Abstract: Ancient American Cities, Religion, and the Case of Cahokia

In the middle of the 11th century CE, a unique city was constructed along the Mississippi that helps to explain the rise of civilizations everywhere. Like other ancient North American centers and cities, Cahokia was built on a cosmic idea: the sun and moon intersected with the lives of farmers here. New excavation and archaeoastronomical evidence suggests that religion pulled visitors and immigrants into the city and gave them a new identity. Missionaries carried that religion and identity to distant lands before the civilizing experiment imploded. This one city, though it dramatically altered American history, was largely forgotten.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):


Alt, S. M. 2012   Making Mississippian at Cahokia. In The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, edited by T. R. Pauketat, pp. 497-508. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Alt, S. M. and T. R. Pauketat 2011   Why Wall Trenches? Southeastern Archaeology 30(1):108-122.

Benson, L., T. R. Pauketat and E. Cook 2009   Cahokia’s Boom and Bust in the Context of Climate Change. American Antiquity 74:467-483.

Emerson, T. E. 1997   Cahokia and the Archaeology of Power. University of Alabama Press.

Pauketat, T. R. 2009   Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi. Viking-Penguin Press, New York.s, Tuscaloosa.

Pauketat, T. R. 2013   An Archaeology of the Cosmos: Rethinking Agency and Religion in Ancient America. Routledge, London.


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