of an oval formation of eleven earthwork mounds from three to 25 feet (7.6 m) in height, connected by ridges to form an oval nearly 900 feet (270 m) across.
The Ouachita River is a 605-mile-long (974 km) river that runs south and east through the U.S. states of Arkansas and Louisiana, joining the Tensas River to form the Black River near Jonesville, Louisiana. It is the 25th-longest river in the United States.
Monroe is the eighth-largest city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is the parish seat of Ouachita Parish. In the official 2010 census, Monroe had a population of 48,815. The municipal population declined by 8.1 percent over the past decade; it was 53,107 in the 2000 census. After a recheck in 2012, the Census Bureau changed the 2010 population from 48,815 to 49,147. Mayor Jamie Mayo, however, maintains that the Monroe population is more than 50,000 and indicated that he will pursue a continued challenge to the count.
Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.
Watson Brake is dated to 1,900 years before the better-known Poverty Point in northern Louisiana; begun about 1500 BCE, it was previously thought to be the earliest mound site in North America. Mound building in the Americas started at an early date.
Poverty Point State Historic Site is a prehistoric earthwork constructed by the Poverty Point culture. The Poverty Point site is located in present-day northeastern Louisiana though evidence of the Poverty Point culture extends throughout much of the Southeastern Woodlands. The culture extended 100 miles (160 km) across the Mississippi Delta and south to the Gulf Coast. The Poverty Point site has been designated as a U.S. National Monument, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Southern United States, the site is 15.5 miles (24.9 km) from the current flow of the Mississippi River, and is situated on the edge of Macon Ridge, near the village of Epps in West Carroll Parish, Louisiana.
The discovery and dating of Watson Brake as a Middle Archaic site demonstrate that the pre-agricultural, pre-ceramic, indigenous cultures within the territory of the present-day United States were much more complex than previously thought. While primarily hunter-gatherers, they planned and organized large work forces over centuries to accomplish the complex mound and ridge constructions. Monumental constructions have marked the rise of social complexity worldwide. The earthen mounds of Eastern North America are linked to mankind's monument tradition.
Indigenous peoples, also known as First peoples, Aboriginal peoples or Native peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original settlers of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. Groups are usually described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with a given region. Not all indigenous peoples share this characteristic, as many have adopted substantial elements of a colonizing culture, such as dress, religion or language. Indigenous peoples may be settled in a given region (sedentary) or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but they are generally historically associated with a specific territory on which they depend. Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate zone and continent of the world.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
In the early 1980s, Reca Bamburg Jones, a local resident, brought this site to the attention of professional archaeologists. By 1981, after logging had revealed more of the site, Jones identified the pattern of eleven mounds connected by ridges, a complex that was 280 yards across. In 1983, Jones and John Belmont published the site in a survey of pre-history in the Ouachita River Valley. Around this time Joe W. Saunders, then regional archaeologist for the state, was shown the site.
The site had been privately controlled since the 1950s. Approximately half the site is still owned by several family members, who have allowed archaeological excavations and associated work, but do not permit public viewing.Recognizing the site's significance, in 1996 The Archaeological Conservancy purchased half the site and later sold it to the state for preservation.
The Archaeological Conservancy is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that acquires and preserves archaeological sites in the United States. Whereas nearly every other nation protects all archaeological sites within its borders as part of its national patrimony, in the United States archaeological resources on private land are the private property of the landowner. As a result, archaeological sites in the United States are subject to destruction by urban development and sprawl, mechanized agricultural and land-leveling, and commercial looting to fuel the antiquities trade. By the 1970s the extent of archaeological site loss was increasing recognized as a crisis for the scientific study of the nation's past.
Since the 1990s, radiocarbon dating by a team from Northeast Louisiana University established the great antiquity of the site. The team of Joe W. Saunders et al. published a paper in Science in 1997 that established the age of the mound complex.
The analysis of 27 radiocarbon dates indicates that the site was initially occupied around 4000 BCE during the Middle Archaic period. Mound construction began at approximately 3500 BCE, and continued for approximately 500 years.During that time period, the mounds were enlarged in several stages. Excavations indicate that there was sufficient time between building episodes for midden deposits of residents to accumulate on top of the mounds and ridges. In addition, teams from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington dated the site by using sand grains and organic acids in the soils.
