Study reveals changes in the development of downtown Cahokia

Researchers have revealed the changes in the organisation and use of space in downtown Cahokia, by conducting scientist studies on the western edge of the Grand Plaza.

Cahokia was the largest urban settlement to develop from the Mississippian culture, a mound-building pre-Columbian civilisation that developed in the Midwestern, Eastern, and South-eastern United States.

- Advertisement -

The area was first inhabited as early as the Late Archaic period around 1200 BC, but the original builders are believed to have settled in the region around AD 600-700 during the Late Woodland Period.

At its peak, Cahokia had a population of up to 20,000 inhabitants, who constructed 120 earthen mounds that involved moving 55 million cubic feet of earth over a period several decades.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina, Washington University in St. Louis and the Colorado State University.

The team applied a magnetometer and electromagnetic induction survey at the western edge of the Grand Plaza and compared their results with LiDAR-derived visualisations and aerial photography.

- Advertisement -

This has revealed new information on the nature and sequence of monument construction in Downtown Cahokia, as well as architectural changes in domestic and special-use structures.

The team found that monumental architecture contributed to the overall aesthetic of this public space, in particular with mounds 48 and 57 that form the western end of the Great Plaza.

Geophysical data has also shown the extant of building growth and decline over the centuries in the Great Plaza area, with 17 buildings from the Terminal Late Woodland/Emergent Mississippian period (AD 925–1050), 10 buildings during the Lohman Phase (AD 1050–1100), 5 buildings during the Stirling Phase (AD 1100–1200), and 9 buildings in the Moorehead Phase (AD 1200–1275).

The study has also found changes in the sequence of palisade walls around the Grand Plaza, where they observed a correlation between identified palisade remnants and a small linear rise that is roughly 4.5 m wide, and encapsulates mounds along the east, south, and west of the Grand Plaza.

According to the researchers: “Our study reinforces the notion that the founding and occupation of Downtown Cahokia resulted in the creation of a heavily palimpsestic landscape that was continually transformed according to the situational needs of the communities that were enmeshed within and influenced by the site’s historical trajectory.

Drawing on the combined examination of multiple geospatial and remote sensing datasets has consequently permitted us to draw out the interplay between the societies that participated in the creation of Cahokia and the changes they left inscribed into the landscape.”

Header Image Credit : Kent Raney – Shutterstock


- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Archaeologists uncover 4,200-year-old “zombie grave”

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered a "zombie grave" during excavations near Oppin, Germany.

Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old clay token used by pilgrims

A clay token unearthed by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, is believed to have served pilgrims exchanging offerings during the Passover festival 2,000-years-ago.

Moon may have influenced Stonehenge construction

A study by a team of archaeoastronomers are investigating the possible connection of the moon in influencing the Stonehenge builders.

Archaeologists explore the resettlement history of the Iron-Age metropolis of Tel Hazor

Archaeologists are conducting a study of the Iron-Age metropolis of Tel Hazor to understand how one of the largest “megacities” of the Bronze Age was abandoned and then resettled.

Excavation uncovers possible traces of Villa Augustus at Somma Vesuviana

Archaeologists from the University of Tokyo have uncovered further evidence of the Villa of Augustus during excavations at Somma Vesuviana.

Study reveals new insights into wreck of royal flagship Gribshunden

Underwater archaeologists from Södertörn University, in collaboration with the CEMAS/Institute for Archaeology and Ancient Culture at Stockholm University, have conducted an investigation of the wreck of the royal flagship Gribshunden.

Microbe X-32 – Is the Plasticene Era coming to an end?

Breaking, a new venture in collaboration with Harvard and the Wyss Institute, is claiming that a new discovery, Microbe X-32, can naturally break down polyolefins, polyesters, and polyamides in just 22 months.

Stone sphere among artefacts repatriated to Costa Rica

395 pre-Columbian artefacts have been repatriated to Costa Rica thanks to a grant by the United States Embassy to the Cultural Agreements Fund.