Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Prestige Necropolis In North America Better Understood

In Egypt, the pyramids were the ultimate prestige grave sites that shed light on their ancient civilization. Mound 72, discovered by archaeologists in 1967, is what appears to be Cahokia's greatest prestige necropolis.

Cahokia, in modern day Saint Louis, was the capitol of a great copper age, pre-Columbian maize and pumpkin farming civilization of North America which flourished around 1,000 CE. This civilization extended to more or less the entire Mississippi basin and has trade links and cultural influence, at least, that extended as far as the Carolina coast. At its peak, about 75,000 people lived in the capitol, making in a world class city by pre-Bronze Age standards.

Predecessors of the Cahokia civilization may have even been a cultural source for the Mayans, as its predecessor civilizations in Louisiana produced the earliest discovered pyramids in the Americas.

Until now, Mound 72 was believed to have six bodies, all men, presumably kings or heroes. But, further research has determined that there are at least twelve bodies there, including many male-female couples.

This tends to show that there may have been an aristocracy in this civilization in which aristocratic men and women played important roles, until male warrior dominated societies arose in the vicinity of this empire after its collapse. Cahokia's decline began around the 1160s and 1170s during a major New World drought, and eventually collapsed as an urban complex around 1350 CE around the time of the Little Ice Age. The last vestigial remnants of this culture were wiped out when European diseases struck relict communities shortly after Columbus and the conquistadors who followed him made contact with the New World.

The abstract and citation of the source paper are as follows:
The Beaded Burial central to F101 within Cahokia's mound 72Sub1 has been fundamental to some cosmological explanations of the founding of this North American precolumbian polity. The central burial, identified as two males surrounded by retainers, has been interpreted as paradigmatic of a paramount chiefdom, or conversely, as a mythic cosmogram. Recent bioarchaeological reanalysis and two independent osteological studies of F101 and associated burials have identified the presence of male/female pairs, numerous females, and at least one child, suggesting that previous explanations privileging the male Red Horn association should be reexamined. We suggest that 72Sub1 is most likely correlated with ritual practices promoting world creation, renewal, and fertility symbolism.
Thomas E. Emerson, et al., "Paradigms Lost: Reconfiguring Cahokia's Mound 72 Beaded Burial." 81(3) American Antiquity 405 (2016).

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