Evidence of the middens indicate that Watson Brake may have been used as a "base by mobile hunter-gatherers from summer through fall."Saunders and his team suggest that the building episodes at Watson Brake coincide with periods of unpredictable rainfall caused by El Niño-Southern Oscillation events. They may represent "a communal response to new stresses of droughts and flooding that created a suddenly more unpredictable food base." Midden remains showed the population relied on fish, shellfish, and riverine animals, supplemented by local annuals: goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), knotweed (Polygonum spp.), and possibly marshelder (Iva annua). Over time, the people consumed more terrestrial animals, such as deer, turkey, raccoon, opossum, squirrel, and rabbits, which was likely related to changing habitat and waterway conditions. The site appears to have been abandoned around 2800 BCE. This may have been caused by a "decline in the main channel, gravel/sand shoal habitats, backwater swamps, and small-stream habitats" near the site.
Together with other Middle Archaic sites in Louisiana and Florida, Watson Brake shows the development of complex societies among hunter-gatherer peoples. They occupied the site only on a seasonal basis, but were capable of planning and organizing complex monumental construction over a period of several hundred years.
In contrast to Poverty Point, where residents made projectile points with materials traded from distant locations, including Wisconsin and Tennessee, the artifacts of Watson Brake show local materials and production. The projectile points are Middle to Late Archaic in age, and were produced more casually than those at Poverty Point. The people heated local gravel for cooking stones to steam some of their food. They created and fired earthenware items in a variety of shapes, but researchers have not yet determined their functions.
Eight members of the Gentry family have owned most of the site since the 1950s. One member declines to sell property to the state, so the site is not available for public viewing. The family have granted specific permission to individual archaeologists to conduct research on site.
In the classification of the archaeological cultures of North America, the Archaic period or "Meso-Indian period" in North America, taken to last from around 8000 to 1000 BC in the sequence of North American pre-Columbian cultural stages, is a period defined by the archaic stage of cultural development. The Archaic stage is characterized by subsistence economies supported through the exploitation of nuts, seeds, and shellfish. As its ending is defined by the adoption of sedentary farming, this date can vary significantly across the Americas.
In archaeology, timber circles are circular arrangements of wooden posts interpreted as being either complexes of freestanding totem poles or as the supports for large circular buildings.
The various cultures collectively termed "Mound Builders" were inhabitants of North America who, during a circa 5,000-year period, constructed various styles of earthen mounds for religious, ceremonial, burial, and elite residential purposes. These included the pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period, Woodland period, and Mississippian period; dating from roughly 3500 BCE to the 16th century CE, and living in regions of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, and the Mississippi River valley and its tributary waters.
Poverty Point culture is an archaeological culture that of a prehistoric indigenous peoples who inhabited a portion of the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf coast from about 1730 - 1350 BC.
The Horr's Island archaeological site is a significant Archaic period archaeological site located on an island in Southwest Florida formerly known as Horr's Island. Horr's Island is on the south side of Marco Island in Collier County, Florida. The site includes four mounds and a shell ring. It has one of the oldest known mound burials in the eastern United States, dating to about 3400 radiocarbon years Before Present (BP). One of the mounds has been dated to as early as 6700 BP. It was the largest known community in the southeastern United States to have been permanently occupied during the Archaic period.
The Belle Glade culture, or Okeechobee culture, is an archaeological culture that existed from as early as 1000 BCE until about 1700 in the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee and in the Kissimmee River valley in the Florida Peninsula.
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, also known as Knapp Mounds, Toltec Mounds Site or Toltec Mounds, is an archaeological site from the Late Woodland period in Arkansas that protects an 18-mound complex with the tallest surviving prehistoric mounds in Arkansas. The site is on the banks of Mound Lake, an oxbow lake of the Arkansas River. It was occupied by its original inhabitants from 600 to 1050 CE. The site is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Jaketown Site is an archaeological site with two prehistoric earthwork mounds in Humphreys County, Mississippi, United States. While the mounds have not been excavated, distinctive pottery sherds found in the area lead scholars to date the mounds' construction and use to the Mississippian culture period, roughly 1100 CE to 1500 CE.
