Two weekends ago I climbed a 72-foot mound of dirt at the Poverty Point World Heritage Site nest Epps, Louisiana. Sounds pretty unremarkable, but it isn’t. It’s pretty. Pretty marvelous.
Poverty Point is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed around 1350 B.C., Poverty Point was a center of commerce, ceremony, and living quarters. Archeologists believe it took 5 million hours for native Americans to move and shape mounds of earth into sprawling concentric circles.
My senior year at Gustavus I took an Art Before Cortes class and became transfixed by the work of the Maya culture in present-day Mexico. Those stunning pyramids and ceremonial structures they created? Also by hand. No horses, no carts. The ingenuity to create these spaces is fairly mind boggling. In the case of Poverty Point, 5 million hours. That’s a lot of time. A lot of dirt.
What Poverty Point shares with Maya cultural centers is that it was abandoned, and scientists don’t know why. We can only visit and imagine what these sites meant to the people who worshipped there.