The Mystery Of Mount Bayou Mound

Future research may reveal the age of this ancient mound preserved by the Conservancy.

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In spring and summer, the Mount Bayou Mound is almost completely obscured by the thick growth of the Louisiana riverine environment. Credit:JESSICA CRAWFORD
In spring and summer, the Mount Bayou Mound is almost completely obscured by the thick growth of the Louisiana riverine environment. Credit:JESSICA CRAWFORD

Mount Bayou Mound (Louisiana)  

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The area in east-central Louisiana, where the Mount Bayou Mound is located, is characterized by flat, poorly-drained land that is subject to flooding and is interlaced with bayous, rivers, and lakes. The Ouachita, Tensas, and Black rivers meander throughout these parishes and the forest cover is a mixture of hardwoods. The rich soil makes the higher land surfaces that do not flood ideal farmland, and the woods and bottomlands are a haven for hunters and fishermen.

But today’s farmers and hunters are not the first to take advantage of the natural bounty of this part of Louisiana. Ceramics found at the site indicate that people were living at the Mount Bayou Mound, in Catahoula Parish at least as early as A.D. 700, a time when what archaeologists refer to as the Coles Creek culture began. The Coles Creek were socially complex people who did not practice maize agriculture. Instead, they were expert hunters, gatherers, and foragers. Coles Creek people are considered socially complex in part because they constructed mound sites throughout the southern portion of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Ceramics made by Plaquemine people, who date to about A.D. 1200 and who also built mounds, have been found at Mount Bayou Mound as well.

When The previous owner learned that the approximately six-foothigh mound of dirt on his property was actually a Native American mound, he contacted Chip McGimsey, the Louisiana State archaeologist, who visited the site. McGimsey confirmed that it was an ancient mound that had previously been recorded, and he suggested approaching the Conservancy about preserving it. The Conservancy was able to negotiate a price for the mound and will maintain it as a permanent archaeological preserve. The Mount Bayou Mound will hold the secret of its origin for future archaeologists.

This excerpt was published in our FALL 2018 Issue of American Archaeology.

Browse the article excerpts in our last issue: SUMMER  2018 .

American Archaeology Magazine is available on newsstands and at bookstores. Subscriptions are available by becoming a Member of the Archaeological Conservancy for an annual Donation of $30 dollars.

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