Oxidizable carbon ratio dating is a method of dating in archaeology and earth science that can be used to derive or estimate the age of soil and sediment samples up to 35,000 years old. The method is experimental, and it is not as widely used in archaeology as other chronometric methods such as radiocarbon dating.
Kristen Johnson Gremillion is an American anthropologist whose areas of specialization include paleoethnobotany, origins of agriculture, the prehistory of eastern North America, human paleoecology and paleodiet, and the evolutionary theory. Currently a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Ohio State University and editor of the Journal of Ethnobiology, she has published many journal articles on these subjects.
The archaeology of Iowa is the study of the buried remains of human culture within the U.S. state of Iowa from the earliest prehistoric through the late historic periods. When the American Indians first arrived in what is now Iowa more than 13,000 years ago, they were hunters and gatherers living in a Pleistocene glacial landscape. By the time European explorers visited Iowa, American Indians were largely settled farmers with complex economic, social, and political systems. This transformation happened gradually. During the Archaic period American Indians adapted to local environments and ecosystems, slowly becoming more sedentary as populations increased. More than 3,000 years ago, during the Late Archaic period, American Indians in Iowa began utilizing domesticated plants. The subsequent Woodland period saw an increase on the reliance on agriculture and social complexity, with increased use of mounds, ceramics, and specialized subsistence. During the Late Prehistoric period increased use of maize and social changes led to social flourishing and nucleated settlements. The arrival of European trade goods and diseases in the Protohistoric period led to dramatic population shifts and economic and social upheaval, with the arrival of new tribes and early European explorers and traders. During the Historical period European traders and American Indians in Iowa gave way to American settlers and Iowa was transformed into an agricultural state.
The Tchefuncte Site (16ST1) is an archaeological site that is a type site for the prehistoric Tchefuncte culture period. The name is pronounced Che-funk'tuh. It is located in the southeast section of Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.
The Hansen Site (15GP14) is an archaeological site located near South Portsmouth in Greenup County, Kentucky, United States. The 6 hectare site is on a flood terrace of the Ohio River across from the mouth of the Scioto River, just upstream from the Lower Shawneetown site and the Old Fort Earthworks. The site was occupied several times over the centuries, with occupations dating from the Late Archaic, Middle Woodland, and Fort Ancient periods.
Fort Center is an archaeological site in Glades County, Florida, United States, a few miles northwest of Lake Okeechobee. It was occupied for more than 2,000 years, from 450 BCE until about 1700 CE. The inhabitants of Fort Center may have been cultivating maize centuries before it appeared anywhere else in Florida.
Troyville Earthworks is a Woodland period Native American archaeological site with components dating from 100 BCE to 700 CE during the Baytown to the Troyville-Coles Creek periods. It once had the tallest mound in Louisiana at 82 feet (25 m) in height. It is located in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana in the town of Jonesville. The site is the type site for the Troyville culture of the lower Ouachita and Tensas River valleys. Before it was destroyed for bridge approach fill in 1931, the main mound at Troyville was one of the tallest in North America.
Marsden Mounds is an archaeological site with components from the Poverty Point culture and the Troyville-Coles Creek period. It is located in Richland Parish, Louisiana, near Delhi. It was added to the NRHP on August 4, 2004, as NRIS number 04000803. It is the type site for the Marsden Phase of the Tensas Basin and Natchez Bluff regions local chronology.
Shell rings are archaeological sites with curved shell middens completely or partially surrounding a clear space. The rings were sited next to estuaries that supported large populations of shellfish, usually oysters. Shell rings have been reported in several countries, including Colombia, Peru, Japan, and the southeastern United States. Archaeologists continue to debate the origins and use of shell rings.
Tony's Mound (8HN3) is a prehistoric to historic period archaeological site located on Dixie Dyke Road, south of Clewiston in Hendry County, Florida. Tony's Mound is one of two monumental earthwork complexes built in southern Florida by the Glade cultures around 1000 using unique and distinct sand ridges, causeways and mounds. The other site is Big Mound City, twenty five miles to the northeast in Palm Beach County. The ritual complex was first described in print by Ross Allen in the 1940s. Aerial photography showed a site consisting of nine raised causeways radiating from an immense plaza and central flat mound/midden on privately owned land used for cattle ranching.
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