A Mississippian conflagration at East St. Louis and its political-historical implications

Timothy R. Pauketat, Andrew C. Fortier, Susan M. Alt, Thomas E. Emerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A walled portion of the extensive Precolumbian civic-ceremonial precinct of East St. Louis, near present day St. Louis, Missouri, enclosed a cluster of as many as 100 small buildings or huts. The huts were associated with a walled ritual-residential zone or elite compound dating to the late Stirling phase (A.D. 1150-1200) and, importantly, were burned in a single conflagration. The burning of East St. Louis may have resulted from a ritual commemoration, an act of aggression, or an accidental fire; circumstantial evidence primarily supports the first scenario. With strongly diminished mound and architectural construction at the site in subsequent decades, and with the coeval disappearance of key ritual-residential buildings from the regional landscape after the burning, the ancient East St. Louis fire was part of a larger pattern of historical events that mark a downward turning point in the social and political history of Greater Cahokia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-226
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Cahokia
  • Mississippian culture
  • Palisade
  • Political transformation
  • Ritual burning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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