Louisiana Indians Lesson: Economics and Poverty Point

Grade 8 Comprehensive Curriculum Link for Unit 4, Activity 1
Louisiana Studies

Activity 1:  Ancient Economics

Activity 1:  Ancient Economics (GLEs: 13, 51, 78)


Materials List:  printed copies of passage from Poverty Point® by Jon Gipson, Poverty Point Trade BLM, Poverty Point:  An Economic Legacy BLM


Introduce students to facts and descriptions of Poverty Point and its culture dating back to 3,000 years ago.  One of the historical traits of this ancient culture was the large trade network potential which ranged from present-day North Louisiana to different regions that included the Great Lakes and Appalachian Mountains.  Using split-page notetaking  (view literacy strategy descriptions), have students read excerpts from Jon L. Gipson’s Poverty Point:  A Terminal Archaic Culture of the Lower Mississippi Valley (See Poverty Point Trade BLM and sample below).


Poverty Point Trade

Split-Page Notetaking



1. Long Distance Trading – How were these early people able to trade with people from far away?

2. Exchange of Goods – What types of goods were exchanged in trading at Poverty Point?

3. Specialization at Poverty Point – What was a specialized skill from the Poverty Point era?

4. Economic Legacy – What allowed the people of Poverty Point to thrive economically?



Instructions (small group or individual settings):

1. Pre-Reading: Prior to reading the passage, have students develop a question for each of the four sub-headings.  This procedure serves as an anticipatory guide.

2. Active Reading: As students read the passage, have them identify and write details that would address their questions (anticipatory set).

3. Post-Reading: Based on the questions and answers developed, have students write a summary consisting of approximately twelve (12) words using a minimum of one to two economic terms (e.g., supply / demand, scarcity, choice/tradeoffs, cost/benefits, specialization, opportunity cost, import / export, consumers / producers). This summary can be written in the students’ social studies learning logs (view literacy strategy descriptions).

4. Reflection:  In an oral discussion, have the students draw conclusions about the economic, geographical and historical significance of the trade network associated with Poverty Point.


Note: The passage can be extended to increase participation and coverage on the topic by assigning additional selected sections to small groups. Additional content on Poverty Point may be obtained via http://www.crt.state.la.us/archaeology/POVERPOI/trade.htm

The following text is based on Gipson, Jon L., (1999) Poverty Point, Anthropological Study Series, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism – Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission.  Electronic version available at http://www.crt.state.la.us/archaeology/POVERPOI/culture.htm

(See Poverty Point:  An Economic Legacy BLM.)


Poverty Point: An Economic Legacy


Long Distance Trade

         Artifacts indicate that a vast network of trade existed over 3,000 years ago in association with the Poverty Point Culture.  The Poverty Point civilization once existed near the present-day community of Epps, Louisiana in East Carroll Parish.  The relics and remains of this ancient community provide evidence that items were traded between the Northeast Louisiana civilization and other groups ranging in distances of up to1,400 miles.  Artifacts including foreign materials such as flint, copper, soapstone, gemstones, ironstone, and crystal quartz have been found at the East Carroll site.  The origins of these materials can be traced to regional locations in the Upper Ouachita, Ozarks, Appalachians, and Great Lakes (See Figure 1).

Figure 1


Artifacts found

Uses by Poverty Point People

Place of Origin


Assorted tools

Great Lakes region


Spearheads / hoes

Ohio River valley


Pots /Bowls

Appalachian Mountains



Ozark, Ouachita Mountains


Exchange of Goods

         The high concentration of artifacts consisting of foreign rocks provides evidence that an active trade network existed between the inhabitants of Poverty Point and distant communities.  The foreign objects, including flint and copper, provided the Poverty Point inhabitants with materials of better quality for use as tools, while other ornate rocks served aesthetic and decorative functions.  According to Jon L. Gipson, author of Poverty Point, the foreign rocks were “highly desired and the large quantities that were circulated show that demand was high and supply and exchange systems efficient” (p. 23).  The simple economic principles of supply and demand in combination with scarcity of select materials encouraged the long distance trading between the various ancient communities (See Figure 2).

Figure 2

Sources of Poverty Point Trade Materials

Drawing by Denise A. Malter, Courtesy of Louisiana Division of Archaeology

Graphic retrieved from Louisiana Archaeology Poverty Point Trade and Symbolic Objects: http://www.crt.state.la.us/archaeology/POVERPOI/trade.htm

Specialization at Poverty Point

         Artifacts indicate ornamental jewelry was valued by the inhabitants of Poverty Point.  It is believed these relics had aesthetic and symbolic significance.  Specific objects are believed to have been crafted at Poverty Point and have been found at archaeological sites throughout the probable trade network. One relic believed to originate from the skilled craftsmen of Poverty Point was the Fat-Bellied Jasper Owl Pendants.  According to Jon Gipson, this symbolic ornament was circulated across the Gulf Coast from western Louisiana to central Florida.  Additional artifacts such as pendants in geometric shapes resembling animals, especially birds, were crafted at Poverty Point and circulated throughout the trading network (See Figure 3).

Graphic Courtesy of Louisiana Division of Archaeology

Graphic retrieved from Louisiana Archaeology Poverty Point Trade and Symbolic Objects: http://www.crt.state.la.us/archaeology/POVERPOI/trade.htm


Economic Legacy

According to Gipson, “Because Poverty Point culture is defined in terms of stone tools and trade rocks, it really represents a technological and economic pattern more than a social and political one” (p. 3).  One can conclude that the geographic bond of these distant trading partners was the Mississippi River and its vast system of connected waterways.  The Poverty Point site was accessible and possibly was a major crossroads for traders.  This assumption may be supported by the archaeological findings indicating that the largest collection of foreign rock artifacts are found at the Poverty Point site, then at other sites of participating trade partners.  Once again, history indicates that exploration and exchange between various and different groups of people were motivated by economic needs and wants.


Resources on Poverty Point 

Poverty Point Expedition and Poverty Point Anthropological Series # 7 from the Division of Archaeological Studies Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism

Poverty Point State Historic Site:


Poverty Point Earthworks: Evolutionary Milestones of the Americas:


Building Background


Interactive Links

Clairemont Series 8th Grade Link



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