Home, Home on the Ridge

Subject Areas:
Art, Math, Social Studies

The student will:

Approximately five-one hour class periods

Home, Home on the Ridge student handout

Approximately 16 willow branches (8 to 10 feet tall)
Bark peeled off of the willow branches in thin strips or string
Lots and lots of palmetto leaves
Indoor hut: A large piece of cardboard, at least 8 feet in diameter, glue gun, exacto knife
Outdoor hut: Post hole digger or digging sticks

Must Know Info:

a kind of plant with fan-shaped leaves; common in southeast USA
Although many students may think that all Indians lived in teepees, this is not true of the Louisiana Native Americans. The Poverty Point people used the natural resources available to them to construct their dwellings. Some of these natural resources were the trees, palmetto branches, and the soil around them. These same resources are still available today in many places throughout Louisiana. At the present time, no archaeological remains of houses have been found at the Poverty Point site. This may be due to the extensive amount of farming which has taken place at the site.

post hole:
an archaeological feature; the hole where a wood post once stood
Other Poverty Point Culture sites exist throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The remains of dwellings have been found at one of these sites. Post holes were excavated at Jaketown, a Poverty Point Culture site in Mississippi. Archaeologists recognized the post holes by the different color of the soil. The post holes at Jaketown formed a circular shape which was about 12 to 14 feet in diameter. This indicated that the building there was about 12 to 14 feet across.

Archaeologists think that the people probably lived on top of the six concentric ridges at Poverty Point. These C-shaped, hill-like ridges are thought to have been about twice as high when they were constructed. Today, they have been worn down to heights of one to six feet due to erosion and years of plowing.

wattle and daub:
wattle refers to woven branches forming the framework of a wall; daub is mud covering the wattle
We can not be sure what Poverty Point dwellings really looked like, but the palmetto hut in this lesson was common among the descendants of the Poverty Point people. The size of the hut which the students will build is smaller than the one found at Jaketown, but it is big enough for students to enjoy because they can go inside. Four or five students can sit comfortably in a palmetto hut with a diameter of seven to eight feet. The hut may be constructed either inside or outside your classroom. To build the hut indoors, place it on a cardboard base and use the cardboard "corners" that protect furniture during shipping and hot glue to hold your willow branches in place. A visit to the trash bin of your local furniture store may be necessary. The willow poles can be stuck into the ground if you build your hut outside.

The model of a wattle and daub hut in the Wattle You Build Next? activity uses similar building techniques, but uses mud for walls instead of palmetto.


1. Ask students what kinds of homes were built by Louisiana Native Americans. (No teepees) Ask students what kinds of natural resources would have been available to the Louisiana Indians to use as building materials. (Trees, palmetto, grasses, soil.) Ask students to think of natural resources they could find today to build a survival hut in the Louisiana woods. (Same resources - palmetto, trees, grasses, soil.)

2. Tell students that no archaeological remains of houses have been found at the Poverty Point site. This may be due to the extensive amount of farming which took place at the site. However, post holes have been found at another Poverty Point era site at Jaketown, Mississippi. The post molds at Jaketown form a circular shape which is about 12 to 14 feet in diameter.

measurement through the center of a circle

a line going straight from the center of a circle to the outside of the circle
3. Review information in the Home, Home on the Ridge handout. Students may work together to build a palmetto hut as a class project or work in small groups to construct a wattle and daub model hut described in Wattle You Build Next? The palmetto hut in Home, Home on the Ridge may be built either inside or outside of the classroom.

4. Teach students how to use a compass to draw a circle and let them practice on scratch paper. Discuss the terms diameter and radius and make sure that all students understand the terms. Use a piece of string tied to a thumbtack on one end and a pencil on the other to make a gigantic compass. Let students practice using this gigantic compass to draw circles on a piece of cardboard. This will form the pattern for the palmetto hut.

5. Follow directions in the handout to build a palmetto hut about seven feet in diameter.

distance around a circle
6. As students begin to build the palmetto hut, have them estimate the number of palmetto leaves they will need. In order to do this, they may want to figure the circumference of the circle using the following formula: circumference = 2 r. Students could check out the formula by measuring the distance around the circle with a piece of string.

7. A fun follow-up activity would be to have students draw a circle 12 feet in diameter and try to fit their family's belongings in the "hut." Students could draw life-sized beds, chairs, TVs, etc. within the boundaries of the hut. As all of their stuff will probably not fit into the available space, this may lead to an evaluation of which things are essential and which could be eliminated. Students may also begin to question how much time ancient people spent inside their dwellings compared to our own culture.

8. When the hut is finished, students will enjoy using the inside as a work space for other projects.