The 42-acre Marksville State Historic Site is located on a bluff overlooking the Old River, adjacent to the town of Marksville, Louisiana. Professional archaeologists consider this prehistoric Native American ceremonial center to be of unique national significance.
The Marksville culture, a southeastern variant of the Hopewell culture centered in Ohio and Illinois, was characterized by elaborate mortuary ceremonialism, the construction of conical burial mounds, complex trade networks, decorative pottery, and the importation of certain raw materials. It is also possible that agriculture of a limited nature, such as the horticulture of native plants, had begun by this time.
Although archaeological sites had been recognized throughout this area for many years, it was not until 1926 that the importance of the Marksville site was established. In that year, Gerald Fowke of the Smithsonian Institute conducted the first scientific investigation of the area and produced a detailed map of the Marksville site. In 1933, James A. Ford, an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University, and F. M. Setzler, also of the Smithsonian Institute, uncovered evidence that connected Marksville to the development of the Hopewell culture, which was then known to be based primarily in Ohio.
The main portion of the Marksville site is surrounded by a semi-circular earthwork which is 3,300 feet long and ranges from 3 to 7 feet in height. The open side of the enclosure is the edge of a bluff along Old River. Openings in the earthwork, one in the western side and two in the southern end, suggest that its purpose was ceremonial rather than defensive. This enclosure probably was built to delineate a special area where the dead were buried and formal affairs were conducted. Six mounds of various sizes and shapes are located within the main enclosure, and others are built outside of it.
Marksville State Historic Site was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1964, and thus joined a select group of properties which have since been recognized for their importance in American history.