Cahokia: Domination and Ideology in the Mississippian World

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

David G. Anderson


12
The Role of Cahokia in the
Evolution of Southeastern
Mississippian Society

During the half millennium or so before European contact, agricultural chiefdoms of varying levels of complexity were present across much of the southeastern United States, an area that has been variously defined but in most accounts is taken to mean the states south of the Ohio River and from just west of the Mississippi valley eastward to the Atlantic Ocean (B. Smith 1986, 1–2).1 By almost any definition, the American Bottom lies at or just beyond the margins of the Southeast. In spite of this, the events that transpired in this area during the interval from roughly A.D. 900 to 1300 influenced developments in societies across the Southeast at this time and afterward by playing a major role in the emergence, character, spread, and evolution of Mississippian culture.2 Such a view, while appreciably at odds with prevailing interpretations about the development of Mississippian culture, provides a better fit with available evidence than do positions that minimize the role of the American Bottom area.

During its heyday from about A.D. 1050 to T200, during the Lohmann and Stirling phases, Cahokia appears to have been the center of a paramount chiefdom dominating the American Bottom, with other simple and complex chiefdoms under its direct or indirect control. In this regard it is like many other such societies that were present in the Southeast during the Mississippian era (Milner 1990). Most of the Mississippian towns and centers that have been found elsewhere in the Southeast could fit comfortably in the area circumscribed by Monk's Mound, just one of more than one hundred mounds making up the core of Cahokia; however, some investigators have found it difficult to accept that Monk's Mound and Cahokia were organiza-

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