Preserving Louisiana's Legacy:

Everyone Can Help

Second Edition March 1989

Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism

Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission

Nancy Hawkins

Editors Note

Louisiana's cultural heritage dates back to approximately 10,000 B.C. when Paleo-Indian hunters entered the region in search of Pleistocene big game. Since that time, many other groups have settled in the area. Each of these groups has left evidence of its presence in the archaeological record. The Anthropological Study series published by the Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism provides a readable account of various activities of these cultural groups.

Nancy Hawkins, outreach coordinator for the Division of Archaeology, is the author of Preserving Louisiana's Legacy, the fifth volume in the Anthropological Study series. This volume departs somewhat from the previous ones in the series in that it does not describe a particular group of people or archaeological sites. Rather it addresses archaeological preservation as a whole. In this volume Ms. Hawkins explains in general terms how an archaeologist studies the past, what factors affect the preservation of archaeological remains, and how government, industry, business, landowners, and other groups and individuals can contribute to the preservation of Louisiana's archaeological heritage.

We are pleased to be able to make Preserving Louisiana's Legacy available and trust that the reader will enjoy this volume.

Kathleen Byrd


Illustrations for this booklet have been generously contributed by several people. Robert Neuman, Louisiana State University, provided photographs of Monk's Mound (cover), a projectile point (p.1), a vessel from the Clarence H. Webb Collection (p.2), a shell midden (p.2), and of excavation pits (p.14). Debbie Woodiel, State Parks, gave permission to use an illustration from her thesis (p.5). The American Museum of Natural History permitted reproduction of the Poverty Point site map (p.1). All other photographs are from the files at the Division of Archaeology, and have been taken by staff archaeologists through the years.

People lived in Louisiana thousands of years before the first Europeans sailed to the New World. Because of archaeology, the history of even these early Indians is now being described and understood. All people leave traces of their activities wherever they cook, build houses, hold religious ceremonies, make tools, or dump their trash. If these traces are undisturbed, archaeologists can use them to determine who left them, when they were left, and what activities were associated with them. These are a few of the things archaeologists have learned about Louisiana:

Although many people refer to all stone points as arrowheads, Indians actually made projectile points for over 10,000 years before they ever used one on an arrow. The point pictured here would have been used on a spear and could have killed a prehistoric elephant, called a mastodon.
In northeastern Louisiana by 1000 B.C., Indians had built rows of earthen ridges three-quarters of a mile across. As far as we know, they are the earliest earthworks of their size in North America. Some archaeologists think they were constructed as an astronomical observatory because two gaps in the ridges line up with the winter and summer solstice sunsets.
Contrary to present day practice, prehistoric Louisianians preferred marsh clams over crawfish and crabs. They ate so many clams that large piles of shells can still be found in the marshes. Over time, the shells have become compressed, and now some piles are almost rock hard.
Indians in Louisiana made beautiful and elaborate pottery without ever using a potter's wheel. This delicate water bottle was made in northwestern Louisiana about A.D. 1400.
European missionaries and explorers who traveled in Louisiana in the 1600s and 1700s depended on experienced Indian traders to supply them with food, animal skins, salt, and horses. In exchange, Europeans gave the Indians beads, crucifixes, guns, metal pots, knives, and bells like these.