Around or A. Built around A. Louis, and St. Louis connected to each other via waterways and walking trails that extended across the Mississippi River floodplain for some 20 square km. Its population consisted of agriculturalists who grew large amounts of maize, and craft specialists who made beautiful pots, shell jewelry, arrow-points, and flint clay figurines. The city of Cahokia is one of many large earthen mound complexes that dot the landscapes of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and across the Southeast.
Despite the preponderance of archaeological evidence that these mound complexes were the work of sophisticated Native American civilizations, this rich history was obscured by the Myth of the Mound Builders, a narrative that arose ostensibly to explain the existence of the mounds.
Pioneers and early archaeologists credited distant civilizations, not native americans, with building these sophisticated complexes
Examining both the history of Cahokia and the historic myths that were created to explain it reveals the troubling role that early archaeologists played in diminishing, or even eradicating, the achievements of pre-Columbian civilizations on the North American continent, just as the U. This alignment, according to Tim Pauketat, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, is tied to the summer solstice sunrise and the southern maximum moonrise, orientating Cahokia to the movement of both the sun and the moon.
Neighborhood houses, causeways, plazas, and mounds were intentionally aligned to this city grid. Atop its summit sat one of the largest rectangular buildings ever constructed at Cahokia; it likely served as a ritual space.
In front of Monks Mound was a large, open plaza that held a chunk yard to play the popular sport of chunkey. This game, watched by thousands of spectators, was played by two large groups who would run across the plaza lobbing spears at a rolling stone disk. The goal of the game was to land their spear at the point where the disk would stop rolling. In addition to the chunk yard, upright marker posts and additional platform mounds were situated along the plaza edges. Cahokia was built rapidly, with thousands of people coming together to participate in its construction.
As far as archaeologists know, there was no forced labor used to build these mounds; instead, people came together for big feasts and gatherings that celebrated the construction of the mounds.
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The splendor of the mounds was visible to the first white people who described them. But they thought that the American Indian known to early white settlers could not have built any of the great earthworks that dotted the midcontinent. So the question then became: Who built the mounds? Early archaeologists working to answer the question of who built the mounds attributed them to the Toltecs, Vikings, Welshmen, Hindus, and many others.
It seemed that any group—other than the American Indian—could serve as the likely architects of the great earthworks.
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This contributed to the notion that, prior to the Native American, highly skilled warriors of unknown origin had populated the North American continent. This was particularly salient in the Midwest and Southeast, where earthen mounds from the Archaic, Hopewell, and Mississippian time periods crisscross the midcontinent.
These landscapes and the mounds built upon them quickly became places of fantasy, where speculation as to their origins rose from the grassy prairies and vast floodplains, just like the mounds themselves. When William Bartram and others recorded local Native American narratives of the mounds, they seemingly corroborated these mythical origins of the mounds.
This served as one more way to justify the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands: If Native Americans were early colonizers, too, the logic went, then white Americans had just as much right to the land as indigenous peoples.
In the 19th century, evolutionary theory began to take hold of the interpretations of the past, as archaeological research moved away from the armchair and into the realm of scientific inquiry. These ideologies framed the archaeological research of the time. During the last years, extensive archaeological research has changed our understanding of the mounds. They are no longer viewed as isolated monuments created by a mysterious race.
Instead, the mounds of North America have been proven to be constructions by Native American peoples for a variety of purposes. Today, some tribes, like the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, view these mounds as central places tying their communities to their ancestral lands. Similar to other ancient cities throughout the world, Native North Americans venerate their ties to history through the places they built. Editor's Note: The original story stated that William Bartram's Travels was published inbut these early journals were actually published in Continue or Give a Gift.
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