Baked clay objects, c. 1600–1100 BC. Poverty Point site, Louisiana. North American Archaeology, UMMA Expedition. UMMAA 43976.

The site of Poverty Point in northeast Louisiana is a massive site, dominated by six parallel semi-circular earth ridges and five mounds. Dating to the Late Archaic period, c. 1600–1100 BC, the site is unique in its scale and monumentality. Scholars continue to debate the nature of this unique site and the foraging communities who built and used it. They variously describe Poverty Point as a center of ritual, pilgrimage, trade, or multi-ethnic aggregation. The site is unique, but artifacts associated with Poverty Point culture are found over much of the lower Mississippi Valley. Among the diagnostic Poverty Point objects are fired clay balls like those shown here. It is generally believed that these hand-molded “baked clay objects” (BCOs) were used in cooking—placed in earth ovens or pits, they absorbed and gradually emitted heat. They were found during surface collections on a brief UMMA expedition to Poverty Point led by Museum Director James B. Griffin in 1955.

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In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.