23 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Native American artifacts from 1100 AD found in North America’s First City

Cahokia is the largest and most significant urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, known for creating massive earthen platform mounds throughout the southeast, east, and Midwest of the United States approximately 500 years before European contact.

These were not the Mexican Maya or Aztec people. About 700 A.D., this culture emerged in the Mississippi Valley, in what is now Illinois, and it vanished roughly a century before Columbus arrived in America. The ancient civilization’s massive remains stand as one of the best-kept archaeological secrets in the country.

Without a doubt, Cahokia was one of North America’s most sophisticated societies. Nevertheless, a lot remains to be discovered about its mysterious past, especially about its fall, which has been the subject of continuous discussion. This pre-Columbian city had 20,000 residents spread over six square miles at its height, receiving the moniker “City of the Sun.”

With 120 earthen mounds, Cahokia was the largest city ever built north of Mexico prior to the arrival of Columbus. Numerous of them were massive pyramids with square bottoms and flat tops that served as enormous pedestals for the residence of civic leaders. The largest earthwork in the Americas, the 100-foot Monk Mound, rose at the large plaza in the city’s center.

No one knows the Cahokians’ ethnicity, language, songs, or even what they called themselves. The name “Cahokia” is a misnomer. Cahokia was multi-ethnic, metropolitan, and connected to numerous distant societies through trade and exchange. Now, Cahokia is a UNESCO World Heritage site managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Artists' conception of the Mississippian culture Cahokia Mounds Site in Illinois. The illustration shows the large Monks Mound at the center of the site with the Grand Plaza to its south. This central precinct is encircled by a palisade. Three other plazas surround Monks Mound to the west, north and east. To the west of the western plaza is the Woodhenge circle of cedar posts.
Artists’ conception of the Mississippian culture Cahokia Mounds Site in Illinois. The illustration shows the large Monks Mound at the center of the site with the Grand Plaza to its south. This central precinct is encircled by a palisade. Three other plazas surround Monks Mound to the west, north and east. To the west of the western plaza is the Woodhenge circle of cedar posts.

Archaeologists and students from Saint Louis University (SLU) have recently conducted a series of excavations on the western periphery of the Cahokia Mounds and made some surprising discoveries.

“I’m not interested in destroying features, just documenting them,” said Mary Vermilion, associate professor of anthropology and archaeology at Saint Louis University.

Amidst the Sterling Phase of the Mississippian Period, approximately AD 1100–1200, the team discovered wall trenches, microdrills, ceramics, and structures that date back 900 years. According to the archaeologists, the discoveries shed new light on a critical period in the chiefdom’s history, coinciding with Cahokia’s rapid population growth.

To find out if there are any more mounds or archaeological features within the acres of dense forests and marshy land close to the site’s main complex, St. Louis University and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency conducted an aerial survey using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR).

Researchers from St. Louis University and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will soon embark on an ambitious project to create the most comprehensive and reliable 3D map of the Cahokia Mounds. This endeavor aims to provide a detailed and accurate representation of the famed prehistoric site, which will serve as a valuable resource for future studies and research.

LiDAR, a remote sensing method that uses laser light to measure distances, will enable the team to identify and map previously undocumented portions of the 2,200-acre National Historical Landmark with unprecedented precision.

Cover Photo: Monks Mound

Related Articles

Archaeologists have found a fort that the Romans built to protect their silver mines, complete with wooden spikes

23 February 2023

23 February 2023

Archaeologists have discovered wooden defenses surrounding an ancient Roman military base for the first time in Bad Ems, western Germany....

Iraq’s historic Arch of Ctesiphon undergoes restoration work

28 November 2021

28 November 2021

Iraq’s Arch of Ctesiphon, the world’s largest brick-built arch, is having restoration work to return it to its former splendour,...

A farmer discovered artifacts of the Unetice culture in his field

19 August 2021

19 August 2021

A farmer in Sulęcin county in Poland’s Lubusz province discovered a rare treasure while trying to clear stones from his...

Researchers may have found 3,000-year-old evidence of Yue (Amputation), one of the five punishments practiced in ancient China

4 May 2022

4 May 2022

According to the South China Morning Post, researchers in China believe a skeleton discovered in a tomb in the country’s...

When the waters receded, the mounds of Pulur Sakyol and Yeniköy, bearing the traces of Kura-Aras Culture, came to light

8 December 2021

8 December 2021

The important cultural areas of Pulur Sakyol and Yeniköy mounds, which bear the traces of Kura-Aras Culture, represented by kurgans...

12,000-year-old ‘public building’ unearthed in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin

27 September 2022

27 September 2022

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a “public building” thought to be 12,000 years old at Boncuklu Tarla in the...

A sculpture of a snake-bodied Roman-German deity was discovered in Stuttgart

23 April 2024

23 April 2024

A sculpture of a snake-bodied Roman-German deity was discovered at the Roman fort in Stuttgart, Germany. Since the beginning of...

‘World’s oldest dated rune stone’ found in Norway

18 January 2023

18 January 2023

The oldest known Rune stone in Norway has been discovered by Norwegian archaeologists working at the Museum of Cultural History...

The Iremir Mound illuminates the pre-Urartian period in East Van

27 July 2021

27 July 2021

Archaeological findings unearthed in the excavations carried out at the İremir Mound in the Gürpınar district of Van, in eastern...

Egypt unearths 2,300-year-old remains of Greco-Roman town in Alexandria

28 August 2021

28 August 2021

An Egyptian archeological team discovered the ruins of a Greco-Roman residential and commercial town in the north coast city of...

1,400-year-old temple from the time of the East Anglian Kings discovered at Suffolk royal settlement

21 November 2023

21 November 2023

Archaeologists have uncovered a possibly pre-Christian temple from the time of the East Anglian Kings at Rendlesham, near Sutton Hoo...

A stunning fresco depicting Helen of Troy is revealed during excavations at the ancient Roman city

11 April 2024

11 April 2024

Archeologists have uncovered remarkably preserved ‘fresco’ paintings on a wall in the banqueting room of a large house along Via...

Little Known Powerful Kingdom of History’s “Mitanni Kingdom”

3 February 2021

3 February 2021

Hurrians; They became a state organization with a warrior and ruling class of Indo-Aryan origin who came from North-West Mesopotamia...

The ashes of 8,000 victims were found in two mass graves near the Soldau concentration camp in Poland

14 July 2022

14 July 2022

Polish authorities said they had unearthed two mass graves near the former Nazi concentration camp Soldau containing the ashes of...

Radiocarbon dating shows that the Roman settlement of Karanis survived in Egypt until the Arab Conquest in the 7th century AD

13 May 2024

13 May 2024

New research results are rewriting the history of Karanis, an ancient Greco-Roman agricultural settlement in the Fayum oasis in Egypt....