Cahokia was an olden city that is located approximately 16 kilometers or 10 miles to the south of present day Illinois. Historians believe that the first occupant of Cahokia were gatherers and hunters. It is located directly opposite to the Mississippi river. This prehistoric city is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Preservation was one of the measures that the United States government took after it was realized that this particular city faced threats of extinction. The city had at least one hundred and twenty mounds. These mounds were spread in an approximate area of five square miles. The early residents of Cahokia started settling at around A.D. 700. During the period of A.D. 1000 to 1400, the city experienced a massive expansion. It became an enormous and a complex chiefdom. The name Cahokia was gotten from a neighboring tribe known as the Illiniwek (Hodges, Glenn and Burmeister 64).
Cahokia city was created by the Indian Americans before the European settlers arrived. When the European settlers settled, they undertook the work of digging into the past of Cahokia. They wanted to know what could actually have led to the extinction of a powerful culture that had once been established by the Indians. What interested the European settlers were the magnificent mounds that have made Cahokia be identified as the greatest historical site in the entire United States of America (Hodges, Glenn and Burmeister 39).
During 700 to1400 A.D., a group of communities settled near the river of Mississippi, this is what is now known as St. Louis. This site allowed people to trade since it was located near numerous rivers in the region. This condition attracted a large number of populations and ended up constructing one of the biggest historical cities in the entire North America. The city was named Cahokia in honor of the tribe that lived there starting from the early 1200s. The city covered an approximately 6 miles, with about 120 mounds constructed on the earth. The city is estimated to have approximately 10,000 to 20,000 people. Nevertheless, the population in the city began to decline and by A.D. 1400 the city was entirely abandoned (Hodges, Glenn and Burmeister 74).
The mounds that the Indians build were differed in size. Although it is not known as to why they build mounds different in size, archeologists believe that the different mounds were used for various functions. Some of such a functions included cultural, political and religious practices. Others were used as the burial site. Some of them measured 100 feet high and other measured twelve and six feet. These have been classified as the largest human made mounds in the whole Northern America. Historians have made some estimation of how many hours it would have taken to build such immense structures using soil. Some have said that it could have taken around 19 million hours to complete the construction of these mounds (Bernard 35).
Cahokia – the most powerful civilization in America
Archeologists have agreed that Cahokia’s civilization was the most powerful in America. They tend to agree that it lead to the establishment of what today is known as the Mississippi culture. Cahokia reached its climax, at around 1050 AD. During this time, it had a population of fifteen thousand people. The Cahokia’s also had some cultural subgroups and specifically established agricultural areas. This made CahokiaCity have a total of forty thousand people. The large population made this city the biggest during its times (Bernard 102).
Various factors have been known to be the leading cause of the Cahokia city success. The people of Cahokia had an established knowledge of corn farming. They were also talented in architecture. The steady supplies of food ensured that the people did not go hungry and thus they concentrated on constructing the mounds (Bernard 78).
After the people deserted the city of Cahokia, many archaeologists have discovered many artifacts within the Mounds and the area adjacent the mounds. The most magnificent remains of the culture of the Cahokia city are normally believed to be not only the mounds constructed in Cahokia, but also the tools that were made of wood, stone and shell. Majority of the Cahokia mounds were normally rectangular. The government building, temples and the leaders’ castles were built on these mounds. The Monk Mound was the largest in the city with about 100 feet’s above the ground. There were others that were shaped like cones and ridges, which were mainly used for burying the dead in the city (Bernard 63).
The people of the Cahokia engaged in numerous economic activities such as fishing, hunting and farming, in order to support the large population found in the city. They mainly depended on beans, squash and corns which was a fresh produce in the city. In order to ensure that the city population had a constant supply of food, the produce was preserved through drying for use during winter (Hodges, Glenn and Burmeister 74).
Archeologists’ work has recently discovered evidence of existence of more than 400 hundred houses and workshops. These are believed to be buildings where various goods that were used in the city were created. In addition, the buildings have been found to have bounded the ritual sites, and during the peak of the population growth in the city, the settlement expanded and reached into the primeval area of the city that provided residence to more than 10,000 of Native American population. Although the Cahokia city had few Europeans, its structural organization has also been in agreement with the contemporary American city stretch (Kelly 95).
Even though, the settlement of the Cahokia people in the city was short-lived, the cultural influence in the city seems to have been widespread. Historians working on the mound 72 identified some human parts. This has led to the suggestion that the people of Cahokia made human sacrifices to their gods. The establishment of one supreme mound also gives the indication that there was one supreme leader among the Cahokia’s people. Archeologists have described this leader as a visionary leader who had immense plans of establishing strong chiefdom (Kelly 83).
“The big bang”
The rate at which Cahokia developed has been described as the big bang by many archeologists. Initially the city had only a thousand occupants and, by 1050, A.D., had forty thousand. To many archeologists and historians what lead to the downfall of Cahokia city remains to be an unknown; this made many theories be formulated so as to explain what could have made such a successful city disappear as soon as it had emerged. Most historians from the South dedicated much of their time exasperating to express these theories. In the 13th century, people began abandoning the city, and by A.D. 1400 most of the occupants had left. Legends have it that, at around 720 A.D, there was some hostility between the different Cahokia’s tribes such as the Illiniwek (Hodges, Glenn and Burmeister 92).
The reasons for leaving the city of Cahokia by its inhabitants are not well understood. Archaeologists and anthropologists have provided different probable reasons. Some believe that it was due to exhaustion of the food supply. The soil around the city of Cahokia is believed to have worn out as well as depletion animals in the nearby game reserve. The climatic change is also believed to be attributable to the decline in fresh production from the farm as well as the decline of food sources for the game animals. Diseases, epidemic, and wars are also thought to be a crucial factor that influenced the development of the population hence forcing the inhabitants of the city to leave and subsequent desertion of the city (Bernard 45).