National Geographic : 1972 Dec
Caribbean coast. It is a striking coincidence, but archeologists so far have been unable to corroborate the theory. Around 1500 to 1000 B.C.-while Koster's Horizon 3 was growing-one of the earliest nonshell mound systems came into being. Re cently the site, beside Louisiana's Bayou Macon, was purchased by the State Parks Commission to assure its preservation. Called Poverty Point today, its six low ridges form half an octagon three-quarters of a mile across. Centered on the outermost ridge is a 70-foot mound, and others loom to the north (map, page 791). For me, Poverty Point stands large in the story of ancient North America in a way that belies its culture's relatively limited geo graphical range-the lower Mississippi Val ley. For the site appears to have served as a depot of ideas that linked Middle America with eastern North America. Excavations at the Louisiana site reveal that its artisans excelled at their crafts. They made ornaments of red jasper, hematite, and other hard stone imported from hundreds of miles away. Flint and chert were flaked into efficient points and cutting tools. But, most intriguing, some of the clay figurines found at Poverty Point have cleft heads similar to those on jade figures fashioned about the same time across the Gulf of Mexico by the Olmecs, who planned Middle America's first extensive cer emonial centers. The Living Labor to Honor the Dead One age was coming to an end while Pov erty Point lived. It belonged to the Archaic Period of semisettled life and skilled crafts manship. In the future lay an age when man would be tied more closely to the land. About the time Koster's Horizon 2 was laid down, advanced cultures would raise their burial mounds along the upper Ohio Valley. From Indiana to West Virginia, hundreds of conical dirt heaps dot the Ohio Valley. The first culture of the Burial Mound Period existed from 1000 to 300 B.C., and takes its name from a great mound on the Adena estate, near Chillicothe, Ohio. The Adena seem to have had an almost obsessive preoccupation with honoring the dead. Where did the obsession come from? Perhaps it was indigenous. Perhaps it came from Middle America. Whatever its source, it existed, for most Adena mounds contain many graves. Some structures reached truly Winged man, embossed on a copper plate, figured in ceremonies of the Southern Cult. Probably made in Oklahoma from Great Lakes copper, the piece was plowed up in a Missouri field and reflects the widespread cultural contacts of some 700 years ago.