Diana Greenlee
Explaining our research to visitors Author: Rinita Dalan
2024

Diana Greenlee

Archaeologist

preserving poverty point

meet diana

Since 2006, Diana Greenlee has served as the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Station Archaeologist at the Poverty Point World Heritage Site in rural northeast Louisiana. Her dedication revolves around preserving and enhancing public understanding of this remarkable 3400-year-old earthworks site. In 2014, Diana played a crucial role in Poverty Point’s inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Collaborating with fellow researchers, Diana employs remote sensing technology, surface survey, soil coring, and targeted excavation to explore the intricate Poverty Point landscape. Her work extends to studying plant and animal resource utilization, as well as understanding the technology and raw materials that indigenous people utilized for crafting tools and ornaments. To bring her research to the public, Diana engages in various outreach activities such as exhibits, talks, and hands-on participation opportunities in select projects. Through these initiatives, she aims to not only preserve the site but also foster a deeper understanding of its historical significance.

preserving poverty point
Nominated by: Richard Wiese, FR'89
Class of 2024 Location USA
Multi-channel GPR survey
Multi-channel GPR survey Author: Rinita Dalan

Archaeological sites serve as invaluable empirical records of the human past. Despite cultural resource legislation in the U.S., our heritage is rapidly deteriorating due to agricultural practices, commercial/industrial development, and looting. I believe that one effective way to slow this damage is through public outreach. An informed public caring about archaeology can play a significant role in protecting these sites. Poverty Point, for instance, was preserved because individuals in the local community recognized its significance and took steps to protect it. However, preservation is an ongoing process, and continual public engagement is critical to its success.

As the Station Archaeologist at the Poverty Point World Heritage Site, I conduct my research with two primary goals. Firstly, I aim to enhance our understanding of archaeological deposits to better manage and protect them. Beyond documenting the above-ground earthworks, I collaborate to apply minimally invasive, remote-sensing technologies to “see” underground features. These findings are then verified through soil coring and test excavation. Knowing both above and below ground conditions allows us to avoid accidental harm to subtle landscape features and identify and mitigate threats like erosion. Secondly, I strive to demonstrate to the public that we are continually learning about the exceptional indigenous cultural tradition that created this site. By bringing people along on my archaeological journey, I emphasize how new methods and technologies provide diverse information, enhancing our understanding of the past.

“An informed public caring about archaeology can play a significant role in protecting these sites. Poverty Point, for instance, was preserved because individuals in the local community recognized its significance and took steps to protect it.”

- Diana Greenlee
Viewing a soil probe
Viewing a soil probe Author: Rinita Dalan

The inscription of Poverty Point on the UNESCO World Heritage List is the most significant achievement of my career, and one of which I am most proud. The World Heritage List recognizes properties of Outstanding Universal Value, vital for all humanity and deserving protection for current and future generations to study and enjoy. While I led the preparation of the record, the nomination dossier and associated efforts were collaborative. This intricate process took almost eight years, involving stakeholder meetings and building support, particularly from indigenous tribes, state and local officials, and the local community. Today, an annual “Poverty Point World Heritage Festival” celebrates the site, reflecting the success of the effort initiated when few people initially understood it.

The formal nomination dossier, requiring more than two years to complete, summarized decades of research by various archaeologists. As I reflected on this, I observed the significant changes in the field of archaeology, driven by technological advances and a robust conservation ethic. The archaeological research I and my colleagues conducted, using remote sensing, soil coring, and targeted excavation, represents the field’s shift toward gaining knowledge with less impact on cultural resources—a development that holds personal importance to m

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