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Study reveals changes in the development of downtown Cahokia



Researchers have revealed the changes in the organisation and use of space in downtown Cahokia, by conducting scientist studies on the western edge of the Grand Plaza.

Cahokia was the largest urban settlement to develop from the Mississippian culture, a mound-building pre-Columbian civilisation that developed in the Midwestern, Eastern, and South-eastern United States.

The area was first inhabited as early as the Late Archaic period around 1200 BC, but the original builders are believed to have settled in the region around AD 600-700 during the Late Woodland Period.

At its peak, Cahokia had a population of up to 20,000 inhabitants, who constructed 120 earthen mounds that involved moving 55 million cubic feet of earth over a period several decades.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina, Washington University in St. Louis and the Colorado State University.

The team applied a magnetometer and electromagnetic induction survey at the western edge of the Grand Plaza and compared their results with LiDAR-derived visualisations and aerial photography.

This has revealed new information on the nature and sequence of monument construction in Downtown Cahokia, as well as architectural changes in domestic and special-use structures.

The team found that monumental architecture contributed to the overall aesthetic of this public space, in particular with mounds 48 and 57 that form the western end of the Great Plaza.

Geophysical data has also shown the extant of building growth and decline over the centuries in the Great Plaza area, with 17 buildings from the Terminal Late Woodland/Emergent Mississippian period (AD 925–1050), 10 buildings during the Lohman Phase (AD 1050–1100), 5 buildings during the Stirling Phase (AD 1100–1200), and 9 buildings in the Moorehead Phase (AD 1200–1275).

The study has also found changes in the sequence of palisade walls around the Grand Plaza, where they observed a correlation between identified palisade remnants and a small linear rise that is roughly 4.5 m wide, and encapsulates mounds along the east, south, and west of the Grand Plaza.

According to the researchers: “Our study reinforces the notion that the founding and occupation of Downtown Cahokia resulted in the creation of a heavily palimpsestic landscape that was continually transformed according to the situational needs of the communities that were enmeshed within and influenced by the site’s historical trajectory.

Drawing on the combined examination of multiple geospatial and remote sensing datasets has consequently permitted us to draw out the interplay between the societies that participated in the creation of Cahokia and the changes they left inscribed into the landscape.”

Header Image Credit : Kent Raney – Shutterstock


This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists uncover tomb of Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou




In a press announcement by the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), archaeologists have discovered the tomb of Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou near Xianyang City, China.

Emperor Xiaomin (birth name: Yuwen Jue), was the founder of the Xianbei-led Northern Zhou dynasty of China that lasted from AD 557 to 581. One of the Northern dynasties of China’s Northern and Southern dynasties period, it succeeded the Western Wei dynasty and was eventually overthrown by the Sui dynasty.

Rather than take the title of emperor, Xiaomin instead used the Zhou Dynasty title of “Heavenly Prince”, however, a power struggle occurred between Xiaomin and the his cousin, Yuwen Hu, who deposed Xiaomin and had him killed.

Archaeologists conducting excavations adjacent to the Airport Expressway in Xianyang City have uncovered the tomb of Emperor Xiaomin, designated Tomb M655.

Image Credit : CASS

Excavations have revealed a 147 long ditch, leading to a tomb oriented on a north to south axis. The tomb contains a single chamber at a depth of 10 metres, containing disturbed funerary offerings such as ceramic vessels and figurines depicting warriors, cavalry units, a camel, and indiscernible creatures.

The team also discovered an epitaph stone with an inscription loosely translated as: “Renshen in October of the second year of the tomb of Gongyu Wenjue, Duke of Lueyang, Zhou Dynasty” – referring to the birth name of Yuwen Jue.

According to the press announcement: “The archaeological discovery of Yuwen Jue’s tomb from the Northern Zhou Dynasty is of great significance. It is the second Northern Zhou emperor’s tomb that has been excavated after the Xiaoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou Dynasty.”

Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

Header Image Credit : CASS

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Viking trade connections stretched to Arctic Scandinavia




An analysis by researchers from the University of York has revealed Viking trade routes between northern Scandinavia and the edges of continental Europe.

The study focuses on trade connections from the town of Hedeby, an important trading settlement during the Viking Age near the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula in Germany.

Hedeby is first mentioned in the Frankish chronicles of Einhard (who was in the service of Charlemagne), but was probably founded around AD 770.

Hedeby’s prominence as a primary trading hub can be attributed to its strategic geographical positioning along the pivotal trade routes connecting the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia in the north-south direction, as well as the Baltic and the North Sea in the east-west direction.

The town was also a major centre of antler-working, with 288,000 antler finds recorded to date, most of which are waste material from the production of hair combs.

A ZooMS analysis of the collagen in the combs has revealed that 85-90% of the combs were made from reindeer antler during the 9th century AD. The combs or antlers were imported from northern Scandinavia, indicating new evidence for contact between Hedeby and the northern outlands in central and northern Scandinavia.

Dr Steven Ashby, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “The work at Hedeby is particularly interesting, as it tells us about connections between the mountains of upland or arctic Scandinavia and this large town at the gateway to continental Europe, and points to a window in the 9th Century when these northern links must have been particularly strong.”

The paper ‘In the footsteps of Ohthere: biomolecular analysis of early Viking Age hair combs from Hedeby (Haithabu)’ is published in Antiquity Journal.

University of York

Header Image Credit : Mariana Muñoz-Rodriguez

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