Wednesday, October 19, 2011

250 years before Columbus came, Cahokia (in Illinois) was larger than London

Monk's Mound a Pre-Columbian Mississippian cul...Image via Wikipedia
I've always been interested in people (and peoples) that are different from what I know, and one of the more interesting, and frustrating groups is the Mississippians.  So frustrating that, oh, by the way there was this massive city (by most of the world's standards at the time) here in the United States, and no, we don't really know much about it. 

I figured I'd write about Cahokia after seeing this news article on Google News: 

So just a little background on Cahokia.  It was inhabited from at least 1200 BC, although
Photo by Nathaniel Paluga of the reconstructed...Image via Wikipedia
most of the major settlement was from 600 AD through about 1400 AD.  Apparently the population peaked at between 8,000 and 40,000 people.  Big range there, shows how much we don't know.  That's the population range for the urban city.  There would have been a significant number of people that lived around there and farmed maize for the consumption of the people in the city. 

Not only do the mounds represent an amazing amound of work, but apparently the whole area used to have small hills, which were leveled by removing the high ground and filling in the low ground for a large plaza.  This was originally thought to be flat because of the river, but nope.  It was the people that did it. 

There are some burials that appear to be sacrificial, and some violent, including people that were buried alive, mostly around 1000 AD. 
Artist's Reconstruction of Monk's Mound at Cah...Image via Wikipedia

Many of the mounds that were in present day St. Louis were destroyed and their contents used for building projects and fill.  On top of Monk's mound, which is the largest of the mounds, there used to be a 5,000 square foot structure on top. 

The Cahokians used copper at least for ceremonial purposes, and traded a lot with other groups across North America.  We have no idea what the Cahokians called themselves.  The name Cahokia comes from a small nearby group of Native Americans living in the area when the mounds were first known to white people. 
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