The Ascent of Chiefs: Cahokia and Mississippian Politics in Native North America

By Timothy R. Pauketat | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Diachronic Community
and Architectural Evidence

Household and community form and size provide essential information about social forms and cultural structures (Kus 1983). This information lies at the heart of the present study of the region-wide transformation of local ranked groups into a regionally consolidated political entity and cultural hegemony. In order to measure the rate and scale of social and political changes over the Emergent Mississippian-to-Mississippian continuum, and thus to evaluate the rise of the Cahokian Leviathan, diachronic architectural and community-organizational data are necessary. The architectural and community-organizational data sets used in this study were excavated at Tract 15A and the Dunham Tract at Cahokia (figure 5.1). These data have been broken down into the 15A-DT subphases described in chapter 3. The subphases provide temporal resolution at a scale as fine grained as is currently available. The EM-2 through L-3 subphases represent an occupation continuum confined to a span of about a hundred years (calibrated to A. D. 1000-1100). Since each of these subphases represent periods of time averaging about two decades, within- generation changes may be monitored. Less resolution is offered by the Stirling and Moorehead subphases.

Excavations of Tract 15A undertaken in 1961,1963,1977,1978, and 1985 exposed an area of about 10,000 square meters (Wittry 1961; Hall 1964; Hall and Wittry 1980; Iseminger 1985). A total of about 750 features were defined during the Tract-15A field work, including the remains of 240 buildings (or substantial rebuildings), 282 pits, 138 post pits, and 90 hearths, trenches, artifact concentrations, isolated postmolds, and ill- defined or amorphous deposits of cultural fills (figure 5.2). Additionally, a series of 5-by-5-foot test squares excavated in 1961 near the low marshy Cahokia Creek floodplain (about 30 to 60 meters northeast of the northern end of the primary Tract 15A excavations) contained midden presumably derived from the Tract 15A occupation (figure 5.3). This midden was excavated in arbitrary 6- or 12-inch levels, some of which are included in the present analysis.

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