New Research at the Mississippian Capital of Cahokia

August 5, 2022

Researchers using paleoenvironmental analysis at the giant Mississippian site of Cahokia in Illinois, which exploded into prominence at 1050 CE and thrived for 300 years, was thought to have had four large plazas on the north, south, east and west which surrounded the very large temple known as Monk’s Mound, have found that the north plaza was almost always underwater. Cahokia was built on a flood plain beneath the confluence of the Missouri and Illinois Rivers.

The north plaza is built at the lowest elevation of the site. Two creeks ran through it and it flooded when the Mississippi swelled after heavy rains. The research team extracted sediment cores at the north plaza, took soil samples and analyzed carbon isotope in the soil and found that the area was wet all year. Water was important to Cahokia since they grew wetland plants and traded up and down the Mississippi. Their religious vision would probably have included water in their creation stories.

The chief researcher, Caitlin Rankin, from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey wrote the research paper on this find.

The National Geographic Society and National Science Foundation supported this work.

To reach Caitlin Rankin, email

The paper “The exceptional environmental setting of the north plaza, Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, USA” is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.
DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2022.2077824 has the report here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Cahokia

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