The fascinating story of a lost city and an unprecedented American civilization
While Mayan and Aztec civilizations are widely known and documented, relatively few people are familiar with the largest prehistoric Native American city north of Mexico-a site that expert Timothy Pauketat brings vividly to life in this groundbreaking book. Almost a thousand years ago, a city flourished along the Mississippi River near what is now St. Louis. Built around a sprawling central plaza and known as Cahokia, the site has drawn the attention of generations of archaeologists, whose work produced evidence of complex celestial timepieces, feasts big enough to feed thousands, and disturbing signs of human sacrifice. Drawing on these fascinating finds, Cahokia presents a lively and astonishing narrative of prehistoric America.
Author and anthropologist Pauketat (Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions) locates a civilizational "big bang" in the Mississippi River valley of 1050 CE, where "social life, political organization, religious belief, art, and culture were radically transformed" by a highly ambitious group of American Indians and their capital city, Cahokia, located east of what is now St. Louis. In this illuminating text, Pauketat examines the life, death, and rediscovery of this vast urban population and their game-changing cultural innovations (ranging from innocuous but influential sports like "chunkey" to large-scale reenactments of mythical stories, featuring bloody human sacrifice). Page by page, Pauketat compiles the fascinating details of a complex archeological puzzle; explaining the study of cross-cultural goddess worship, cave art, hand tools and games, this volume doubles as a crash-course in the archeological method. Pauketat's academic approach responsibly invites opposing viewpoints, and his writing is rich in you-are-there detail, making this an archeological adventure suitable for pre-Columbian enthusiasts as well as inquisitive laymen.