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Louisiana's Poverty Point earthworks named a UNESCO world heritage site

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[June 23, 2014]  (Reuters) - UNESCO on Sunday designated the ancient monumental earthworks of Poverty Point, Louisiana, as a world heritage site, making it the 22nd such U.S. site alongside such landmarks as the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty, officials said.

It was one of seven sites around the world to be given the designation on Sunday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization during a meeting in Qatar, with the others in Botswana, France, Israel and Italy and two locations in Turkey.

The Poverty Point complex is located in the Lower Mississippi Valley and includes five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges separated by shallow depressions and a central plaza, the agency said. UNESCO said it was created and used for residential and ceremonial purposes by a society of hunter-fisher-gatherers between 3,700 and 3,100 B.C.

"The impressive site survives as a testament to Native American culture and heritage," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. "The United States appreciates the work of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee as it seeks to protect and preserve historical, cultural or natural sites of global significance."

UNESCO said: "It is a remarkable achievement in earthen construction in North America that was not surpassed for at least 2,000 years."

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Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne told the News Star newspaper in Monroe: "This is a huge win for Louisiana. We’re going to trumpet it to the world."

(Reporting by Will Dunham and Jonathan Kaminsky)

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