Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Mysterious Fire Transformed Cahokia, North America’s Greatest City, in 1170. By Annalee Newitz.

Reconstruction of Cahokia

A mysterious fire transformed North America’s greatest city in 1170. By Annalee Newitz. io9, September 26, 2013.

A Mississippian conflagration at East St. Louis and its political-historical implications. By Timothy R. Pauketat, Andrew C. Fortier, Susan M. Alt, and Thomas E. Emerson. Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 38, No. 3 (July 2013).


A walled portion of the extensive Precolumbian civic-ceremonial precinct of East St. Louis, near present day St. Louis, Missouri, enclosed a cluster of as many as 100 small buildings or huts. The huts were associated with a walled ritual-residential zone or elite compound dating to the late Stirling phase (a.d. 11501200) and, importantly, were burned in a single conflagration. The burning of East St. Louis may have resulted from a ritual commemoration, an act of aggression, or an accidental fire; circumstantial evidence primarily supports the first scenario. With strongly diminished mound and architectural construction at the site in subsequent decades, and with the coeval disappearance of key ritual-residential buildings from the regional landscape after the burning, the ancient East St. Louis fire was part of a larger pattern of historical events that mark a downward turning point in the social and political history of Greater Cahokia.