New archaeological excavations at Cahokia, Illinois, have been investigating evidence of deforestation and flooding at the site of a major indigenous urban center.
The New York Times reports that “A thousand years ago, a city rose on the banks of the Mississippi River, near what eventually became the city of St. Louis. Sprawling over miles of rich farms, public plazas and earthen mounds, the city — known today as Cahokia — was a thriving hub of immigrants, lavish feasting and religious ceremony. At its peak in the 1100s, Cahokia housed 20,000 people, greater than contemporaneous Paris. By 1350, Cahokia had largely been abandoned, and why people left the city is one of the greatest mysteries of North American archaeology.”
The medieval history of urban development in North America is not well known, but we are finding out more about the Mississippian peoples and their cities, thanks to research at the Cahokia site.
“Recent excavations at Cahokia led by Caitlin Rankin, an archaeologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, show that there is no evidence at the site of human-caused erosion or flooding in the city,” according to The New York Times.
History students at Northern Illinois University should visit this important historic site, which is located only a few hours’ drive away from campus. The remaining mounds are pretty impressive!