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Study challenges the narrative of Cahokia’s abandonment

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A new study, published in the Sage Journal, casts doubt on the popular theory of why Cahokia was abandoned.

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

Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was founded around 1050 along the banks of the Mississippi River, located near present-day St. Louis, Missouri.

The city covered an area between six to nine square miles (notably larger than many contemporary European cities such as London), and was home to up to 50,000 inhabitants at its peak.

By around 1400, Cahokia saw a significant population decline, resulting in the settlement’s abandonment. The reasons for this decline are debated among academics, with the prevailing theory suggesting that a prolonged drought led to a large crop failure.

A new study led by Natalie Mueller, an assistant professor of archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis, now challenges this narrative and presents new findings.

According to the study authors, all plants use one of two types of carbon for photosynthesis – Carbon 12 and Carbon 13. Plants adapted to dry climates, including prairie grasses and maize, incorporate carbon into their bodies at rates that leave behind a tell-tale signature when the plants die and decay

The plants that the Cahokia people harvested, such as squash, goosefoot, and sumpweed, all have a different signature, one similar to plants from wetlands and native forests.

By collecting soil samples in the strata from the period of abandonment, the researchers analysed the levels of isotopes of carbon left behind. This revealed that the ratios of Carbon 12 and Carbon 13 stayed relatively consistent, contradicting the drought theory.

“We saw no evidence that prairie grasses were taking over, which we would expect in a scenario where widespread crop failure was occurring,” Mueller said.

As to the question on why Cahokia was abandoned, Mueller added: “I don’t envision a scene where thousands of people were suddenly streaming out of town. People probably just spread out to be near kin or to find different opportunities.”

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Rankin, C. G., & Mueller, N. G. (2024). Correlating Late-Holocene climate change and population dynamics at Cahokia Mounds (American Bottom, USA). The Holocene, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836241254488

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Elite Petén style structures found near Kohunlich

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Construction works for a road in Section 7 of the Mayan Train have uncovered elite Petén style structures near Kohunlich in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Kohunlich is a large Maya polity that served as a regional centre along the trade routes through the southern Yucatán.

The site was first settled around 200 BC, with the majority of its monuments being built between AD 250 to AD 600 during the Early Classic Period.

The city features elevated platforms, plazas, pyramids, and citadels, all enclosed by palace platforms. The layout of Kohunlich was carefully arranged to direct drainage into a network of cisterns and a massive reservoir for rainwater collection.

Construction works for a road on the periphery of Kohunlich have resulted in the discovery of elite structures in the Petén style, a distinct type of Maya architecture and inscription style.

Archaeologists have identified seven structures in total, interpreted to be elite homesteads of a domestic nature that were used for agricultural activities.

Most of the structures have a rectangular plan and vaulted rooms adorned with decorative Petén style elements.

Given their archaeological importance, experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have registered the monuments for protection.

Consequently, the planned route of the road has been redirected to preserve the structures in situ, where they will be preserved and open to the public in the near future.

Excavations also unearthed various archaeological materials, including ceramics, shells, fragments of human bone, and objects intentionally buried as offerings likely during the construction of the homesteads for protection.

Header Image Credit : Maya Train

Sources : National Institute of Anthropology and History

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs

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Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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