Imagine stumbling upon a piece of history in your backyard that's older than the pyramids of Egypt and even Stonehenge. That's exactly what we have here in Louisiana with the Watson Brake earthworks in Ouachita Parish. This isn't just another viral archaeological site; it's the oldest known mound complex in North America, built around 5,400 years ago. This means that our ancestors were building monumental structures right here in Louisiana over a thousand years before it became a trend worldwide.

In what looks like it could be your everyday wooded area off the side of the interstate, Watson Brake is like stepping into a time machine. The site is made up of eleven earth mounds connected by ridges, forming an impressive oval shape. This incredible discovery didn't come to light until 1981, thanks to Reca Bamburg Jones, a local resident who spotted the mounds after the area was logged. It's quite the unique hidden gem, partly owned by the state and partly by private individuals.

Radiocarbon dating tells us that people were hanging out in this spot as early as 4,000 BCE, starting construction on these mounds around 3,500 BCE. That's around the same time people figured out tin and started writing in cuneiform halfway across the world. It's kind of mind-blowing to think about locals here in Louisiana, building these massive structures with nothing but the tools and knowledge they had on hand.

Dr. Diana Greenlee, a local archaeologist, gives us a video tour through the thick Louisiana forest to these mounds, with the tallest standing at a proud twenty-five feet. The purpose of these mounds is still a bit of a mystery. They weren't burial grounds but perhaps a way to show off their community's strength and skills or to reinforce social ties. Whatever the reason, it's clear that the folks who built Watson Brake did not come to play around.

The folks behind Watson Brake were part of the Evans Culture, known for their hunting, fishing, and gathering prowess. The distinctive Evans points and small earthen bricks found at the site are like breadcrumbs left behind, telling us about their lives thousands of years ago.

Discovering Watson Brake in the '80s was a game-changer, proving that pre-agricultural, pre-ceramic societies in the United States were way ahead of their time, crafting sophisticated monuments that have stood the test of time. While you can't just wander onto the site since it's partly on private property, just knowing it's there is pretty cool. It's also pretty cool to know that we have a deep, rich history in our backyards right here in Louisiana, most of it accessible and able to be appreciated.

Check out more info on Watson Brake here.

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