Cahokia: A City of the Sun by a Modern Mound
- Largest surviving mound complex in NA
- Series of large mounds situated in suburbs of St. Louis
- great concentration of mound settlements in the area sometimes called the "American Bottom"
- not properly documented due to change in territories
Henry Marie Brackenridge (1786-1871)
- Son of Hue Henry Brackenridge
- Amateur Writer and historian who visited the site in 1811-1813.
- amazed by the massive structure
- There was no idea that Native American groups were capable of creating such a complex.
- his writing didnt enter popular consciousness because it was inconvenient for politics to think that Native American groups were capable of creating such a civilization
- he was at odds with president andrew jackson due to the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that forced indians from the land moving them west.
- acquired by Amos Hill in 1831
- couldnt resist on building his home on the biggest mound in Cahokia
- he eventually lost that land
- St. Louis was then a virtual hub of banking activity and so development rose up while at the same time destroying cultural heritage
- in 1923 it was turned into a small state park
- Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Program saved Cahokia in terms of connectivity
- with all the building the need to preserve cultural heritage was brought in
- the National Historic Preservation Act(1966) spawned out of these building programs stating that it is legally demanded that any construction done, must be sure that any cultural material must not be lost
- This thus creates the Cultural Resource Management (section 106 in national registrar of preservation)
- I-55 and I-70 run straight through Cahokia
- East St. Louis and St. Louis mounds did not survive
The Destruction of Big Mound (1869)
- large platform mound
- made way for a bridge and industrial area
- it has been drastically reduced, destroyed, and no longer visible - which makes Cahokia even more valuable
“The Big Bang"
- Population boom ca. 1050 as maize agriculture was adopted.
- coincides with intense activity of building mound structures
- increase in social stratification
- people speculate in how all this happened.
- Tim Pauketat- has been excavating and working on Cahokia for about 25 years. He came up with the visionary moment theory stating that cahokia becomes a theater of power for a smallruling elite.
- Gayle Fritz- the minimalist view that points out that there are no central storage facilities. So if these "visionary" elites were to control all these people and flow of food how are they doing this. It questions that if there is a massive invest in this, then how come it fails.
- Other parameters contributing to population boom could be a warming period or favorable climatic conditions that ensured a stable food supply.
- A stockade encircling the city was rebuilt four times - indicates ready source of labor, quick construction, military structure barricades
- concerned with safety.
- Monks mound put Cahokia on the map
- got its name bc of french possession of the area before and monks lived nearby
- massive structure (995 x775x100ft)
- constructed out of clay, soil, and sod which makes it vulnerable to erosion and collapse
- the top platform is layered with hard black clay which tended to slump when it rained.
- original constructors installed bulwarks of sod and clay to prevent erosion
- Amos Hill built his house on top of the mound which was lost later to Thomas Ramey (1864)
- Thomas Ramey interested in it and dug a tunnel in the mound and noted several different construction horizons over time
- Nelson Reed (1960-1970s) - conducted excavations on the mound and confirmed Ramey's observation and was also able to date it.
- The Construction began around 950 AD and peaked at 1150 AD.
- he uncovered a wooden construction on top, but no further full scale excavation done due to its preservation
- platform mound
- built ca. 1000 ad
- corner aligns with Monks mound - on the exact same north south access
- oriented north south with posts marking equinox and summer/winter solstice.
- originally not a mound, but a woodhenge (circular alignments of posts)
- Bird Man - 40 y/o male individual found on top of 20,000 pieces of shell buried on top of the imagery of a bird; buried with nonfunctional points; buried on top of a person buried face down arrangement of burials show social stratification; burial sits right at the circumference of the henge
- a mound was erected above this burial with ramp facing west
Mound 72 Sub 2
- it has been expanded several times
- one pit contains 24 men and 53 women with 4 sacrificial males in another pit missing their hands and their heads with arms interlocked
- another pit had a row of burials containing 39 men and women killed violently with decapitated skeletons and bashed in skulls; some still alive because of evidence of clawing position
- on top of this burial were 15 elite individuals on cedar litters.
Mound 72 Sub 3
- sub 1 and sub 2 were filled to create one large mound, hence mound 72 sub 3
- total of about 272 people buried in mound 72
- woodhenge here gets removed
- across from 72 at winter sunset
- not excavated yet bc of NAGPRA
- however, we are noting the agricultural alignments
- located on west axis aligning to corner of Monks mound
- almost the same size as the one at Mound 72 and almost equidistant from Monks Mound.
- they are keeping track of agricultural calendars by aligning with equinox and summer/winter solstice
- shows how the elite are inscribing their power at the same time
- small structure measuring 5.54 meters N-S and 4.42 meters
- aligns E-W
- Walls contained gaps thought to be vents - kiln type of site
- Tools used to process and shape copper
- copper recovered shows signs of being annealed (heated and cooled)