The lost city of Cahokia

2022-04-30 0 By

For hundreds of years, Cahokia was part of what is now the U.S. state of Illinois.The bustling and vibrant city was once home to about 15,000 people, but by the end of the 14th century it had fallen into disuse — and researchers are still not sure why.A study published last year was able to rule out at least one previous idea — that deforestation and overuse of the land around Cahokia had caused excessive erosion and localized flooding in the area, making it uninhabitable for Native Americans.By analyzing sediment cores gathered near mounds at Cahokia Hills National Historic Site, researchers determined that the ground remained stable from Cahokia’s heyday until the mid-1800s and industrial development.In other words, no environmental disaster.Archaeologist Caitlin Rankin excavates at the Cahokia Mounds National Historic Site.Caitlin Rankin, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said at the time: “The idea that land use practices lead to erosion and deposition and all these environmental consequences is very common.””When we really re-examined this, we saw no evidence of flooding.”The mound next to the excavation site is in a low-lying area near a creek — a prime location for any local flooding.However, the strata show no evidence of sediment left by flooding.Apparently, the people who lived in Cahokia cut down a lot of trees, probably to build fortifications.However, this did not lead to the kind of erosion and flooding that drove people out of their homes, according to the study, published in 2021 in the journal Geoarchaeology.”In this case, there is evidence that a large amount of wood was used,” Rankin said in a press statement at the time.”But that doesn’t take into account that people can reuse materials — just like you can recycle.””We should not automatically assume that deforestation is happening or that deforestation is causing this event.”Cahokia remains a fascinating topic for experts, with a study published in 2020 analyzing ancient human excrement suggesting that people began returning in large numbers long before European settlers began arriving in the 16th century.The abandonment of the metropolis may not actually last that long.The team behind the 2021 study says the current mess we’re making in caring for the planet makes it easier to imagine that ecocide is responsible for some of the unexplained mysteries of the past — but it’s important to keep digging to find difficult evidence of what actually happened.”By eliminating that possibility, it turns us to other explanations and requires us to pursue other avenues of research,” said Tristram Kidder, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.