Near present-day Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, is the neolithic site Watson Brake. Making it older than stonehenge and some pyramids, it is estimated 3-4 thousand years old. It is the most ancient ‘earth mound complex’ in North America. It is recognized as a hunter-gatherer society, though believed to have also done maize cultivation with an organizational structure.
The livable mounds were believed to be constructed over 500 years of time. It is located in the Ouachita flood plain near Watson Bayou, and Monroe. It consists of 11 earthwork mounds, from 3 to 25 feet and was connected by ridges to form an oval nearly 900 feet across.
The site has been dated before the ‘poverty point’, in Northern Louisiana about 1,900 years. Though the earliest known North American mound neolithic site, there are quite a number of earlier sites in Mexico and Central America.
In 1980, local resident, Reca Bamburg Jones, identified the pattern of eleven mounds connected by ridges. She, and a few others published a survey of ‘pre history in the Ouachita River Valley In 1983.
Half the site is still owned by different families, and the site had been privately controlled since the 1950s. Northeast Louisiana University, and University of Texas (Austin) has radio carbon dated and published papers on the great antiquity of the site. The Gentry family grants permission to archeologists wishing to view this site but refuses to sell.
Building coincided with periods of rainfall, and el Nino, and ‘southern oscillation events’. Hunting and gathering may represented the response to droughts, flooding and unpredictable food supply base. Food findings included: fish, shellfish; deer, turkey, raccoon, opossum, squirrel, and rabbits. Plants: goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), knotweed (Polygonum spp.), and possibly marshelder (Iva annua). 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 fully yet determined their functions.
Without steel or metal working tools, Watson Brake demonstrates that pre-agricultural, ceramic, indigenous cultures were complex. They organized large enough forces to build nearly 10 meter mounds, and monumental construction, that marked the rise of neolithic times, and social complexity worldwide. Here’s to monuments.
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