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    How Cahokia Was Mighty Essay (676 words)

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    North of Mexico, the pre-Columbian settlement of Cahokia was the most influential and intricate Native American community in North America. It was a society of mound builders that endured from about 9500 B.C.

    From 700 A.D. to 1400 A.D., the Cahokian culture established a massive trading center with their own governing bodies, architecture, religion, sophisticated farming, and local specialties. The Cahokian culture had an impact on the far reaches of the present-day United States, from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, from the Atlantic coast to Oklahoma, all from its central location in the Mississippi region. Cahokia was a superior power in the New World before the Europeans arrived and remains an important and mighty cultural center.

    The first factor that indicates the might of the Cahokian culture is the great structures of earth that they created for public buildings, residences of the nobility, religious purposes, and as burial grounds. These mounds, numbering 120, were built on an area exceeding five square miles and were usually between six and twelve feet in height. The largest mound, named Monks Mound for the colony of Trappist monks who later tried to colonize atop the construction, covers 14 acres at the base and rises 100 feet in height. What is even mightier about this mound, which happens to be the largest prehistoric earthen structure in the New World, is that it took over 19 million hours of labor to complete, all done by hand. The 22 million cubic feet of dirt it took to form the mound were deposited in stages from about 900 to 1200 A.D.

    The greatness that is Monks Mound was probably used for governing, ceremonies, and for the Cahokian leaders’ living spaces and burial plots. Another remarkable mound in Cahokia, simply called Mound 72, was designed by the Cahokians so that one end of it faced the rising sun of the winter solstice, and the opposite end faced toward the setting sun of the summer solstice. An additional type of architecture in the Cahokia realm that fascinated the excavators who found its remnants are wood henges.

    Labeled for their likeness to England’s Stonehenge, the wood henges consist of several circles with different diameters of hundreds of feet and are made up of posts at regular intervals. What is amazing about them is that the number of posts in each circle is in multiples of 12 (24, 36, 48, 60, and 72). It is believed that the posts marked lunar cycles and other celestial arrangements. Another detail that proves Cahokia’s eminence is the actual size and complex setup of the settlement. During its peak, circa 1100, Cahokia was populated by an estimated 10-20,000 people. These people lived in simple one-family homes, which formed compounds, and several compounds made up communal plazas that were much like neighborhoods.

    In the center of Cahokia was Monks Mound, which was surrounded by temples and homes of nobility. Around this Grand Plaza was a stockade built of 20,000 logs for protection. Special buildings were also included in the Cahokian compounds and communal plazas. Each had buildings for the storage and cooking of food, meeting houses, and steam lodges for spiritual and physical cleansing, among other things.

    Like any great city, Cahokia had satellite settlements which surrounded it. These smaller communities, also made up of mounds, were heavily influenced by Cahokia. Lastly, a crucial element that argues Cahokia’s true force on the primeval peoples of North America is the large amounts of goods made of foreign resources found at the Cahokia site. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, copper from Lake Superior, mica from the East, and shells from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

    Also, in addition to imported products, there are Cahokian products and imitations of Cahokian products found on Native American sites throughout the United States. Despite its might, Cahokia did not survive, and by about 1400, the settlement had been abandoned. While there are several theories as to why this happened, none have been proven. Nevertheless, artifacts, bones, and, of course, the mounds have transcended the era of the Cahokian people and aid our imaginations in visualizing the majesty of what was once mighty Cahokia.

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