Student Handout


Cooking in an Earth Oven

Use the Poverty Point cooking balls you made earlier to cook your dinner! Here are directions for cooking the way the Poverty Point people did thousands of years ago.

Adult helpers
Metal rake
Aluminum foil
Hot dogs, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.
Cooking balls from Poverty Point Cooking Balls activity
Measuring tape or yard stick
Matches or lighter
Hot pads or oven mitts
Bucket of water (for emergencies)
Kitchen timer or watch


1. Find an empty spot of ground away from buildings, trees, etc. to build your earth oven. Ask the owner for permission to build a fire and cook there. Move grass, leaves, and sticks away from your fire area.

2. Fill a bucket with water and have it standing close by for emergency purposes.

3. Use the ruler to measure and mark 24 inches in the dirt and draw a circle with this diameter. Dig a circular pit in the ground about 18 inches deep. Use your ruler to determine the correct depth. Save the earth from the hole because you will need it to cover the oven.

4. With adult supervision, place the firewood in the pit and start a fire using matches or a lighter.

5. Let the flames die down a little. Ask an adult to use tongs and to place the cooking balls in the middle to get hot. Let the cooking balls heat up.

6. While you are waiting, wrap your food in little packets of aluminum foil to keep it clean and to keep it from burning. Archaeologists say that a cooking fire reaches 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Poverty Point people probably used leaves or woven mats made from cat tail leaves to wrap their food. Today we use aluminum foil for the same purpose.

7. When the fire has died down completely, use the rake to move some of the cooking balls to the side. Put the container of food on top of some cooking balls in the middle. Use the tongs to carefully put the remainder of the cooking balls on top of the package of food.

8. Use the rake to cover the pit with the dirt that was dug out of it.

9. Wait and check your dinner to see if it is done. The amount of cooking time will change depending on how many cooking balls you have and the amount of food you are preparing. Make sure that your food is done. It wouldn't be safe to eat something raw.

10. If you want to eat a truly authentic Poverty Point dinner, be sure to eat lots of hickory nuts, pecans, and muscadine grapes.

11. Be certain that YOUR FIRE IS COMPLETELY OUT before you leave the area. Pour water on your coals and put the dirt back in the hole. Clean up after yourself so that no one can tell you have been there. Thank the adults who helped with this activity.