Wattle You Build Next?

Subject Areas:
Art, Math, Social Studies

The student will:

One hour

Wattle You Build Next? student handout

Wire basket from the garden center or other framework material
4 inch grapevine wreath to be taken apart or collected vines
8 inch square of foam board or thick cardboard for a base
Mud or clay
4 inch squares of green printer paper or construction paper
Glue gun or craft glue
Scissors and stapler
Wire cutters

Must Know Info:
This activity works well in conjunction with the Home, Home on the Ridge activity of building a full sized palmetto hut. Students may work in cooperative groups to build the wattle and daub model from this activity while a few students at a time work on the palmetto building.

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 Poverty Point people probably lived on top of the six concentric ridges at the site. 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
A full sized wattle and daub hut would use the same construction techniques as the palmetto hut described in the Home, Home on the Ridge activity. However, in a wattle and daub hut the wall would be made by weaving limbs, grass, or moss into the uprights of the house before caking it with mud. The mud covering is called daub. It may help your students discriminate between wattle and daub if you remind them of the dirt dauber, an familiar insect, who builds her nest with mud. The mud daub would have insulated the house and kept the people living there warm during the winter. The roof of a wattle and daub house would most likely have been made of either woven grass mats or palmetto leaves.

The model wattle and daub hut is being constructed from a wire flower basket which is usually sold to hold a moss lining. This works well because it provides the basic framework needed for the model hut, but allows students the opportunity to weave grapevine wattle between the wires. Other purchased frameworks such as Easter baskets or colanders will work. Students may also create a framework using flexible willow branches or vines. Clay or real mud may be used for the daub. The roof of the model is made from green paper folded into palmetto leaves.


1. If your class is not working on the Home, Home on the Ridge activity in conjunction with this one, the following introduction will be necessary.

2. 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, soil, grasses)

3. 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.

4. Place students in cooperative groups and distribute materials and Wattle You Build Next? handouts. Review directions given on handout for constructing the model of a wattle and daub hut.

5. Monitor student progress. Some students may want to make a roof from woven grass mats. Encourage them to develop a technique of weaving thatch and to research thatched roofs.