Cahokia (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
In Cahokia, Timothy R. Pauketat argues that Cahokia was the one true city of ancient America north of Mexico. It was as large as London in its day and was the capital of what Pauketat describes as “a most unusual Indian nation.” Cahokiano one knows what its inhabitants actually called itlay in the Mississippi bottomlands, close to modern St. Louis, Missouri. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site now protects the eighty mounds that remain from this ancient city, and they are designated as a World Heritage Site. At least sixty other mounds, and probably more, were destroyed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, during the building of St. Louis.
Cahokia was originally North America’s largest pyramidal mound site, possibly containing as many as two hundred mounds, including the third-largest pyramid in the New World. Most of these pyramids were packed into an area five miles square, and they were surrounded by thousands of houses and broad plazas. At the height of its importance, Cahokia may have been home to at least ten thousand people, with another twenty to thirty thousand living in the surrounding area.
For a long time, no one was entirely clear who had built the mounds. Although it was clear that they had been built by human hands, it was believed that, rather than being constructed by Native Americans, they had been made by a lost race of mound-builders. This hypothetical race would have traveled along the...
(The entire section is 1730 words.)
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