Cahokia: Domination and Ideology in the Mississippian World

By Timothy R. Pauketat; Thomas E. Emerson | Go to book overview

Neal H. Lopinot


3
Cahokian Food Production
Reconsidered

A theoretical shift has occurred in which greater primacy is allocated to political and ideological factors in modeling cultural change, particularly for groups other than egalitarian hunter-gatherers. The cloaked ecological “determinism” of neoevolutionists and New Archaeologists has faded as an important theoretical cornerstone since its peak during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nonetheless, virtually everyone still recognizes the importance of an ecological, or contextual, approach that examines interaction among various temporal and spatial aspects of the physical, biological, and social environments.

All populations obviously must be fed. Consequently activities of non-foodproducing sectors of a stratified society (e.g., elites, traders, craftsman, priests) are dependent to a large degree on the organization and input-output of agricultural activities. It follows then that changes in the organization of food production, and therefore any and all elements of the political economy, can be affected by, or must respond to, unexpected interannular or long-term environmental fluctuations (e.g., climatic change) that affect food production.

We must, therefore, evaluate the temporal and spatial webs of social, political, and ideological conditions, as well as impinging “natural” environmental conditions, if we are to gain a better understanding of the rise, short climax, and demise of the complex Cahokian chiefdom. The importance of analyzing subsistence remains and evaluating the relationship of technoenvironmental factors and changing human behavior has been among the primary research domains in American Bottom archaeology during the last twenty-five years (e.g., Chmurny 1973; Gregg 1975a; Johannessen 1984,

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