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Poverty Point Becomes Louisiana's First World Heritage Site
Locals in northeasten Louisiana know that Poverty Point is rich with history, Over the weekend, the rest of the world finally came around. The 3,400-year-old Native American earthworks was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site Sunday. The designation marks the first for a Louisiana landmark.
Constructed using stone that was likely imported over great distances, the network of mounds and ridges on the banks of the Mississippi River is considered an engineering marvel for its time. Featuring five geormetric mounds and six C-shaped ridges surrounding a large plaza, the site was the center of trade, politics and ceremonial rituals. At the time Poverty Point was constructed, it was likely the largest such site in North America.
The West Carroll Parish site, located about 250 miles from New Orleans, was officially designated along with 20 other worldwide sites at a UNESCO meeting in Doha, Qatar. It joins 21 other U.S. landmarks, including the Grand Canyon, and world sites like Stonehenge, the Pyramids and Easter Island.
"This is a huge win for Louisiana," said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose official duties include overseeing state tourism, parks and museums. "I don't think everyone realizes how impactful this designation will be for the economy of northeast Louisiana."
Before the site could be formally added to the list, there was some politicking to be done among the more recently constructed monuments in Washington, D.C.
The team behind the nomination feared for their chances because the U.S. lost voting rights in UNESCO after the federal government stopped paying its dues in protest of the body's recognition of Palestine as a full member. But U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-New Orleans) was able to insert a legislative provision in the U.S. State Department's annual budget requiring the country to start paying the dues once again. According to Landrieu's office, the move cleared the way for the vote to be less about U.S. actions, and more about the merits of Poverty Point's historical importance.
"I appreciate that the World Heritage Committee gave Poverty Point this recognition today and confirmed what we in Louisiana have known for many years,” Landrieu said in a statement following Sunday's vote.
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