About the Author
Claudia Gellman Mink began her association with Cahokia Mounds in the early 1970s. During her ten years as an educator and curator at the St. Louis Museum of Science and Natural History, she researched and designed exhibits for both her institution and for Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center. She also spent a summer digging at a Cahokia archaeological site.
Ms. Mink holds a B.A. degree in Anthropology from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She is a lifelong resident of the St. Louis area.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A thousand years ago, a civilization more sophisticated and powerful than any other in the Western Hemisphere north of Mexico grew up and flourished in the rich Mississippi River bottom land of southwestern Illinois and environs.
These native American peoples -- who are called MISSISSIPPIANS by archaeologists -- supported a population as large as 20,000 at their zenith with a wide-scale agricultural economy based primarily on the cultivation of corn. The crops they grew combined with the regions bountiful wildlife and indigenous plants to form a stable, year-round food supply. Such stability and ties to the land gave rise to the formation of permanent settlements that grew into an extensive network of communities with a regional center of metropolitan proportions.
The sedentary lifestyle of the Mississippians made possible other hallmarks of advanced civilization: widespread commerce; stratified social, political, and religious organization; specialized and refined crafts; and monumental architecture, here in the form of earthen mounds covering up to 14 acres and rising as high as 100 feet.
Their extraordinary success continued for five centuries until, for reasons still unknown, the sun set on the Mississippians as it had on the great Mayan, Egyptian and Mesopotamian people before them. Finally, when the agencies of the state of Illinois carried out the first scientific investigations of the area in the 1920s, the true extent of this vibrant culture began to emerge.
The remnants of the Mississippian's central city -- now known as Cahokia for the Indians who lived nearby in the late 1600s -- are preserved within the 2200-acre tract that is the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Located just eight miles east of downtown St. Louis, Missouri, near Collinsville, Illinois, Cahokia was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization for its vital contribution to the understanding of North American prehistory.
This book, and the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center, attempt to weave as rich a tapestry as possible of life at Cahokia from approximately A.D. 800 to A.D. 1300. Current thinking is based on 70 years of archaeological research and the journals of 16th through 18th century European adventurers who traveled among tribes of what is now the southeastern United States. Scholars believe that much of what the chroniclers noted were Mississippian traditions that survived long after Cahokia's decline. The arrival of Europeans on this continent marks the division between prehistoric and historic times in the study of North American cultures.