March 22, 2019
Groundbreaking Study of Women and Agriculture at Cahokia
In a new book on Cahokia agriculture, Gayle Fritz, professor emerita of anthropology in Arts & Sciences and author of “Feeding Cahokia: Early Agriculture in the North American Homeland” (2019 University of Alabama Press), has made it clear that the vast majority of Cahokia’s farmers were women. Their knowledge of agriculture gave them respect and power. Gayle Fritz is doubtful floods, drought or earthquakes brought down Cahokia. Food production at Cahokia was diversified, stable, and the land was in the Mississippi bottomland, the most fertile in America.
The female farmers of Cahokia grew bottle gourds, squash, sunflower, edible weeds like knotweed, maygrass, and chenopods. The genetics of these plants changed as the plants were domesticated. They also harvested hickory and acorns by introducing early crop protection methods, creating nut orchards. Modern flotation techniques have found that the over-reliance on maize story was not a true picture of Cahokia agriculture. When corn became a major crop at 900 CE, all of the other crops increased in abundance, and did not shrink.
Gayle Fritz also questions the ceramic figurines depicting women at Cahokia are not really “corn goddesses.” She points out that the plants on the figurines more accurately represent sunflower seed heads and squashes. And she questions the idea of a male dominated priesthood as the basis of Cahokia religion, given the importance of women.
Phys.org has the story here;
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