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  • Post last modified:February 16, 2022
Cahokia Mounds

Cahokia Mounds is an archaeological site located on the Mississippi River floodplain between St. Louis, Missouri, and Cahokia, Illinois, in the United States. About 120 mounds once covered about 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) of this historic site, but some of the mounds and other ancient features have been destroyed.

Indian mounds Illinois

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is home to more than 70 mounds. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 after being established in 1979 and covering 3.4 square miles (8.9 square kilometers).

Cahokia was founded around 700 AD and thrived for about four centuries (c. 950–1350). It was the most densely populated area in prehistoric America north of Mexico and the principal centre of Middle Mississippian culture, with a peak population of up to 20,000 people.

Cahokia (meaning “Wild Geese”) was eventually given to the area by a group of Illinois people who lived there in the 18th century.

Cahokia mounds state historic site

To plan, build, and maintain the site, skilled administrators and a large labour force were required. It was designed with clearly defined zones for administrative and ceremonial functions, elite compounds, residential neighborhoods, and even suburbs—all focused in the same cardinal directions.

One of the most impressive features is a nearly 40-acre (16-hectare) central plaza and numerous massive earthworks, including the pyramidal Monks Mound (built between 900 and 1200), the largest prehistoric earthen structure in the Western Hemisphere, which rises to 100 feet (30 meters), covers more than 14 acres (6 hectares), and contains more than 25 million cubic feet (700,000 cubic meters) of earth.

Cahokia’s seat of government, Monks Mound, is thought to have contained a structure measuring 100 feet long, nearly 50 feet wide (15 meters), and 50 feet tall. The city traded with people from as far afield as the Gulf of Mexico, the Appalachians, the Great Lakes, and the Rocky Mountains, according to materials discovered at the site.

Cahokia history

Cahokia’s civilization had certain experts, but the majority of its residents worked in agriculture, with corn (maize) as the primary crop. The city was strategically positioned on a key Mississippi River tributary.

Fish, the most important protein source for the population, could be found nearby in a variety of habitats, including open water and wetlands. Most significantly, the region’s biggest zone of high-quality soils was found immediately to the east.

Large corn outfields were located on the floodplain and along its adjacent alluvial fans. Multicrop infields and home gardens were located within the city on soils that had been enhanced by previous human occupancy.

However, this diversified agricultural technique worked well for the region’s dispersed communities but was eventually inadequate for Cahokia’s much larger population.

Cahokia mounds

The site and its environs deteriorated and were later abandoned, most likely due to environmental deterioration, while disease, climate change, societal stress, and conflict have all been mentioned as contributing factors.

During the first centuries of the city’s occupation, the inhabitants placed significant demands on wood resources for fuel and construction, clearing the forests upstream of the site. Cahokia’s fields saw dramatically increased rates of runoff, erosion, and unseasonable summer flooding as a result of the denuded watershed, resulting in crop failure and a total production decline.

The social and economic repercussions were severe, with starvation, loss of faith in leaders, increasing rivalry for land, and regional violence all likely outcomes. During that time, the residents put in a lot of effort to build a series of periderm wooden fortifications—clear proof of external threats that didn’t exist before. The city was gradually abandoned, and its inhabitants relocated to the east, south, and west, where they were integrated by other Native American groups.

What was Cahokia

Cahokia has been investigated by archaeologists since the late 1800s, but only a small portion of the site has been excavated. Researchers have tried to figure out when and why each mound was erected; how and when elite and common communities were founded; how the various groups (such as workers, craftsmen, and nobles) connected; and how Cahokia conversed with its surroundings, including its outskirts.

They’ve also tried to figure out exactly how many people lived in Cahokia (estimates range from 8,000 to 40,000), as well as the society’s vocational makeup. A re-created hamlet and information about the site are part of an interpretative center on the grounds. More mound lands have been acquired for the state historic site, and measures to counteract mound erosion, particularly the catastrophic slope failures that have occurred on the east and west sides of Monks Mound since the mid-1980s, have been prioritized.

Amitava Ray

I'm a Photographer & Blogger. Born & raised in Kolkata, India. Me অমিতাভ রায়, from 1979 started Photography & Blogging since 2006.

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