Cahokia was the apogee, and perhaps the origin, of what anthropologists call Mississippian culture --a collection of agricultural communities that reached across the American Midwest and Southeast starting before A.D. 1000 and peaking around the 13th century. The idea that American Indians could have built something resembling a city was so foreign to European settlers, that when they encountered the mounds of Cahokia --the largest of which is a ten-story earthen colossus composed of more than 22 million cubic feet of soil-- they commonly thought they must have been the work of a foreign civilization: Phoenicians or Vikings or perhaps a lost tribe of Israel. Even now, the idea of an Indian city runs so contrary to American notions of Indian life that we can't seem to absorb it, and perhaps it's this cognitive dissonance that has led us to collectively ignore Cahokia's very existence. Have you ever heard of Cahokia? In casual conversation, I've found almost no one outside the St. Louis area who has.Since I'm interested in the subject of Pre-Columbian America (both north and south), it's not shocking at all that American Indians once built cities. I've toured a few myself.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
From the National Geographic article by Glenn Hodges: