BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 426

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 426

IELTS Academic Reading Test

If you thought ancient monuments were built in honour of gods and kings, think again, says Laura Spinney

At Poverty Point in the US state of Louisiana, a remarkable monument overlooks the Mississippi river. Built around 3,500 years ago entirely from earth, it consists of six semi-circular ridges and five mounds. ‘Mound A’, as archaeologists refer to it, is the largest at 22 metres high. The earth mounds at Poverty Point are not just impressive, they are also intriguing.

Ancient monuments have always been regarded as products of large, hierarchical societies, built as tributes to gods and kings. But the creators of the Poverty Point monument were hunter­ gatherers, who functioned in a more democratic way. They may have looked to elders for guidance, but these would not have exerted a commanding influence over their small groups. So who, or what, motivated building on such a grand scale?

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Archaeologists have been excavating Poverty Point for more than a century. However, the truly remarkable nature of Mound A only emerged a few years ago. This was when a team led by Tristram Kidder of Washington University drilled into the mound. They saw for the first time that it consisted of neat layers of differently coloured earth.

Mound A contains nearly 240,000 cubic metres of earth; the equivalent of 32,000 truckloads. There were no trucks then, of course, nor any other heavy machinery, animals like mules to carry the earth, or wheelbarrows. Assuming it did take 90 days, Kidder’s group calculated that around 3,000 basket-carrying individuals would have been needed to get the job done. Given that people probably travelled in family groups, as many as 9,000 people may have assembled at Poverty Point during construction. ‘If that’s true, it was an extraordinarily large gathering,’ says Kidder. Why would they have chosen to do this?

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Another archaeologist, Carl Lipo, thinks he has the answer: the same reason that the people of Easter Island built their famous stone heads. When Lipa first when to Easter Island, the prevailing idea was that the enormous statues had been rolled into place using logs, and the resulting deforestation contributed to the human population’s collapse.

But Lipo and fellow archaeologist Terry Hunt showed the statues could have been ‘walked’ upright into place by cooperating bands of people using ropes, with no need for trees. They argue further that by making statues, people’s energy was directed into peaceful interactions and information-sharing. They ceased crafting statues, Lipo claims, precisely because daily existence became less of a challenge, and it was no longer so important that they work together.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

An ancient temple known as Gobekli Tepe in south-east Turkey is another site where a giant team-building project might have taken place. Since excavations started, archaeologists have uncovered nine enclosures formed of massive stone pillars. Given the vast size of these pillars, a considerable workforce would have been needed to move them.

But what archaeologists have also discovered is that every so often, the workers filled in the enclosures with broken rock and built new ones. The apparent disposability of these monuments makes sense if the main aim was building a team rather than a lasting structure. Indeed, the many bones from animals such as gazelle found in the filled-in enclosures suggest people held feasts to celebrate the end of a collaborative effort.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

A number of researchers share Lipo’s view that the need to cooperate is what drove monument makers. But as you might expect when a major shift in thinking is proposed, not everyone goes along with it. The sceptics include Tristram Kidder. For him, the interesting question is not ‘Did cooperative building promote group survival’ but ‘What did the builders think they were doing?’ All human behaviour comes down to a pursuit of food and self-preservation, he says. As for why people came to Poverty Point, he and his colleagues have suggested it was a pilgrimage site.

If Lipo is right, have we in any way inherited our ancestors’ tendency to work together for the sake of social harmony? Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson thinks we have. Wilson cites the Burning Man festival, promoted as an experiment in community and art, which draws thousands of people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each  summer. Among the ten principles laid down by co-founder Larry Harvey are ‘inclusion’ and ‘communal effort’. Another is ‘leaving no trace’, meaning that whatever festival-g oers create they destroy before departing.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

In this way, the desert landscape is only temporarily disturbed. Wilson says there is evidence that such cooperative ventures matter more today than ever because we are dependent on a wider range of people than our ancestors were. Food, education, security: all are provided by people beyond our family group. Recently, as part of his Neighbourhood Project in Binghamton, Wilson and his colleagues helped locals create their own parks.

‘This brought people together and enabled them to cooperate in numerous other contexts,’ he explains. This included helping with repairs after a series of floods in 2011. Social psychologist Susan Fiske of Princeton University also sees value in community projects. Her research shows, for example, that they can help break down the ill-informed views that people hold towards others they have observed but do not usually interact with. So if modern projects really help build better communities, that will surely be a monumental achievement.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3? In boxes 27-32 on your answer sheet, write

YES – If the statement agrees with the claims of the writer

NO – If the statement contradicts the claims of the writer

NOT GIVEN – If it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

IELTS Academic Reading Test

27. The whole monument at Poverty Point was made out of earth.

28. The monument at Poverty Point was the first of its kind to be built in the US

29. The older members of the tribes at Poverty Point had great power over their people.

30. It is surprising that archaeologists took so long to discover the existence of Mound A.

31. Tristram Kidder’s work at Mound A revealed something previously unknown to researchers.

32. A change in weather patterns forced people living around the Poverty Point monument to move away.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

33. The writers refers to trucks, mules and wheelbarrows in order to

A. highlight the technical ability of the Poverty Point inhabitants.

B. emphasise the number of workers required to build the mound.

C. question the logic of choosing Poverty Point as a place for construction.

D. challenge the idea that the mound could have been made so quickly.

34. Archaeologists Carl Lipo’s research at Easter Island has led him to believe that

A. people had to cut down trees in order to transport larger statues.

B. remote communities faced greater environmental challenges than other societies.

C. islanders stopped making statues when their lives became easier.

D. methods of making the statues varied amongst different groups.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

35. According to the writer, excavations at Gobekli Tepe suggest that

A. there was disagreement between groups over the temple’s design.

B. human occupation drove certain animal populations into decline.

C. each of the enclosures that were built served a different purpose.

D. the builders had no intention of creating permanent structures.

36. In the sixth paragraph, what are we told about Tristram Kidder?

A. He feels the academic community should support Carl Lipo’s theory.

B. He has changed his mind about the purpose of the Poverty Point monument.

C. He doubts that Carl Lipo has identified the key reason for monument making.

D. He believes that most people recognise the need to help each other to survive.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Complete the summary using the list of words, A-I, below.

Write the correct letter, A-F, in boxes 37-40 on your answer sheet.

A. basic needs

B. different generations

C. new infrastructure

D. human activities

E. negative impressions

F. emergency situation

G. commercial advertising

H. economic growth

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Examples of cooperation in modern times

David Wilson believes that events such as the Burning Man festival encourage social harmony. For example, participants in the festival cooperate so 37………………………… won’t permanently affect the desert environment. In Wilson’s opinions, cooperation is especially important today because we now rely on many people for our 38…………………………. Wilson points to how community projects such as park creation can lead to improved group efforts in 39…………………………. Psychologist Susan Fiske has also shown how 40………………………… can change when community projects encourage interaction between strangers.


BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 426

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IELTS Academic Reading Test

27. YES


29. NO


31. YES

32. YES

33. B

34. C

35. D

36. C

37. D

38. A

39. F

40. E

IELTS Academic Reading Test

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