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Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi
     

Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi

by Timothy R. Pauketat
 

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Almost a thousand years ago, a Native American city flourished along the banks of the Mississippi River near what is now St. Louis. Filled with as many as 20,000 residents at its height, Cahokia seemingly grew out of nowhere around the year 1050, featuring scores of packed-earth mounds and a sprawling plaza the size of thirty-five football fields. Yet by 1400 it

Overview

Almost a thousand years ago, a Native American city flourished along the banks of the Mississippi River near what is now St. Louis. Filled with as many as 20,000 residents at its height, Cahokia seemingly grew out of nowhere around the year 1050, featuring scores of packed-earth mounds and a sprawling plaza the size of thirty-five football fields. Yet by 1400 it had been abandoned.

In Cahokia, anthropologist Timothy R. Pauketat reveals the story of the city and its people as uncovered by archaeologists. What emerges is an absorbing portrait of a society capable of producing both complex celestial timepieces and disturbing acts of large-scale human sacrificean edifying narrative of prehistoric America that brings us back in touch with our deepest past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Author and anthropologist Pauketat (Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions) locates a civilizational "big bang" in the Mississippi River valley of 1050 CE, where "social life, political organization, religious belief, art, and culture were radically transformed" by a highly ambitious group of American Indians and their capital city, Cahokia, located east of what is now St. Louis. In this illuminating text, Pauketat examines the life, death, and rediscovery of this vast urban population and their game-changing cultural innovations (ranging from innocuous but influential sports like "chunkey" to large-scale reenactments of mythical stories, featuring bloody human sacrifice). Page by page, Pauketat compiles the fascinating details of a complex archeological puzzle; explaining the study of cross-cultural goddess worship, cave art, hand tools and games, this volume doubles as a crash-course in the archeological method. Pauketat's academic approach responsibly invites opposing viewpoints, and his writing is rich in you-are-there detail, making this an archeological adventure suitable for pre-Columbian enthusiasts as well as inquisitive laymen.
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Kirkus Reviews
The latest entry in the Penguin Library of American Indian History traces the history and evolving theories about the large city of Cahokia, which sprang up near the current St. Louis, Mo., around 1050 CE. Largely avoiding academic jargon, Pauketat (Anthropology/Univ. of Illinois; Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions, 2007, etc.) sketches the absorbing story of these people whose enormous earthen structures were for decades assailed by farmers' plows, urban sprawl, the highway system and ignorant neglect. The "3200 acres of great pyramids, spacious plazas, thatched-roof temples, houses, astronomical observatories, and planned neighborhoods" now compose Cahokia Mounds State Park. Scholars estimate that more than 10,000 people once lived in Cahokia (many thousands more were in outlying settlements), a city that emerged so suddenly that Pauketat uses the term "big bang" to describe its advent. He explores various theories for its creation-the timely appearance of a supernova in 1054 might have been a significant factor-and describes how the influential Cahokian culture spread throughout North America. The author is careful to credit his scholarly ancestors in Cahokian studies, including Preston Holder, Melvin Fowler and Warren Wittry. Pauketat describes the enormous cultural significance of the game of chunkey (spears thrown at rolling stone balls), then zeroes in on some key earthen mounds and the bounties they've yielded-especially Mound 72, where multiple human burials were unearthed, including some personages so prominent that they became invaluable in understanding Cahokian politics and theology. Archaeologists also discovered a pit containing evidence of vast feasts, evidenceburied so deeply that the remains still reeked. Among the most engaging late-emerging theories: the significance of women along the full range of the cultural spectrum-from human sacrificial offering to day-laborer to goddess. A happy marriage of professional scholarship and childlike enthusiasm.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143117476
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/27/2010
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
665,843
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Timothy R. Pauketat is a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His books include Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions and Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians. He lives in Illinois.

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