Mysterious Collapse of an Ancient American Civilization
by Camila Cruz, age 13
Many know about the Maya and the Aztecs, but have you ever heard about the lost city of Cahokia? Not many people know about the people who lived in Cahokia. Archaeologists do not know much about them either.
Although we know this ancient Native American civilization as the Cahokians, the name is a misnomer. Cahokia was named after a sub-tribe from Illinois that did not reach the area until the 1600s, long after the fall of the ancient civilization. The Illini did not know the people who lived in the city, so there is no connection between the two groups. Archaeologists still do not know the ancient group’s ethnicity, language, or exactly how they disappeared.
Cahokians lived in the area now known as Illinois and spread over six miles at its peak. Archaeologists believe the population of Cahokia was between 10,000 and 20,000 people.
According to Live Science, “Cahokia was a city that, at its peak from A.D. 1050-1200, was larger than many European cities, including London." The Cahokians were one of the most advanced civilizations to exist in ancient America.
Cahokians farmed many things, including goosefoot, corn, amaranth, canary grass, and starchy seeds. Evidence indicates they were well-fed. Cahokians lived close to the Mississippi River because they needed a lot of water to grow the crops.
The Mississippi River facilitated trade as well. Trading—especially gift-giving— was important, as it could help keep the peace between tribes. Cahokia was the trading center of many Native American societies. Archaeologists have done many studies on the remains of Cahokians. They have found that many were immigrants from the Midwest. The archaeologists know this because they've done studies on the Cahokians’ teeth.
Cahokia was the biggest ancient city north of Mexico. The people built pyramids and mounds. They made the pyramids flat on the top and square at the bottom because the leaders would live in wood houses on top of the pyramids, so they could look down on others.
Archaeologists do not know much about how or why the Cahokians disappeared. They have many theories to explain the disappearance. Some archaeologists believe that the people spread and went to different places. Others believe that a crisis occurred. The Cahokians did not have a sanitary system to dispose of trash and human waste, so tuberculosis and dysentery could have led to their downfall.
The remains of the Cahokia civilization and their pyramids are now one of the best-kept secrets in the United States.
[Sources: The Washington Post; Live Science]