Cahokia as Urban Anomaly

Timothy R Pauketat, Susan M Alt, Betzenhauser Alleen M., Kruchten Jeffery D., Erin M. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The word ‘urban’ is now commonly used to characterize the unusual, amorphous, and sprawling three-part complex of monuments, water features, and pole-and-thatch buildings known as Cahokia. Besides its tripartite spatiality, Cahokia was anomalous in other ways. It arose rapidly, was built in a watery landscape, and was a relatively short-term phenomenon. To understand these anomalous qualities, we focus on three archaeologically isolatable, short-term episodes of Cahokian history (ad 1050, 1125 ± 25, and 1200) and review the development of both central precincts and rural localities. We suggest that Cahokia’s vitality was a function of its region-wide incorporation of other-than-human powers, especially as related to water, while its diminution was at least partly a function of the general absence of urban infrastructure, especially as related to water.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-274
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Urban Archaeology
StatePublished - 2023


  • ISAS
  • Cahokia
  • water
  • infrastructure
  • mounds
  • urbanism
  • Mississippian


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