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Cahokia: City of the Cosmos

Cahokia: City of the Cosmos

by John Kelly, James A. Brown


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The large American Indian city of Cahokia sits amidst a diverse natural landscape within the larger central Mississippi river valley. Well positioned on the rich agricultural soils of the Mississippi river bottomlands of the Amercan Bottom it is at the core of a cultural landscape that its residents helped shape. In this volume the editors and authors attempt to not just focus on Cahokia and its configuration but also the other towns and settlements dispersed throughout the region extant for nearly four centuries. The importance of Cahokia to native peoples and to the world community as a UNESCO World Heritage site resides in its creation as a “Cosmological Center of the Universe.” In order to begin comprehending where we are today in an interpretation that respects and pays homage to those that were instrumental in its conception and the implementation of a vision, one must understand the principles that underlie the Indigenous cosmology and rituals of Eastern North America. Mapping the mounds began as early as the late 18th century and thus represent the first efforts to depict what was readily seen. Over 300 sites with earthen mounds have been documented in the region and range from isolated mounds honoring the dead thousands of years ago to an array of over 100 mounds in the case of Cahokia that in some instances honored the ancestors individually and collectively. The editor's investigations over nearly 25 years have helped elucidate the significance of Cahokia as an urban center and the processes leading to its creation. The history of this sacred place are highlighted by a number of major discontinuities that represent intellectual “axis mundi” of this discussion. However, it is the broader landscape perspectives over the centuries that serve to illuminate the vibrant colors of this narrative.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785708855
Publisher: Oxbow Books
Publication date: 12/19/2019
Series: American Landscapes Series , #6
Edition description: 1st
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.70(h) x (d)

About the Author

John E. Kelly, Ph D, is a senior lecturer in archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. His interest and expertise is in Eastern North American archaeology with a focus on the central Mississippi River Valley and the culturaldevelopments related to Mississippian culture, especially the Cahokia site. His research is centered upon the role of ritual, iconography, and kinship in the mix of ingredients that contribute to the emergence of urbanism at Cahokia and the greater Mississippian world and their role in the design and configuration of this unique cultural landscape.

James A. Brown, Ph D, is emeritus professor in Anthropology at Northwestern University and a member of the National Academy of Science. As an archaeologist he is recognized for his work on evolutionary processes at work in mid-range societies that range from hunter-gatherers to maize agriculturalists in the American Midwest before European contact. His cross-cultural perspective explores the development of sedentary settlement, social institution building, mortuary and religious organizations, and ritual practice.

Table of Contents

1. Reading a ritual landscape: an historical introduction, John Kelly

2. The building and creation of an ancient Amerindian urban landscape, John Kelly and Jim Brown

3. Mapping onto a natural landscape, Caitlin anken, Julie Ann Van Ness, Lucretia Kelly, Katie Parker, Neal Lopinot and Gayle Fritz

4. Pre-Cahokian foundations, Jim Dincan. Carol Diaz Granados, and John Kelly

5. Designing an urban center: cosmic principles, Jim Brown, John Kelly, Tim Schilling, Imma Valese and Davide Domenici

6. The corporate and symbolic meanings of crafting, Mary Beth Trubitt, Lori Belknap and Kathy Erhardt

7. Coming together to create a regional cultural landscape, John Kelly and Jim Brown

8. Reconfiguring the landscape: the Moorehead Moment, John Kelly, Jim Brown, Mary Beth Trubitt and Bill Iseminger

9. The tribalization of Cahokia and its abandonment, Jim Brown and John Kelly

10. Concluding thoughts and directions, Jim Brown and John Kelly