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A mound diagram of the platform mound showing the multiple layers of mound construction, mound structures such as temples or mortuaries, ramps with log stairs, and prior structures under later layers, multiple terraces, and intrusive burials.
During the 16th through 19th centuries, Europeans and Americans generally thought that a people other than one related to the historic Native Americans had built the mounds.
Since there had been little violent conflict with Europeans in that area during that period, the most plausible explanation is that infectious diseases from the Old World, such as smallpox and influenza, had decimated most of the Native Americans who had comprised the last mound-builder civilization.
Radiocarbon dating has established the age of the earliest Archaic mound complex in southeastern Louisiana.
Since the 19th century, the prevailing scholarly consensus has been that the mounds were constructed by indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Sixteenth-century Spanish explorers met natives living in a number of later Mississippian cities, described their cultures, and left artifacts.
De Soto observed people living in fortified towns with lofty mounds and plazas, and surmised that many of the mounds served as foundations for priestly temples.
The various cultures collectively termed Mound Builders were inhabitants of North America who, during a 5,000-year period, constructed various styles of earthen mounds for religious and ceremonial, burial, and elite residential purposes.
These included the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period; Woodland period (Adena and Hopewell cultures); and Mississippian period; dating from roughly 3500 BCE (the construction of Watson Brake) to the 16th century CE, and living in regions of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, and the Mississippi River valley and its tributary waters.
One of the two Monte Sano Site mounds, excavated in 1967 before being destroyed for new construction at Baton Rouge, was dated at 6220 BP (plus or minus 140 years).
Watson Brake is located in the floodplain of the Ouachita River near Monroe in northern Louisiana. 3500 BCE), in the Middle Archaic period, it consists of a formation of 11 mounds from 3 to 25 feet (1-8m) tall, connected by ridges to form an oval nearly 900 feet (270m) across.