City of earth and wood: New Cahokia and its material-historical implications

Timothy R. Pauketat, Susan M. Alt, Jeffery D. Kruchten

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Imagine a continent with a vast open interior covered in prairie grasses and great temperate forests drained by an extensive river system. Imagine further that this continent had been peopled for 15 millennia, first by foragers and, later, by horticulturalists living along the interior rivers. They grew a host of starchy and oily seed crops, cucurbits, and, after 800 CE, maize, supplementing their diet with wild game. Finally, imagine that, one day, year, or decade near the beginning of the fifteenth millennium on that continent, one group of people designed and built a city - just one. You have, of course, just imagined Cahokia, which was built midway through the eleventh century CE in the middle of North America only to be depopulated during the fourteenth century CE and, for all intents and purposes, forgotten by the time Europeans arrived (Map 21.1). Because of its seemingly historical isolation and its relationships to peoples and places that went before and came after, Cahokia may provide unique insights into the larger causal relationships between a city, its hinterlands, and its descendants. Much of what we know about this place revolves around the circumstances of its founding, which involve a convergence of diverse peoples, the formalization of religious practices, and a transformation of the rural landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge World History
Subtitle of host publicationVolume III: Early Cities in Comparative Perspective, 4000 BCE-1200 CE
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781139035606
ISBN (Print)9780521190084
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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