North America's First City Unveiled: Discoveries at Cahokia Mounds

By Jurassic JennJun 24, 2024 09:36 AMScience
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North America's First City Unveiled
North America's First City Unveiled. Source: www.heritagedaily.com

Surrounded by mystery, Cahokia, the largest urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, stood as a beacon of sophistication long before European contact. Located in present-day Illinois, the ancient civilization’s monumental earthen platform mounds remain one of America's best-kept archaeological secrets. With ongoing excavations and cutting-edge technology, recent discoveries shed new light on the enigmatic history of this pre-Columbian metropolis. This was reported by SSPDaily.

Cahokia, known as the "City of the Sun," thrived approximately 500 years before Columbus, with a population of 20,000 spread across a vast expanse of six square miles. The city boasted an impressive 120 earthen mounds, including towering pyramids that served as residences for civic leaders. The giant Monk Mound, reaching a staggering height of 100 feet, dominated the central plaza—a testament to Cahokia's grandeur.

The cultural identity, languages, and music of the Cahokians remain shrouded in mystery. The multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan nature of Cahokia connected it to distant societies through an intricate trade network. Today, the Cahokia Mounds are a UNESCO World Heritage site under the management of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Professor Mary Vermilion and archaeology students from Saint Louis University embarked on an exploration of the western periphery of the Cahokia Mounds, unearthing intriguing remnants from the Sterling Phase (AD 1100-1200). Among the remarkable finds were wall trenches, microdrills, ancient ceramics, and age-old structures. These discoveries provide fresh insights into a pivotal era characterized by rapid population growth within Cahokia's chiefdom.

Building on these excavations, St. Louis University and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency harnessed the power of technology to further unravel Cahokia's secrets. Implementing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) in an aerial survey, researchers aimed to identify previously unrecorded archaeological features concealed within the dense forests and marshy lands surrounding the site's main complex.

Excitement grows as a groundbreaking project takes shape: the creation of a comprehensive and highly accurate 3D map of the Cahokia Mounds. Collaborating with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, St. Louis University will embrace LiDAR's capabilities to uncover hidden portions of the vast 2,200-acre National Historical Landmark. The detailed map promises to provide researchers and future generations with invaluable resources for further study and exploration of this remarkable prehistoric site.

Intrigue and fascination continue to surround Cahokia, North America's First City, as ongoing efforts preserve, explore, and reveal the secrets hidden within its ancient boundaries.

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